What You Need to Know About Strength Training for Power

Woman doing a squat

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Chances are, you learned about power in physics class—it’s the product of speed and force. As applied to strength training, however, power is how quickly one can exert force, as opposed to strength, which is how much force one can exert, explains Robert Herbst, CPT, weight loss coach and powerlifter. 

“For example, one shows more power by deadlifting 225 pounds quickly than when they slowly grind up a 500-pound deadlift,” he says. “For those who need to demonstrate power, such as sprinters or wrestlers, they can build their strength to increase their power, while those who wish to build strength can train for power to improve their explosiveness and also to give their body a break from heavy weights.”

What Is Strength Training for Power?

Strength training for power, also known as power training, is the focus on being able to exert a certain amount of strength in a set period of time. When you break it down biologically, you’re training your muscles to elongate and contract quickly to allow your body to perform a certain movement, explains Herbst. 

Power training is not just for weightlifters. In fact, many professional athletes, such as basketball players and volleyball players, find power training to be particularly useful when it comes to increasing their vertical leap. Dancers, too, can find strength training for power to be useful when it comes to twirling or lifting a dance partner across the dance floor. 

Benefits of Power

The benefits of strength training for power are practically boundless. Here, fitness pros share some of the key gains.

Improves Vertical Jump Height

Vertical jump height, or how high you’re able to jump in the air, is a common parameter that’s used to assess athletic ability and is prioritized during movement training programs to improve sports performance, according to Rachel Straub, MS, CSCS, coauthor of Weight Training Without Injury. Research has shown that training for power coupled with jump training can improve vertical jump height in healthy individuals.

Reduces Risk of Knee Injury

Because strength training for power helps improve landing biomechanics as well as hip strength, it may help reduce the risk of knee injury. Straub points out that it may help strengthen the muscles above the knee, thus preventing injury. One study even found a reduction in knee pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis who participated in high-intensity strength training compared with low-intensity strength training.

It Can Give Certain Joints a Rest

Not only can training for power be fun, as it involves jumping around and throwing things instead of grinding out heavy squats, but Herbst points out that power training gives the body and mind a break from heavy training.

“If one is beat up from doing max doubles or singles, switching to triples at 50% of max will give your tendons, joints, and central nervous system a rest,” he says. “Also, while one still has to be focused, they do not require the intensity of max lifts.”  

How to Implement a Training Program for Power

There are a few key components to focus on if you're training for power.

Frequency

If you’re considering implementing a training program for power, it’s a wise idea to start with a schedule of 3-4 times a week, per the recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The main reason for not going above this frequency is that power training can be quite intense on your body and mind, as well as your central nervous system. Limiting yourself to a few times a week gives your body time to recover. 

“You can scale up to 5-6 days of training with the right program but 3-4 days a week is the sweet spot for most people,” according to Jordan Hosbein, NASM-certified personal trainer and owner of Iron and Grit

Weight

As far as how much weight you should be using, this really depends on your one rep max (1RM), or the heaviest weight that you can lift in a single repetition. This is essentially your personal record (PR) for whatever type of weightlifting you’re doing, be it a squat or a deadlift, for example. 

Next, Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS, Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in North Wales Pennsylvania, recommends choosing what type of power training movement you are interested in: plyometrics, ballistic, or dynamic. 

“Plyometrics would include activities like squats or jump lunges, common with basketball and football players, and should do 0-20% of your 1RM for these workouts,” he explains. “Ballistic training would be for a back squat for a football or soccer player, and you should target 20-50% of your 1RM.” Lastly, for dynamic training, which would be a sports-specific training motion, like a tennis player during a serve, he recommends targeting 50-70% of your 1RM.

Equipment

Since power training involves a combination of increasing force and increasing speed, it’s important that you have the right equipment that can allow you to do both. When it comes to increasing force, Straub recommends utilizing dumbbells and a weighted vest, as these help boost external resistance. 

“If you are practicing jumps, you can increase the force by increasing the distance, which may or may not require a higher box height,” she says. “If you are practicing push-ups on the floor, you can increase the force by pushing with more force so your hands leave the ground (which requires no equipment).”

If you are aiming to improve power through more speed, Straub points out that you also would not need any equipment, as exercises can be performed faster or with decreased rest between sets. 

Nutrition

No matter the type of workout you’re performing, be it cardio or strength training, adequate caloric intake is key—this means having a healthy balance of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Carbohydrates may be the most important, as research has shown that high-intensity exercise (which includes power training) is improved with carbohydrate consumption before, during, and after exercise.

Fat, too, is vital, as daily intake below 20% of caloric intake can hinder the absorption of various essential nutrients, notes Straub. With regards to protein, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that those regularly participating in strength training consume 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Sample Strength Training Program for Power

Here’s a sample schedule for someone training for power, as recommended by Hosbein:

Monday: Bench Press and Overhead Press 

  • Hosbein recommends performing 6 sets each of 4-8 reps per set.

Tuesday: Squat and Deadlift

  • Hosbein recommends performing 6 sets each of 1-5 reps per set.

Thursday: Bench Press and Close Grip Bench Press

  • Hosbein recommends performing 6 sets each of 1-8 reps per set.

Friday: Deadlift and Front Squat

  • Hosbein recommends performing 6 sets each of 1-8 reps per set. 

As the weeks go on and you increase the weight, he recommends taking precautions to reduce the reps per set so that you do not cause injury. He suggests making sure that the weight you’re using ranges between 50-85% of your 1-rep maximum.

A Word From Verywell 

As with any type of exercise, strength training for power takes time and dedication. It’s important to incorporate new weights and timeframes slowly, and only when your body feels that it is prepared. It’s also important to incorporate the elements of a healthy lifestyle, including a nutrient-rich diet that contains a balance of fat, carbohydrates, and protein, as well as proper sleep and rest days. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What type of resistance training is best for power?

    To build power through resistance training, it’s important to use an amount of resistance that allows you to move as quickly and explosively as possible without increasing acceleration. For this reason, plyometric training by utilizing light weights or bands.

  • Does strength training improve power?

    Yes. In order to achieve power, you need a combination of strength and speed. Therefore, strength training has the ability to improve power when it is coupled with speed. 

  • How do you benefit from having more power?

    Having more power leads to strength and endurance. In the case of a baseball pitcher, for example, having more power allows them to throw longer and an increased amount of pitches. If that baseball pitcher were just to train for strength alone, they may only be able to throw a few fast pitches but would lose out on speed over longer periods of time. 

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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