Everything You Need to Know About Muscular Power Training

In my post, How to Get Strong – The Science of Strength, I introduced you to some of the theory behind the different types of muscular strength.

Today’s post is all about developing insane amounts of muscular power…which is important if you play soccer, football, baseball, tennis, hockey or any other activity that doesn’t involve sitting on your butt or covering long distances over the course f an afternoon.

To get you started, I will also give you a ‘tried and true’ program designed to turn you into the strongest, fastest, most powerful version of yourself that you could ever imagine.

I can’t guarantee to turn you into the Incredible Hulk.

Power Training

But I can sure as heck guarantee that you will be bigger and stronger than the ‘before’ picture.

What is Power?

Simply put, power is the ability to move heavy loads, fast.

To do that, we need to do two things.

  1. Build your maximum strength as high as possible and,
  2. Teach your muscles to contract as fast as possible.

Simple….right?

Before We Begin

This program is designed for trainees who:

  • Make regular visits to their doctor and have been cleared for resistance training. That means you have no medical conditions that could be aggravated by moving large weights very quickly. Serious.
  • Have established a basic level of physical fitness. This is not a beginner program. I will be writing an article on establishing a basic level of physical fitness in the near future.
  • Do not have serious muscular imbalances. While this program is designed not to cause muscle imbalances; it is not a rehab program. I will also be writing an article on that topic in the near future.
  • Are serious about transforming their body. Don’t waste your time if you are not willing to commit yourself fully to this program.

Power = Maximum Strength + Maximum Speed

To develop Power, you need to combine maximum strength with maximum speed.

In a linear periodization model of resistance training, strength and speed training are never performed concurrently. However, my review of the current literature as well as my first hand experience has led me to believe that training both strength and speed at the same time is not just possible; but essential.

With this method, we avoid the de-training effect of switching from one program emphasis to another.

In the linear model, hard fought strength gains begin to dissipate soon after strength training is abandoned for speed training. The same holds true for losses in speed. You are always playing a game of two steps forward and one step back. Another benefit of concurrent strength/speed training is that since gains in strength/speed are happening incrementally and simultaneously, your increasing speed is not effected by your increasing strength, and vice-versa.

In a linear program, you might focus of 4-8 weeks on your maximum strength. During that time, you might increase your max strength by 10% (X + 10%). Due to lack of stimulation, your speed my drop by 3% (Y-3%). After completing the strength portion of your program, you shift your focus to speed training.

However, not only are your muscles slower, but you are asking them to lift weights 10% heavier than they have lifted. Now you are two steps forward and two to three steps back.

Train both strength and speed together and they both increase together. Your strength may only increase by 8%, but your speed will also increase by 8%.

Strength + Speed = Power

Maximum Strength Training

In my program, maximum strength is trained twice per week.

  • During each workout, you will focus on 1 major movement. That movement will be performed in consecutive sets of 3 repetitions until you can no longer perform 3 repetitions. You will continue adding weight to consecutive sets until you reach your 1 Rep Maximum.
  • After your major movement is completed, you will perform a series of complementary exercises in sets consisting of 5 to 10 repetitions.
  • Each of the two maximum strength workouts will focus on a different movement.

As well, since this workout is very intense, you WILL perform a thorough warm-up before hitting the serious weights. Not just cardio. Calisthenics, dynamic stretching, overhead squats, snatches, or light weight training is required.

Maximum Speed Training

Like maximum strength training, maximum speed is trained twice per week.

  • Like max strength day, you will focus on 1 major movement. While it doesn’t have to be the exact same movement as max strength day, it must be in the same family of movements.
  • Like max strength day, you will be performing sets of 3 reps. However, the number of sets will be predetermined and the weight will be between 50 and 60% of your 1 Rep Maximum on that lift.
  • For simplicity’s sake, you may want to keep your movements consistent between max strength and max speed day.
  • Like max strength day, you will be performing a series of complementary exercises after finishing the main movement.

Off Days

Off days should focus on rest and repair of your body. This program will test both your musculature and your nervous system. Stretching, chiropractic, massage, light cardio, restorative yoga, hydrotherapy, etc. is recommended.

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14 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About Muscular Power Training

  1. This is a decent program. I would be interested to see someone’s results from following this program. I can see how you have incorporate Louie Simmons’ max effort and dynamic effort principles while also extending the program to be proactive against muscle imbalance and postural deficiency. Cressey and Robertson are definitely worth studying, not sure about that third guy – I can see how you have been influenced by T-Mag or T-Nation or whatever they call themselves now.

    IMO, this would be a great program for a beginner who wants to learn the ins and outs of speed-strength training for say a high school sports team, but probably not for football. I would like to see more Olympic power clean, snatch, deadlift type lifts for a football program. Thanks for the interesting read.

  2. @Build Muscle,

    Didn’t read the whole thing – it’s pretty long and detailed. But, I don’t think this would be good for a beginner – at least not a true beginner. Too advanced. If someone just starting out tried this, they’d be sore beyond belief.

    And why wouldn’t it be good for a football player? If you read the literature on power development, you produce the most power around 60% of max while performing 6-10 reps at a high rate of speed. Looks like most of this does that, supplemented with lighter and heavier loads in between.

    I think it’s a great power development routine – football players included.

  3. Looks like my last post never made it. Let’s try this again…… :o)

    For max strength, by how much should you increase the weight per set? I could add just enough weight to only do 5 sets of 3 or I could add enough to make it through 10 sets of 3 before dropping to singles (and even then, how much do you continue to add?). Looking forward to starting this one today (squats – yippie!!).

  4. Hey Donna

    First off, max strength & power are two completely different things.

    I know lots of strong guys at the gym who are nowhere near as powerful as they should be. This is due to an inability to produce that strength quickly.

    Alternately, I know a ton of fighters who can generate a lot of power (ouch) but if we put them under a squat rack, their strength is surprisingly lower than I originally expected. They overcome a lower level of strength with a ton of speed

    More info on the diff types of strength here

    Regarding your specific question about max strength, the weight increases between sets will start out fairly large (25 lbs) and progress to teeny tiny (1/2 lb if you have access to a set of fractional plates)

    The exact amount of weight increase is unique to each trainee and depends on whether you function better as an endurance lifter or a power lifter.

    For example, an endurance lifter will keep doing set after set of 3 reps with no problem. She probably could have done 10 reps per set – lots of endurance with lighter loads. But suddenly, we add 20 lbs to the bar and she can’t get 1 rep.

    Whereas the power lifter couldn’t do the high rep sets with lighter loads (poor endurance) but will be able to give me sets of 3 with heavier & heavier weights.

    Sorry to be confusing.

    Start light – give me 3 reps. Ad 25 lbs per side – give me another 3 reps. Maybe another 25 lbs, maybe not.

    We want to get as many sets of 3 as we can

    Let me know how it goes. I love this stuff – it gets me all excited

  5. Nope, you didn’t confuse me. I understand and agree with your comparison of strength vs power. I would probably consider myself to be in the strength category because my stamina/cardio/wind….whatever you want to call it….SUCKS!

    Thanks for clarification of weight increases. Makes sense – I just needed to “see” it. :o) Did you mean to use squats for lower body strength every week on purpose or just as an example and that we are to alternate lower body exercises weekly?

    Thanks again for these posts. I have so many HIIT, Tabata and Crossfit workouts that I want to try out, I have a hard time picking which one I’m gonna do each week!

  6. Update:
    Well, I didn’t see your response until later in the day, which by then I had improvised and did something else (21-15-9 w/135lbs, bodyweight rows, 3×8 ham/glute raises).

    Picked back up Wednesday w/upper body strength. Did “ok” but probably could’ve done better. Made it up to 85lbs on cable chest press but had to stop there due to tendonitis/bursitis in left shoulder. However, I went back down the rack doing 3’s til I reached 40lbs and maxed at 18reps. Eh!

    10×10 – cable tricep press downs (started w/40lbs and made it to 85lbs) Why 10sets and not 6? I forgot how many I was supposed to do. :o)
    3×20 – face pulls w/50lbs. Eh!
    3×10 – pushups using the bosu ball

    Thursday (yesterday)
    Ok, so today my legs/glutes are sore!
    Lower body max speed –
    10×3 – squats w/155lbs (did sets of 3, holding weights and pausing between each set, had to rack weights after every 3 sets til the end, did 4 sets w/pauses)
    3×8 – ham/glute raise
    5×12 – walking lunges
    3×20 – hip thrusts w/60lb bar (uh, butt cramps aren’t a pleasant thing to watch someone get!) LOL….and stopped.

    Will try to get upper body max speed in sometime today or tomorrow. Not sure how – going out of town. Then, back to the grind either Sunday or Monday for week 2.

    Comments? Suggestions?

  7. Very fine work, Doug.

    Was expecting that you were going to describe different HIIT programs in the “speed” portions of the workouts, but I get what you’re doing within the context of resistance training.

    Yep.

    -Joe

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