"To be fast you need to train fast"
Athletes are often limited in their practice of the most important sport specific skill - moving something moderately heavy, very quickly or at least - creating high amounts of force, rapidly. This is evident when using block periodisation, where each block is typically aimed at improving a desired adaptation say (hypertrophy, strength, power). That would mean 2/3 of the time athletes aren't performing anything dynamic or fast. Time lost in my opinion.
The counter argument to that is that athletes move through different phases which when taking a macro-view all help develop a greater neuromuscular system with an improved ability to display power. Very basically, in a stringent block periodisation model the athlete would; build muscle in a hypertrophy phase, train that muscle to create force in a strength phase, display that force quickly in a power phase. I'd agree that this process is a common overview, in addition I'd also mention that stringent models of block periodisation are more commonly theorised than put into practice in today's age of competitive sport.
My question is; why can't we always train power?
Yes, during training periods focused on other adaptations, the athlete may not be primed to perform at maximum power output, but why disregard something so important when it a) has no deleterious effect on hypertrophy or strength, b) takes up very little training time and c) could potentially improve such a desired attribute.
We know that strength; the ability to create force, is the underpinning value. You cannot express something fast if you do not have it in the first place. So we know athletes must train with relatively heavy loads to increase peak force, that alone will increase their capacity to display power. But will it maximise it?
I believe like anything, being powerful is a skill that can and should be practiced and it's not being practiced enough!
I see hypertrophy work, I see strength work, but those game breaking dynamic movements and the capacity to perform them, is often forgotten about. Until now.
The reason I like to combine strength and power exercises together is because its practical and relatively easy to implement. There is an argument that the initial loaded exercise may also potentiate the second power based exercise through a phenomenon known as post activation potentiation. Whilst any PAP stimulus would be great (most data suggests we'd need longer rest periods) it's not the reason I like these complexes. I do however thinks it's worthwhile looking at the mechanisms which have been proposed to elicit a PAP effect:
– Recruitment of Higher Threshold Motor Units
– Increased Motor Unit Synchronization
– Desensitization of alpha motor neuron input
– Decreased reciprocal inhibition of antagonists
In theory a strength/power complex trains both sides of the force velocity curve. The heavy exercise helps improve our peak force, whilst the power exercise improves the low load high velocity portion of the force velocity relationship
Whilst all these highly technical aspects are great I really feel that we just need more practice of what we are trying to be good at and we can do a much better job of it with a strength/power complex approach.
Ok, so on to the exercises themselves. I like to pair up similar movement types, like the following;
- Squat based movements with vertical jump movements.
- Hinge based movements with horizontal displacement/jump movements
- Press movements with throwing movements.
This definitely isn't a complete list but here are a few of my favourites. Stay tuned for some IG vids on these coming soon.
Trap Bar Lift x Banded Broad Jump.
Trap Bar Lift
The trap bar is a god send for athletes looking to move fast. It requires less technical expertise and athletes can worry about what is important. Creating force! The higher handles also give you the advantage of not having to pull from a typical deadlift position which for some athletes especially taller ones can be troublesome in the first place.
Banded Broad Jump
This is a new one that I've just started using. A typical broad jump can be troublesome due to the high level of landing forces. This can cause the athlete to underdo their jump to save themselves on the landing. But we need a max output. The band gives a light resistance but also cushions the landing as it is stretched out.
Bench Press x Split Stance MB Throw
I'm sure I don't need to sell anybody on the Bench Press. It's been used as the yard stick for upper body strength since, well pretty much forever.
Split Stance MB Throw
Transferring force from the lower body into the upper body to display power is a skill. This movement does exactly that and allows the athlete to project the MB into space with no period of deceleration like typical strength training movements. That is a key to training and developing power!
Barbell Back Squat x Band Overspeed Jumps
Barbell Back Squat
Again I don't need to sell you on a back squat. We know they are a top notch exercise for developing lower body strength. If you can do them safely and well, you probably should be.
Band Overspeed Jumps
This exercise can be performed a number of different ways. Firstly, you can use a jump and reset protocol. You can use a continuous jumping cycle aiming for max jump height. Lastly you can use more of an ankle bounce method focusing on minimising ground contact time. Each of those methods can be employed at to elicit slightly different outcomes or individualised to specific athletes.