How to train for strength and power

After completing a structured body composition programme you may want to consider progressing onto a programme that develops maximal strength and power. Not only can these programmes be very fun but if you play any kind of sport then a good strength and power programme can help you to run faster, jump higher, throw further and hit harder 👊

What is strength and power?

Strength: The ability of the muscles to exert maximal force against a high resistance.

Power: The ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movement (within a short time frame).

How do we train strength and power?

When you train for strength and power it is about quality, not quantity. Most of the time when we train we push our muscular system and our cardiovascular system to fatigue. However, when we train for strength and power we are training our nervous system instead. In order to do this, we need to lift heavy and fast. This should not be attempted with high volumes of training that exhaust the muscles and increase injury risk. As I said quality, not quantity. The table below offers some guidance. 

Strength Power
1-5 reps 1-5 reps
2-6 sets 2-6 sets
2-5 minutes rest between sets 2-5 minutes rest between sets
>85%1RM 30-90%1RM

You will notice that training for strength and power look very similar. Training for one will have a positive impact on the other however, there are some subtle differences.

When we train for maximal strength we do this with very heavy loads >85%1RM. This encourages our nervous system to recruit more motor units. This essentially means we utilise more muscle fibres that we already had but were not previously voluntarily accessing. We also train them to fire simultaneously which results in greater force production. Imagine the difference between everyone in a tug of war pulling at the same time versus everyone pulling intermittently.

When we train specifically for power we use loads between 30 and 90%1RM which allows us to move them much faster and more explosively. This trains our nervous system to increase the speed of contraction resulting in greater power.

Check out the table below for more guidance on %1RM and suitable methods to achieve the correct percentages.

Objective  %1RM Suggested Activities
Maximum strength 90-100% 1RM Powerlifting
Strength speed  80-90% 1RM Olympic lifts
Peak power 30-80 Olympic lift derivatives
Speed strength 30-60 Loaded jumps and throws
Maximum velocity <30 Jumps, sprints, plyometrics

As they say in the strength and conditioning world:

Surf the curve!

 

In the next article, I explain how I also like to train with what I call a hybrid training programme that covers all components of fitness at once.

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