Deadlift 2

How do you think He-Man got so big? He had the power (training sussed), that’s why.

Compare power lifters and bodybuilders; power lifters can lift a lot more, and often have more muscle (if you were to strip away the fat). Why is this? Because power lifters don’t neglect power training. An individual has to work on all 3 key aspects of training – strength, power and hypertrophy – even if they are only really concerned with one. If one aspect lags behind, it will hinder your progress in the others!

So what is power training?

We’re not talking sets of 6-8 reps, we’re talking real power training, with a sight to:

  • Increase overall strength
  • Increase the speed of lifts and athletic movements
  • Improve joint control, balance and stability
  • Break through ‘sticking points’ in lifts
  • Stimulate fast twitch muscle fibres, which have more potential for hypertrophy

Let’s start by defining power:

Average power = total work/total time

Technically speaking, average power (Joules per second) is the total work performed (Joules) divided by the total time (Seconds) in which the work was performed.

Let’s say we were to perform 10 reps of 60 kg on a bench press. If this took us 40 seconds for set 1, but then 20 seconds for set 2; the total work performed in both sets is the same – since we have moved 60kg the same distance (10 reps). But as set 2 was performed twice as fast, so we can say we applied twice as much power in set 2 than set 1, assuming that the speed of the eccentric (downwards) phase of reps in both sets were the same.

So the basic principal of power training is to accelerate and move the weight as fast as possible.

To power train effectively, we must attempt to move the weight with maximum acceleration and speed during the concentric phase of the rep, while controlling the eccentric phase. The key here is to approach every rep as if it were a 1 rep max, applying that same force to the bar with the aim to accelerate and move the weight as fast as possible from the dead point of the rep. The two other key focuses should be on correct form and quality muscle contraction.

Power work is traditionally performed at the start of a session, before traditional hypertrophy work. Compound lifts – bench, squat, overhead press etc. are performed as a high volume of sets (4-12 sets) of low reps (2-4 reps) – lifting around 60% load of your 1 rep max. That’s right, ONLY 60% of your 1 rep max. Stick to this weight; overloading means you won’t be able to move the weight fast enough and you will find yourself fatiguing quickly between sets. Rest periods are kept to 60 seconds or less, and total reps performed for the exercise are between 15-25.

Example sets:

  • 8 sets of 3 reps, with 45 seconds rest between sets
  • 6 sets of 4 reps, with 60 seconds rest between sets
  • 10 sets of 2 reps, with 30 seconds rest between sets
  • 6 sets of 3 reps, with 40 seconds rest between sets

Have a play around with sets, reps and rest to find out what works best for you.

So when you come to start your next hypertrophy program, mix it up and add in some power work at the start of each session.