I’m not going to delve too deeply into the mechanisms that elicit improvements in force and velocity, but a quick overview can help to understand that training power does not necessarily mean always completing ‘power training’.
Force (becoming stronger):
- Muscle cross sectional area (size)
- Motor unit recruitment,
- Intramuscular coordination
- Firing frequency
- Stretch shortening capabilities
If we factor in all of these mechanisms then simply jumping to ‘power training’ is not going to always deliver the best results, especially as an athlete becomes more proficient and their training age increases. ‘Power training’ being speed-strength and reactive strength movements.
One important factor to consider is that completing strength training* alone can improve power. However, completing power training, or as I will refer to it from now on, velocity training* alone an athlete will still improve but generally not to the same degree as an athlete that holds a foundational level of strength (Cormie & McGuigan, 2010).
For some individuals the above statement will probably cause a little controversy. The statement is non-specific as each sport and athlete is different, so it can seem like a biased opinion from an S & C coach. This is somewhat correct, as we are working with humans with an incomprehensible number of variables to consider.
Secondly, I have worked with several coaches who train national to international standard athletes. Although the S & C profession has moved on leaps and bounds (no pun intended), it can be repetitive for the technical coach to hear an S & C coach regurgitate the same mantra of improving strength first.
I recently listened to a HMMR podcast with J B Morin, who specialises in force velocity profiling and sprinting. Although it was unpublished at this time, he mentioned that his laboratory had collated data on peak height from a countermovement jump (a common test to infer power) and its relation to elite and sub elite sprinting performance. Although highly correlated with high performance in sub elite athletes, as you move towards elite performers and world class performers the relationship becomes distant as other factors play a more important role.
This example is specific to sprinting but I think it illustrates the point that developing a foundation of strength is important at a young age and will provide many improvements, but as an athlete progresses they will need to keep many plates spinning for these improvements to continue. This can also be applied to a coach who only employs velocity training with their athlete. I am positive that they would be able to show evidence of it being effective but for how long?
Part 3 of the blog will focus on 4 exercises that you can use to improve your athlete's power. Each exercise will be accompanied by a short video tutorial.