Training powerful man doing situps

Published on May 18th, 2013 | by Joe Starks


Physical Fitness Types: Power

Power is not the same with strength; let’s get that out of the way first of all. Physical strength is the force we apply on objects through the use of our muscles. Power is the amount of force we apply, multiplied by distance, we can achieve in a certain time. Physical strength is thus only a component of true power. To give an down-to-earth example: Strength is the force you need to push a rock, while power is how fast you can push a rock and how far it went during that certain time.

Training your strength alone does not increase your power, but you also can’t become powerful without training your strength. Often, you will find people who train their strength a lot, have all the muscle you expect and still can’t move an object with precision in a short amount of time. The less time you need to push an object away with force the more powerful you are. This means speed is one of the most important components of power training and it’s a component simple strength training misses.

Power Training

Improving the speed at which you lift weights can be done only to a certain degree. When you lift really heavy weight, like weight bars, lifting them too quick can damage your muscles as you struggle to keep control of the acceleration your body (and the bar) goes through. This is why most normal heavy weight lifting exercises won’t increase power. On the other hand they do increase strength, which means they help you in part to become more powerful. Your training should be at least part strength training to give your muscles the ability to use more force in general.

The next component to your power training is distance. Lifting weights don’t make them go a long distance usually, meaning you do not use a lot of power to do so. Ballistic exercises (exercises during which you throw something away from yourself) are ideal to train the distance you can push things away from you. Training with medicine balls, the discus and spears are such ballistic exercises. Plyometrics in specific have many power exercises that include throwing and catching a medicine ball. One such exercise is to keep your back against a wall and to throw the medicine ball behind you against that wall and catch it again.

The last component of power training is time. The faster you can push or throw away a heavy object, the more powerful you are. To increase speed you need to calculate the time it takes you to complete your actions and try to improve your time when you perform the exercises. Learning how to push an obstacle quicker, like many athletes of American football do, makes you more powerful.

The type of exercise that is best for you is the one that helps you apply your power the best. This means that depending on the sport you need your power for, different types of exercises might be best for you. For volleyball and basketball it is obvious that ballistic exercises might be the best choice to improve your power. Olympic weight lifting is ideal for footballers and rugby players. Hockey and soccer athletes need plyometric exercises to increase their power efficiently.

All types of power training increase your performance in other fields as well. For instance, vertical jumping is improved through most types of power training. Depending on your body type and the training you’ve had up to this point, different exercises might improve your power than those that would be best for others. We break training plateaus through focusing on the muscles we haven’t focused on before. So if you wish to improve your power, choose an exercise that is the least familiar to you.


Strength is only a component of power. You can be strong and lack power because you are not fast or mobile enough. Depending on the sport you wish to train your power for you need to focus more on speed, distance or strength. All of these components are absolutely necessary when it comes to power training. What differs is the focus. Focusing more on distance makes you able to throw things further. Focusing on speed makes you move objects faster, while focusing on strength increases the force with which you move objects.

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