Often times power training and strength training and are used interchangeably and people ask ‘Is power and strength the same thing?’.
The short answer is ‘No, they are not the same thing’.
The long answer is, that there are substantial differences with important training implication, which is the subject of this article.
So, what is the difference between Power Training and Strength Training?
This article and video outlines:
- the power vs strength difference
- a definition of Strength Training and a definition of Power Training
- the practical application of Strength Training and Power Training
- training methods for Strength Training and training methods for Power Training
- the different adaptations following a Strength Training program and Power Training program
Strength vs Power Definition: Defining Strength and Power
Before I start to define power training and strength training, let’s clarify the terms Strength and Power.
What is Strength?
The definition of strength is:
Strength is the ability to exert force (measured in Newtons) in order to overcome the resistance.
The physical formula of force is Force = mass * acceleration (F = m * a).
What is Power?
The definition of power is:
Power (measured in Watts) is the ability to exert force in the shortest period of time.
The physical formula of power is Power = Force * velocity (P = F * v) or Power = Work / time (P = W / t)
Hold on a second, how can these two formulas be the same?
Yes, I know it’s confusing and it took me some time to understand it, especially, since I suffered quite a bit during my school years trying to understand physics.
Please check out the image I created, that simplifies the mathematical deduction and the relation between power and force.
A short Power vs Strength difference Wrap-up
From these definitions above it’s evident, that strength, as well as power include the exertion of force, whilst strength focusses on the ability to exert force to overcome resistance, and power focusses on the ability to exert force in the shortest period of time.
Power Training vs Strength Training: Defining Power Training and Strength Training
Now that you understand the difference between power and strength, the next step is to take a look how this power vs strength difference unfolds in the power training and strength training practice.
What is Strength Training?
Now, that you know, that strength is the ability to exert force in order to overcome resistance, the next logical question is what is strength training?
In very simple words, strength training trains the ability to overcome resistance, this is your big lifts, where you focus on moving as much weight as possible for the given number of repetition, that is outlined in your strength training program.
The focus is on moving the weight from point A to point B. Check out one of my guys, Koen van der Wijst, grinding out a repetition during our 1 RM testing.
Figure how long it takes him to finish the repetition.
What is Power Training?
Power Training focusses on overcoming resistance, so does strength training, but Power Training also focusses to overcome the resistance in the shortest period of time.
Therefore, the resistance is lower and the movement velocity is higher.
Check out this example of another one of my guys, Twan van Gendt during an applied Power Test at the Red Bull Performance Center.
Even though he is in a machine, it is the same movement as above, a resisted Squat, but this time the focus is on maximizing the velocity of the movement (in order to jump as high as possible, with the given weight).
Strength and Power Training Programs: What are the differences between Strength Training Programs and Power Training Programs?
I discussed, the differences between power vs strength by using a definition, I outlined the differences between Power Training vs Strength Training combined with a practical example video, now it’s time to discuss the differences between a typical Power Training Program vs Strength Training Program.
I will start with the typical Strength Training Program, as it is more straightforward than a Power Training Program since there are different types of Power Training and different Power Training methods.
How does a typical Strength Training Program look?
As discussed, the main goal is to overcome resistance, consequently a typical strength training work with high intensities (above 85% of the 1RM for a given exercise and low repetitions). The movement velocities can be low, which means the time it takes to complete a strength exercise or strength lift can be multiple seconds. It is not uncommon, that a true 1RM Back Squat can take 5 or 6 seconds just to complete the concentric phase, as you could see in the video of Koen van der Wijst.
How can such a Strength Training Program look?
Check out the example Strength Training Workout below, you can see the higher training intensities (above 85% 1RM) and low repetitions (between 2 and 4 reps).
|Power Clean||90% 1RM||5||2||10|
|Back Squat||85% 1RM||5||4||20|
|RDL||85% 1 RM||4||4||16|
I have borrowed this example from one of my other articles The Holy Grail of Strength Training – Sets and Reps that discusses the relation between sets, reps, and training intensity and how the modulation of one of the factors will influence the total training volume.
For more examples of programming considerations for Strength Training workouts, check out the article
How does a typical Power Training look?
There are different types of Power Training and different Power Training methods.
Power Training can be trained with a wide variety of training intensities and efforts.
One classification I use for myself is to categorize the Power Training into 3 different efforts
- a Plyometric Effort, characterized by involving a short stretch-shortening cycle or long stretch-shortening cycle
- a Ballistic Effort, characterized by a ballistic movement, where the object, whether it is an implement or the body goes into a free flight (like in the video of Twan van Gendt)
- a Dynamic Effort, which is usually done with free weight and bands or chains attached to it to avoid the deceleration and breaking phase
Check out the table outlining the different training intensities, training modes (implements used) and efforts for the different types of Power Training.
It’s important to note and understand, that the intersections are much rather fluid than strict. Which means in practice that there is not a big difference between 49% of the 1RM and 51% of the 1RM, while there is a difference between 25% of the 1RM and 55% of the 1RM.
Ok, enough theory, how does such a Power Training program look?
Check out the example of a
- Power Training Workout with plyometric efforts.
|Drop Jumps (short SSC)||BW = 0 % 1RM||5||3||15|
|MB Power Drop (short SSC)||2% 1RM||4||4||16|
|Box Jumps (long SSC)||BW = 0 % 1RM||3||3||9|
What the heck is 2% 1 RM?! Will be the question, right?
Well, if you think about an athlete, who can Bench Press 100 kg and you would want to do an Upper Body Plyometric exercise focussed on a short-stretch shortening cycle (SSC), you would probably use a 2 or 3 kg medicine ball, which makes it 2 – 3 % 1RM.
- Power Training Workout with ballistic efforts
|KB Throws (backward)||20 % 1RM||4||4||16|
|BB Jump Squats||30% 1RM||3||4||12|
|Bench Throw||40 % 1RM||3||4||12|
How do you measure the intensity of a KB Throw? Can you possibly do 1 RM testing?
However, if I think about the movement of a Kettlebell Throw backward, it comes fairly close to a Snatch or Power Snatch, so I use that as a reference. For example, if the athlete is able to Power Snatch 70 kg, the athlete can use a 16 kg Kettlebell for throwing movements.
Is that accurate?
It’s probably not 100% accurate, but it works as a good indicator.
- Power Training Workout with dynamic efforts.
|Power Clean (from block, mid-thigh)||65 % 1RM||4||2||8|
|Back Squats (added bands, 20%)||70% 1RM||5||3||15|
|Bench Press (added bands, 20%)||70 % 1RM||4||3||12|
The added band percentage refers to how much of the total intensity is due to band tension, consequently, 20% means 50% comes from the free weight, 20% comes from band tension in the top position of the movement.
More resources on Strength and Power Training Programs:
- How to Train For Power from T-Nation
- The Differences Between Strength and Power Training from Stack
- Size, Strength, Or Power? A Training Method Primer from Breaking Muscle, whilst it needs to be mentioned, that the intensity range they provide with the information ‘high velocity’ is debatable.
Strength and Power Training Methods: What are training methods for Power Training vs Strength Training?
A lot has been written about strength training methods and power training methods, essentially it comes down to a strength training method, like Westside Barbell method, 5-3-1 method, the Bulgarian training method, the Russian training method, or any other strength training method.
Every time a discussion about training method comes up, I have to think about the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson
Whatever ‘strength training method‘ or ‘power training method‘ you chose to follow, it will entail a few of the now listed elements or essentials.
Strength Training Method Essentials
Essentially all strength training methods are characterized by high intensities (above 85% 1 RM), low repetitions (below 5 reps, better 3 or less), and a maximum effort.
The training mode is usually free weights and sometimes strength training equipment/strength training machines. The reason for free weights is, that the more advanced the athlete is, it becomes increasingly difficult to find ways to overload and set a sufficient strength training stimulus that is able to elicit adaptations. Free weights have the benefit, that the scope for overload is almost infinite, whilst most strength training machines or cable have a limit.
For more information of the overload principle as one of the main principles to elicit adaptations read the story of Milo in article Fundamentals of Strength Training.
More details on how to structure a strength training program
Power Training Method Essentials
As outlined above, power can be trained effectively with a range of intensities, hence a Power Training Method is generally characterized by intensities between 0 – 70% 1RM, moderate repetitions between 2 – 6.
Power Training can be divided into different training efforts, as outlined the plyometric effort, the ballistic effort, and the dynamic effort.
The training modes are more diverse, as compared to strength training methods (similar to the training intensities ranging over a broader range) and can include body weight, light implements, such as medicine balls, or kettlebells, free weights and using accommodating resistance (read more on accommodating resistance in the article Accommodating Resistance Training – Bands and Chains).
More details on how to structure a power training program
More resources about Power Training Methods, check out
- Power Training (Methods) by Strong By Science
- Comparing Methods For Power by Strength & Conditioning Research
Adaptations to Strength and Power Training Programs: What are adaptations to Power Training vs Strength Training
Power is the ability to overcome resistance in the shortest period of time, consequently, the chronic adaptations of Power Training are to be able to produce higher velocities against a given load.
The neurological adaptations are higher firing frequency and a stronger activation of the high threshold motor units.
It is debated whether Power Training can potentially lead to a shift in the fiber type spectrum towards a higher percentage of fast twitch fibers.
Strength training is the ability to exert force in order to overcome resistance, therefore your strength training efforts lead to a higher recruitment of muscle fibers and a stronger synchronization of muscle fibers.
More information on the different neural adaptations
- Why understanding the Mechanics Behind Plyometric Training will make you jump like Michael Jordan
- Why Power Training
Power Training vs Strength Training Conclusions
Next time you get asked ‘Is Power and Strength the same thing?’ you can answer, they are not the same thing, but they share similarities.
Consequently, Power Training and Strength Training are not the same thing, even though the terms are often used interchangeably.
The main difference between Power Training vs Strength Training is, that strength refers to the ability to overcome resistance, while power refers to the ability to overcome resistance in the shortest period of time.
Power Training also comes in a variety of forms, including different training intensity ranges, different training efforts and the use of different training modes. In order to put together a successful Power Training program and / or Strength Training program, you need to the training intensity ranges, training efforts and training modes, so that you can select the appropriate Power Training exercises or Strength Training exercises.