Often times power training and strength training and are used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.
So what is the difference between power training and strength training?
This article and video outlines:
- 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 power training
- the different adaptations following a strength training program and power training program
Defining power training and strength training
Before we start to define power training and strength training, let’s clarify the terms strength and power.
The definition of strength is:
Strength is the ability to exert force (measured in Newtons) in order to overcome the resistance.
While the definition of power is:
Power (measured in Watts) is the ability to exert force in the shortest period of time.
From these definitions we can conclude, strength training trains the ability to exert force to overcome resistance, while power training trains the ability to exert force in the shortest period of time.
How does a typical strength training look?
Since the main goal is to overcome resistance, a typical strength training work with high intensities (above 85% of the 1RM for a given exercise and low repetitions Max strength training intensities à link to article). 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.
For a detailed outline of different strength training programs, check out the article
How does a typical power training look?
Well, there is actually no typical power training. Power can be trained over a wide variety of intensities and with different methods (read more on Power Training intensities and Power Training modes in the article The Importance Weight Training Has On Power)
One thing that all of these methods with different intensities have in common is the voluntary effort to move the resistance as fast as possible. Because power is the ability to exert force in the shortest period of time.
For more information on what Power Training is, check out the article
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 (whether it’s Westside Barbell, the Bulgarian method, 5-3-1, or any other strength training method) being characterized by high intensities, low repetitions and a maximum effort (read about the different efforts in article). 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, the more difficult it gets to find ways to overload and set a sufficient strength training stimulus to elicit adaptations rather than using free weights. 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
A power training method is generally characterised by intensities between 0 – 70% 1RM, moderate repetitions between 2 – 6 and a dynamic effort, including ballistic efforts (read more about Power Training, Power Training methods and the different efforts in the article The 101 of Power Training for Beginners). The training modes are more diverse (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
What are adaptations to Power Training vs Strength Training
With Power being defined as the ability to overcome resistance in the shortest period of time, we would like to see our power training efforts yielding these adaptations. The Power Training methods as described above result in a higher firing frequency and higher threshold motor units being activated. 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 being defined as 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
Even though Power Training and Strength Training are often used interchangeably they are not the same thing.
The main difference, as we have defined it in this article, 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 and the use of different training modes.
Bottom-line, in a well-balanced training program you probably need both, power training and strength training, since one can’t go without the other.
More information on strength training