Do you want to become more powerful and ask yourself whether weight training is detrimental or beneficial to becoming more powerful?
Maybe you have heard about the ‘strength training vs power training debate’ and realized that some very strong opinions exist on what is better?
What is the difference between Strength Training and Power Training?
Oftentimes strength training and power training are used interchangeably, but truth be told they are not the same thing. There are essential differences between strength training and power training, that you need to understand.
So what is the difference between the strength training vs power training?
The best way is to look at the definitions of both terms.
A definition of strength:
Strength is the ability to exert force in order to overcome the resistance.
A definition of power:
Power is the ability to exert force in the shortest period of time.
From these definitions we can do deduce, for both strength and power are an ability, where force is exerted to overcome resistance, while power has a time component to it and strength not.
Practically speaking for strength and strength training it doesn’t really matter, whether the completion of a lift takes a couple of seconds. And this is actually what you see in practice, when you are approaching maximum intensities or near maximum intensities (above 90% 1RM), depending on the exercise it can take up 6 seconds. As a side note, some early studies looked at competitive Powerlifters and found that a 1 RM Back Squat can take 8 seconds on the concentric part until completion.
The following videos show examples of strength efforts, where the time to complete a repetition takes a bit longer due to the high external loading.
Twan van Gendt 225 kg Back Squat
Jelle van Gorkom 200kg Back Squat
Hetty van der Wouw 95kg Back Squat
What is the practical application of Strength Training vs Power Training?
As discussed, strength is the ability to exert force to overcome resistance, consequently strength training trains this ability. In practice, that means working with intensities above 85% 1RM for 5 or fewer repetitions with the main focus on overcoming the resistance / lift the load.
Power training trains the ability to overcome resistance in the shortest period of time, which is achieved by working with lower intensities compared to strength training and the main focus is to overcome the resistance as fast as possible.
The following videos show examples of power efforts, where the athletes have to overcome resistance (in these cases their own body weight) as fast as possible as opposed to the previous videos of Back Squat examples.
What method is used for Power Training?
As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.
If we look at the classical literature in sports science and early definitions of training methods have been pretty simple and straightforward.
Early definition classified training methods into:
- Continuous method, characterized by performing continuous work / training (running 10k would be one example of the continuous method)
- Repetition method, characterized by performing work, followed by complete rest (powerlifting type training, performing an exercise and rest for a couple of minutes before continuing)
- Interval method, which is basically in between the continuous method and the repetition method and can be further sub-divided into extensive interval method and intensive interval methods
Certainly, training methods have evolved over time and have become more sophisticated up to the point, that we have Russian methods, Bulgarian methods, German methods, some methods also carry names such as Klokov method, Smolov method, etc
In my opinion with this variety of methods, it’s even more important to understand the principles that form the base of these methods and not just trying methods as Ralph Waldo Emerson said.
If we look at the neurological demands and the demands on the energy system of power training, we can see that Power training (if done correctly) has a high demand on the nervous system and primarily uses the Phosphagen system or ATP-CP system (if you want to know more about energy systems, this article from Breaking Muscle explains it well ) which means you need complete rest between your sets to give the neuromuscular system and energy system sufficient rest to reproduce efforts at a high intensity.
We start with the overview of different training methods the demand of the power training on the nervous system and the demand of the power training system on the energy system than we know which training method to use for power training.
So, what’s the bottom-line? Normally training methods give intensities, repetitions, exercises, etc right?
Yes, they do, I want you to understand the principle so that you can select your own method and become more powerful!
I have explained in simple words, what the Force-velocity curve is in the article The Importance of Power Snatches and simply everything in between the edges of the curve, force on one side and velocity on the other side can be classified as Power. Even though some author sub-divide it into Speed-strength, strength-speed and Power, which I think can be helpful to segment the different areas of the force-velocity curve a bit easier.
As a simple classification, we can look at different parts of the curve and train these parts accordingly, as it has been shown to yield the best results in practice.
|50 – 70% 1RM||Free weights
with accommodating resistance
|20 – 50% 1RM||Free weights
Medium-light implements (kettlebells, medicine balls)
|0 – 20% 1RM||Bodyweight
Light implements (medicine balls)
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.
This video shows a combination of the dynamic effort and the plyometric effort.
For more detailed information on What method is used for Power Training, have a look at the article 3 Steps to Develop your own Power Training Method and the vidoe on What method is used for Power Training
Why does Weight Training improve Power?
As we have elaborated on the ‘strength training vs power training debate’ the question still stands out, how does strength training or weight training actually improve Power?
A look at the Formula for Power P = F * v (Power = Force * velocity) shows that force is a variable of the Power equation and that by increasing Force, Power will subsequently improve (if velocity is kept constant). And the best way to improve force is strength training, remember strength is the ability to exert force in order to overcome resistance.
If we look at the adaptations that follow strength training or weight training, we can see that strength training with higher intensities (above 85% of the 1RM) will improve the rate of recruitment, which means more motor units are activated and can contract more forcefully.
In most of the cases, that is also how we plan the training for our Olympians, we start with a training phase where the focus is on improving the recruitment of motor units, followed by a phase, where the focus is on improving firing frequency.
More on neuromuscular adaptations, such as recruitment and firing frequency in the articles
The Strength Training vs Power Training Conclusion
Essentially strength training and power training at its’ core are aimed to train the ability to overcome resistance. While strength training focusses on overcoming resistance, power training focusses on overcoming resistance in the shortest period of time.
In order to become a better athlete or better version of yourself, you should embrace and implement strength training, as well as power training into your training plan.
More information on Power Training
or the Power Training library