Coaches Corner:

Preview from Jacques upcoming book.

 Why are we so good at training for Strength and so Poor for Training for Power? If sustaining maximum power is so important to winning why do so many focus only on absolute power?

 I was just watching the NBA finals and watched the game come down to the final minute all tied up.  Two great teams come back to the start of the game score of zero to zero at the end of the game.  Winning at this point comes down to execution.  Both mentally and physically.  Who has the most left in the tank to pull down the rebounds, stay explosive, really dig mentally to execute effectively after a brutal contest?  The risk of mistakes are high when fatigue sets in. 

I ask players in all sports this question.  “If you could be as fresh at the end of the game as you were in the beginning of the game how much more would you win?”

The answer is always that they would a much greater percentage of contests.  So what does that mean for training and are we getting it wrong?

Let me explain.  What are the physical components of success in sport? Success in most endurance sports are not who is the fastest in the short term, but who can sustain the highest percentage of that speed in the longer term.

For example, basketball requires the ability to be able to jump high or else be really tall so you can control the ball more effectively than your opponents.  The hoop is 10 feet high and so taller players or the ability to jump really high is a big component to success.  Lots of money and time is spent on how to increase vertical jump if you are not 7 feet tall. 

How do you jump higher, run faster, better lateral movement, better forward and backward?  All of these movements for winning in a sport go back to the ability to generate power in these planes of motion.  Of course bio-mechanics technique, etc. all play a role, but if all else is equal.  Power is the component you as an athlete have a lot of influence to change.  So if it is so important why do we not spend time trying to train our bodies to hold the greatest amount of power the longest?

I am amazed at how good the sports performance industry is at delivering improvements in strength.  There are a ton of programs and coaches that will help you get stronger.  “Improve your Squat” “Deadlift 2 x your body weight”, “Improve your bench”.   Don’t get sand kicked in your face and be a weakling.  This type of training can readily be found today.  Some of it is good and some not so good.  Remember strength is your ability to generate a force.  That coupled with velocity is what translates into moving your body through space at rapid rates of speed. This is power!

Even though strength is of great importance in all sport and human movement, at what point does adding greater strength add to more winning performances? With power to weight sports the increase in strength past a point will require more muscle and body weight to be added.  This is something that cyclists and elite runners do not want.   In most sports strength, mobility and stability are the foundation of the movement, and power movements are the end result. 

If I was to ask most athletes and coaches how they train for power, they would say they use kettlebells, Olympic lifts, plyo jumps etc.  These are your typical go to power exercises.  All are great exercises for developing absolute power for athletes.  But how do you develop greater amounts of maximum power longer.  In other words if winning is about producing power at the highest level the longest why do we not spend more time training for this result. 


Misunderstanding power.  Program design is the real reason.   The most common program design for absolute power development is a few sets of absolute power work of 6 to 8 repetitions at maximum power output followed by some form of endurance repetitions.  The endurance repetitions have to be executed at a lower power output in order to execute the greater volume of repetitions in a row.   The problem with this model is that you are not training your body to hold higher percentages of maximum power.  You are training your body to produce sub-maximal power for longer periods of time. 

So if your ability to produce the highest percentage of your maximum power late in a game, why do you train for sub-maximal power in your training? 

The big problem is that most program design does not do a good job at measuring power output.  How do you measure maximum power output in a kettlebell swing, Power Clean, Box Jump?  It is difficult to measure power in these efforts so a lot of time is wasted training endurance and not maximum sustainable power. 

Time and distance or time and repetitions at a particular weight is the poor man’s power meter.  Track coaches are always measuring power because they are measuring time and distance.  If an athlete covers the distance as a greater speed and nothing has changed in body weight or wind then the power has improved. 

In our center we use the Versapulley.  The Versapulley utilizes inertial flywheel technology and measures the output so I can see what the power output is rep by rep.  This is invaluable in me developing maximum sustained power. 

Maximum Overload’s goal is to produce Maximum Sustained Power.  We improve force production, improve velocity and improve the absolute power of the athlete.  Then we have athletes perform the exercise at maximum power for 3-6 reps.  This is followed with a rest between the reps designed to provide enough rest so that we can continue with another effort (typically a 5-10 second rest) at maximum power again.  We keep extending the time so that the body adapts to producing maximum power for large amounts of time not submaximal power for longer periods. 

So if power is the Holy Grail, and being able to sustain it wins games, why not focus on a training program that produces maximum power the longest. 

You will find a lot of people who are training for absolute power and then some form of power endurance at submaximal efforts.  We focus on what wins.  Developing maximum power the longest.   It will change your game. 


Jacques DeVore, CSCS

Sirens and Titans Fitness