What is Power Efficiency and Why You Should Know?

In the past I have talked about Maximum Sustainable Power (MSP). This is a term I came up with for what is really power efficiency. I have developed a number of training methods to improve power efficiency you can find in the book I co-authored titled Bicycling-Maximum-Overload-Cyclists. But what is power efficiency and why is it important to understand?

Power is F x Distance/Time. This is the physics behind power development. The best examples of maximum athletic power would be a vertical jump, shot put, snatch, power clean, broad jump, 100 meter sprint. You get the idea. It is force with velocity. However, what is most important in sports lasting longer than 10 seconds in length is the athlete’s ability to keep producing big power outputs longer and later in a game. 

Power Efficiency: If have two athletes of equal fitness, both with 40 inch vertical jumps and I had the athletes jump every 15 seconds what percentage of the 40 inches are they able to keep producing after numerous jumps? This is an example of Power Efficiency. The athlete that completed a greater number of jumps would have greater efficiency because they were able to maintain a higher level of performance longer. They both jumped the same maximum height, so their ability to produce absolute power was the same. However, one athlete was able to maintain more maximum jumps. This athlete had better efficiency. So let’s say you had the athletes keep jumping until they dropped to 35 inches in jump height. How many jumps could they execute before dropping below 35 inches? This would be another measurement of power efficiency. In other words, if you were to compare the two athletes and one could execute 30 jumps before dropping down to 35 inches and the other athlete could only complete 20 jumps then the athlete with 30 jumps completed would have a 33% greater efficiency in power production. The athlete with 30 jumps completed has better athletic gas mileage for higher power production. So, you may design a program that produces a higher vertical jump, but what makes for better performance in a game if the efficiency of the athlete is so low that in the fourth quarter of the game a much lesser jumper is able to out jump your high performing athlete? Who is the better player?

Something to think about, more to come.