• Power Training and Load Variations
    Looking at the practical application of the relationship between muscle force and velocity.
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  • Power training load variationsPower Continuum
    It can be said that the most important neuromuscular function in many sports is the ability to generate force in a rapid manner (maximal muscular power). Power is defined as the force multiplied by the velocity of a movement. 
    Maximal power output is paramount to performance when the aim is to achieve maximal velocity at takeoff, release, or impact.  

    This encompasses generic movements, such as sprinting, jumping, changing direction, throwing, kicking, and striking; therefore, it applies to a majority of sports. With that said, it is important to note that power can and should be trained across a continuum. This continuum ranges from lighter loads moving at very high velocities (typically in m/s) to heavier loads moving at slower velocities (Figure 1).

    power continuum
    Figure 1. Power Continuum 
    This power continuum is based off the force-velocity curve. So, the faster a load moves the less force can be produced, and vice versa. The loading parameters used in ballistic power training programs influence the type and magnitude of performance improvements observed as well as the nature of the physiological adaptations underlying the improvements (as seen on the force-velocity curve above and the associated physiological adaptations).

    With that said, heavy loads (greater than or equal to 80% 1RM) have been suggested to improve maximal power output despite ensuing low movement velocities.

    The reason for this is that there is a large correlation between maximal strength and power production along with the fundamentals of the size principle. On the other end of the spectrum, utilizing light loads (0–60% 1RM) in conjunction with ballistic and plyometric activity is highly recommended and utilized in ballistic power training programs. 
    The reason for this is that this type of loading permits athletes to train at velocities similar to those encountered in sport-specific movements.Lighter loads also allow for higher rates of force development and higher power outputs. When it comes to the optimal load to elicit maximal power production there is still some discrepancies and most of those discrepancies are associated with the movement involved within the training. For example, the optimal load typically ranges from 0% 1RM in the jump squat, to 30–40% 1RM with bench press throw, and up to 70–80% 1RM in weightlifting movements.

    Combination Loads
    Ballistic power training using light loads improves the high-velocity region of the force-velocity relationship (power at high velocities with low loads), and the use of heavy loads enhances the high-force portion of the force-velocity curve (power at low velocities with heavy loads). 
    The theory behind using a combination of loads in a ballistic power training program is to target all regions of the force-velocity curve and the power continuum in an attempt to augment power output across the entire spectrum.

    Thus, it is argued that training with a combination of loads may allow for all-around improvements in the force-velocity relationship, which results in superior increases in maximal power output and greater transfer to performance than either light- or heavy-load training. The bulk of the literature indicates that velocity-specific improvements in maximal power are more likely elicited by the actual movement velocity utilized during training.

    In turn, it is important to design training programs that can improve power across the force-velocity curve but it is also important to incorporate velocity-specific training (associated with a similar speed of movement seen in the sport or activity) prior to the in-season or competition phase in order to elicit the greatest power output prior to that specific phase of training.
  • Kevin Cronin

    About the Author:

    Kevin Cronin, MS, CSCS,*D, USAW

    Kevin Cronin, MS, CSCS,*D, USAW has worked with Collegiate, Olympic, and Professional level athletes over the last three years, working with All-Americans, All-Conference selections, NCAA National Champions, National Champions, and World Champions. Kevin has worked at Stanford University and the University of Texas as a volunteer Strength and Conditioning Coach. He currently serves as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Colorado College.


    Newton, RU, Cormie, P, and Kraemer, WL. Power Training. In: Hoffman, J (Ed.), Program Design. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 95-118, 2012. 

  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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