Power training: tips, benefits and workouts

Power training is a popular and sport specific way of doing strength training. This article covers everything you need to know about power training. From science to power training workout examples. Let’s get started!

By Loek Vossen

Power training

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What is power training

Power training is a training method that focuses on both strength and speed. Common power training exercises include plyometrics, ballistic exercises and Olympic power lifts like a (power) clean or snatch.

Power itself is force multiplied by velocity (Power = Force * Velocity). To generate power during strength training, both load and movement speed are important. That’s why power training emphasizes movement speed (velocity) in addition to load (force).

In practice this means that during power training there’s an intent to move the load as fast as possible. This is also known as maximal movement intent. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the load moves fast, but the athlete aims to move it as fast as possible.

Effective power training requires power measurements with a velocity based training device like GymAware RS. These devices measure power, velocity and force. You need all three to create the most effective power training workouts. We’ll soon discover why.

“It is important to know how power is derived. Meaning, looking at not only what power was, but what was the mass and the velocity.”

Strength coach Bryan Mann about power training

Power training vs Strength training

Power training can be considered a way of doing strength training. The main difference between power training vs strength training is that strength training focuses on overcoming resistance, while power training focuses on overcoming resistance as fast as possible.

In other words, movement velocity is considered more important in power training than in strength training. Therefore, most power training exercises require the athlete to move faster than in typical strength training exercises.

Force velocity relationship showing the difference between strength and power.
Force velocity relationship: strength vs power vs speed

Benefits of power training

Whether in daily life or in sports performance, the time to lift, kick, catch, hit, throw or change direction is always limited. This means that in practice, movement velocity always matters.

Power training is important because it incorporates the need to finish your movement within a certain time frame into your strength training. Therefore you could say that power training is more sport specific than traditional strength training.

“If you bring up the velocity of the entire spectrum, then you’re able to hit peak power faster, which translates to better performance.”

Strength coach Bryan Mann about power training

Power training increases strength, power and speed. These adaptations come from:

  • Muscular adaptations like muscle hypertrophy and even muscle fiber type transitions.
  • Neuromuscular adaptations like the ability of the nervous system to activate muscle units in a fast and effective way.

That said, power training is not necessarily the most effective training method to increase power.

Power training guidelines

It’s time to put power training into practice! But before we jump to power reps, sets, recovery time and load, we need to mention a key component of power training: intent.

Literature shows that the intent to move a load as fast as possible is key to improving performance. So regardless of the actual (bar) velocity, you should always have the intention to move as fast as possible.

Elite coach Travis Mash about the importance of measuring intent:

“Intent should not be assumed if you want to ensure results.”

Travis Mash, elite coach and GymAware user

There’s an easy way to boost intent: instant velocity feedback. There are several scientific papers showing that by providing instant feedback, athletes can enhance their velocity and power output by up to 10%. Hundreds of World Champions, Olympians and Pro Athletes use GymAware RS to get this feedback live and accurately.

Velocity feedback during power training increases movement intent.
The GymAware iPad app shows your movement intent (e.g. velocity or power) live during an exercise.

Let’s continue with our power training guidelines.

The ideal number of reps and sets

Power training does not require you to train to failure or fatigue. In fact, it’s important to be able to perform explosive movements. As a result, power training usually requires less repetitions and sets than classic strength training.

A typical power training consists of 3-5 sets and only 1-3 reps. However, the optimal rep range differs per individual.

The best way to determine the ideal number of reps and sets during power training is by measuring power or velocity with a velocity based training device.

When doing so, you’ll notice that both power and velocity will decrease when fatigue increases.

Power and velocity decrease during training when fatigue increases.
Both power and velocity decrease when fatigue increases.

Simply stop your set when power or velocity loss becomes too high. Many experts use a velocity loss of 20-30% for power training. This means that you stop your set when your rep velocity (or power) is 30% less than your first rep velocity.

You stop the exercise when you can’t reach a velocity above 30% velocity loss. Here’s an example of how that would look like in practice:

Determine reps and sets during power training based on velocity loss.
Let power or velocity loss determine your ideal rep and set range.

Rest time: how long should you recover?

Power training requires relatively long rest times to recover between sets. 2-4 minutes of rest is common.

To determine your ideal rest time, measure power or velocity. If the power or velocity is still low when you start a new set, you’re not fully recovered. Although you do not need full recovery, you should aim for high power or velocity numbers with only little velocity loss.

You can also use power or velocity measurements to see whether you’re recovered from a previous training. Learn more about quantifying strength training fatigue and daily readiness.

How to determine you optimal load for power training

The optimal load for power training is between 30-70% of 1RM, depending on the exercise. However, there is a more individual and data-driven way to determine your power training load.

Simply put, it’s the load that enables you to generate the highest power.

Optimum power load training (OPL) is a power training method that describes the optimal load for power training as the load that elicits maximal power.

To find this personal optimal power load, you need to lift different weights as fast as possible. Measure the velocity and power with a VBT device like GymAware RS or GymAware FLEX.

As you can imagine, the higher the load the slower the movement:

The higher the load, the lower the velocity in strength training.
The higher the load (%1RM) the slower the movement velocity.

However, since power depends on load and velocity, there’s an optimum in power. The load-power relationship (or power-velocity relationship) shows this optimum:

Muscular profile showing force-velocity and power-velocity relationship in back squat.
Force-velocity relationship (lineair) and Power-velocity relationship (parabolic).

The load at which you reached the highest power is the load used in optimum power load training. Note that the load-power profile or power-velocity profile is an alternative way of representing the force-velocity profile (or load-velocity profile).

Although OPL is a scientifically proven, effective way to determine the load for power training, it’s not the only load you can use for power training.

Velocity zones for power training

While the Optimum Power Load training looks at the load at max power, you might as well look at the velocity at max power. You can use the same method to find out at which velocity, the power is highest. Simply read the power-velocity relationship to find the highest power and the according velocity.

When looking at the velocity zones of velocity based training, speed-strength is most likely the velocity zone for power training. The speed-strength velocity zone ranges between 1.0 – 1.3 m/s. Depending on the exercise, max power often occurs in the speed-strength velocity zone.

Velocity based training zones
Velocity zones in velocity based training.

The actual velocity at which maximal power occurs differs per exercise and individual. Of course, training can also change the velocity at max power of an athlete. Regular testing helps to track the precise velocity at which maximal power occurs.

Power workout examples

A typical power training workout example could look like this:

Power workout example
Power training workout example, using velocity based training.

You could replace the power exercises with other power exercises like:

  1. High pulls
  2. Unloaded vertical jumps (example of a power exercise without equipment)
  3. Power snatch
  4. Push Jerk

Here’s how to turn the power exercises and power workout example into a power training program example:

Power program example
Power training program example, using the power training workout example (previous image).

To make life easier, simply program your power training in a power training app like the FLEX Stronger app. This power training app guides you through your power training, using load and velocity targets and power feedback.

App for you power training workout
FLEX Stronger power training app, using load and velocity as targets and power as live feedback.

Summary

Power training is often more sport specific because – contrary to traditional strength training – it takes movement velocity into account.

When doing power workouts, it’s important to be recovered from previous workouts. It’s equally important to stop your reps and sets before fatiguing. By measuring power and velocity, you can easily control for fatigue.

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. To become more powerful, it’s important to track strength power progress over time. To fully understand power improvements, make sure you measure the 2 components of power: force and velocity.

Hundreds of World Champions, Olympians and Pro Athletes use GymAware RS to measure power progress and get accurate power feedback, live during training. Learn more about the GymAware velocity device or discover the wide possibilities of velocity based training.

Loek Vossen

Loek Vossen

Human Movement Scientist | Content Marketing and Education