Training for Power (II)

Power to the people

For athletic speed and power, should you lift weights or do plyometrics? The answer, without a doubt, is BOTH.

The specifics depend on you; your strengths and weaknesses, your current abilities and goals, and the demands of your sport or other activity. Of all those "depends," I think the best place to start is with your weaknesses. Identify your weaknesses so that you can set specific goals and start the journey, building off your strengths (for almost everyone already knows their strengths).

Many people fail, er, "workout routines" fail because they don't put much thought into that process. Or they try to accomplish two or more incompatible goals at once. Or they try to accomplish too much too quickly.

Typical situations

An 18-year old soccer player who would like to gain some strength and power over the summer should be doing strength training and plyometric training. Apparently, some coaches imagine that it's possible for active young men to gain 10 pounds of lean muscle, increase their peak speed and power, while also simultaneously achieving peak conditioning for distance/endurance type running. All this in 80 days of summer heat.

Regular intense 50-minute jogging gives the body numerous signals that are in direct contradiction toward the goals of increased strength and power. For soccer players, there is (questionably) a time for long distance running and grueling repeated 800 meter sprints; it's called the pre-season. Trying to achieve and maintain that type of peak "conditioning" year 'round is insanity.

Muscles with more cross sectional area (thickness) can produce more force, which can then (via plyometric and skill specific training) be applied to bigger and better skills that impress. It's the power that awes crowds. Endurance in team sports is important for sure, but nobody ever became elite because of their endurance. If you're carrying around an extra 10 pounds of powerful, opponent smashing muscle and get a little tired at times when there's no natural break in the action, well, that's why they have subs and time-outs!

Likewise, a person who's trying to drop a few pounds the right way, feeling a little too solid and slow, also needs to be doing BOTH strength training and plyos, with a bit more conditioning focus. Whether you'd like to do long drawn out cardio is up to you. You certainly don't have to, especially if you're able to eat non horse-sized amounts of mostly unprocessed foods.

Training program ideas

Whatever your goals and weakest link, be you male or female, footballer (US) or footballer (UK), the overall pool of strengthening and plyometric exercises that you really need are not all that different.

Just about everyone should include a variation of the deadlift and/or squats and a variation of loaded unilateral (single leg) work like lunges or single leg squats. For the upper body, there should be one horizontal and one vertical "pulling" exercise as well as one good horizontal and one vertical "pushing" exercise.Throw in some specific corrective/mobility exercises and core work and you have a nice program on your hands.

Yeah, that just about covers it.
Simple. Effective. I like it.

Template for strength/power focus:

Day 1: Bench press, deadlifts (or deadlift variation), and single leg squats, each performed for a few warm-up sets and then 3 to 4 sets of 4 to 6 reps.

This workout is very simple and miserable when you work hard on each and every work set, and see to it that, little by little, you are adding resistance to the movements. Finish with two or three circuits of an ab exercises (leg raises, ball tosses, or planks) coupled with an "arm" exercise like narrow grip bench or dips.

one or two days off

Day 2: Conditioning/plyo day includes 8 to 12 short (~40 to 60 yard) sprints followed by a series of double leg vertical jumps (Chairs!!), single leg side and forward hops up an incline.

one or two days off

Day 3: Incline dumbbell press, weighted pull-ups (or lat pulldown), seated overhead barbell press, and dumbbell rows, each for 3 or 4 sets of 6 to 10 reps, followed with a "finisher" of 20 reps squats. One miserable, I-hate-lifting-and-don't-even-want-to-look-at-a-weight-for-a-few-days, set of squats.

That's about it for the week. Bilateral and unilateral leg work, horizontal push and pull, vertical push and pull, a little arms and abs, all in less than 4 hours of training per week. It would take more like three if you would quit your yackin' between sets and if you don't have to get your kids a snack and a catfish bucket and off the swing and so on.

Template for power/conditioning focus:

Here we may do something similar but pick up the pace and add one day of conditioning for a total of 4 rather than three workouts for the week. That may look something like this.

Day 1: Deadlifts (variation) coupled with bodyweight dips, bench press coupled with single leg squats holding dumbbells (4 sets of 4 to 12 reps each). Finish with 3 one minute bike intervals coupled with a core exercise like medicine ball tosses or prone roll outs (praying mantis).

day off

Day 2: 6 to 8 80 to 100 yard hill sprints. Finish with corrective/mobility exercise and maybe some upper body plyometrics like medicine ball tosses, clap push ups, etc.

The perfect fitness equipment.
day off

Day 3: Chin-ups (or lat pulldowns) coupled with incline dumbbell presses, overhead barbell presses coupled with dumbbell rows, bicep curls coupled with a core exercise, and either Farmers Walks (carrying heavy dumbbells for distance) OR 20-rep squat finisher.

Day 4: Short sprints, plyometric hops and jumps (see day 2 of the other template), and possibly finish with some jump rope intervals or "X-drill" multidirectional short sprints.

So you're talking about 4 to 5 hours of exercise that counts. The weights involved in the conditioning focus template will obviously have to be less than those used when really pushing to increase resistances in the strength/power template. But please, don't ever go in wtih the mindset of "light weights and high reps for toning." You are still working hard and relatively heavy.

The rap

That's really it. There's no magic beyond semi-intelligent planning, consistency, progressing slowly with the long-term in mind, and a little attention to detail regarding exercise selection and execution. Remember that this is a template, and most everyone will need some variation to suit their specefic limitations and goals. Most people are suited for some movements better than others. Many people who say "I can't squat, press, deadlift, etc...) simply need a few weeks or months of corrective work. A trained professional may help with some of the details, and most people do fine with just a little guidance.

Yes, that's my own secret workout formula for athleticism and general neatness. You got it for the cost of some time. How neat is that?
The ab loung is a great piece of equipment.
If you pick it up and do lunges or farmers walks or press it overhead.

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