In the latest of our fitness and performance series, Rory McInerney of FFS Gym discusses the importance of power for athletes, especially those of the field disposition. Here are five tips to increase your explosive power.
Power, simply put, is the combination of strength and speed. The more power you have as an athlete, the higher you can jump, the faster you can run, the quicker you can be to a breaking ball and subsequently become a better all-round athlete.
Would Cristiano Ronaldo have scored that wonder goal against Juventus if he wasn’t as powerful as he is?
No, because he would not have been explosive enough to get off the floor and put himself in that incredible position.
We all know people who can lift every single plate in the gym on the bench press but can’t tie their tie without a spot.
Conversely, we all know of someone who is lightning quick but a swift breeze could blow them over.
Athletes that have real power are the perfect combination of both. Those who possess real power traditionally excel in their field, often reaching the pinnacle of their relative sports.
Here are five ways to increase your power.
Compound / Olympic Lifts
Before you can become powerful you need two key things; strength and mobility.
To make gains in terms of absolute strength (as opposed to relative strength with bodyweight exercises) you need to utilise compound movement such as the bench press, squats, deadlifts and single leg variations of the previous lifts to pack on functional muscle mass.
These movements typically transfer well to the pitch because many of them are improvised movements that are utilised in sports specific situations, for example a bench press and a hand off.
Olympic lifts are the king of power development but not everyone has the time to master these highly technical lifts. However, many people do not realise that all compounds can be modified to become power development tools.
Take the bench press and hand off comparison again; performing explosive reps where the aim is to move the bar as fast as possible at sub maximal loads (typically 50-75% of 1RM) is a great way to become more explosive in specific planes of movement.
Bench press – Focus on moving the bar from the bottom (as seen in pic) to the lockout position as fast as possible.
2. Get Mobile
If you are increasing the frequency and intensity of lifting weights with the aim of increasing muscle mass and strength then you need to compensate for the potential decrease in mobility by adding more mobility to your programming.
Remember the guy that cant tie his tie? Well, chances are he cannot tie his shoe laces either, so how is he going to scoop down to raise a sliotar?
Check out the Romwod app – https://romwod.com/ for convenient mobility workouts that you can incorporate as warm ups / recovery sessions.
3. Core Strength
Without a strong core you have no chance of becoming a powerful athlete.
We are not talking sit ups and crunches, we mean proper core strength that will allow you to perform and stay strong in compromised positions on the pitch (breaking a tackle or taking a jostle off balance).
The best way to hammer your core and increase your strength is by adding relative strength movements such as chin ups, push ups, planks, lunges and squats with a big focus on ‘bracing your core’ to increase abdominal and trunk activation.
Working on your breathing also can have huge benefits when trying to isolate your core.
4. ‘Jump around’ & ‘Go Ballistic’
It is important to note the difference between jump training and plyometric training.
Jump training can be incredibly effective when trying to improve a specific aspect of a sport, for example a midfielder jumping for a ball from a kick out. However, for the movement to be truly plyometric the ground contact time needs to be sub .2 seconds.
A good example of this would be a rugby player moving around in a lineout and then reacting to his jump cue. The faster he can get off the floor (ground contact time) the more success he will have in claiming the ball.
I love incorporating broad jumps, counter movement jumps and hurdle hops with a reactive element into warm ups for athletes, not only to improve their movement skills but also stimulate their nervous system before a big lift.
Ballistic movements generally involve throwing / slamming something as far as you can / as hard as you can respectively. Med balls are a great tool for this. Ballistic methods can be great tools for cultivating power in throwing sports.
5. Contrast Training – *Advanced athletes only
This might be the most effective way to develop power for athletes. This type of training is typically used when coupling a heavy strength lift with an explosive power movement (jump, sprint or throw). The aim is to recruit as many fast twitch muscle fibres as possible by recruiting them during a heavy lift and then transfer this excitation to an explosive movement.
A good example of this would be a heavy two-rep barbell squat followed by a max 5-10 yard acceleration. This style of training produces Post activation potentiation (PAP) which is highly effective when performed correctly. For maximum benefit I would recommend it is only used at select times on your sporting calendar.
We hope the above has helped and look forward to a more powerful, explosive you.
Rory McInerney, Pundit Arena.