Power training is a training style often associated with athletes. Athletes are often expected to be as powerful as possible in order to be the best at whatever sport it is they play. So, what is power training? You often hear power described as “explosiveness” by sports announcers when commentating on the movement of an athlete. This characteristic of “explosiveness” is a description of the athlete's ability to exert maximal force (be as strong as possible) an
d exert that same force as fast as possible. Explosiveness comes in many forms, lower body explosiveness is often recognized as athletes who run fast or jump high. Upper body explosiveness can be recognized as an athlete with the ability to throw an object extremely fast or far (i.e. pitchers, shot putters, or javelin throwers), or athletes that can move some sort of stick with extreme force & speed (i.e. hockey & lacrosse players). Power training would be taking some sort of resistance and moving it as fast as you could.
So what does this have to do with the average person? Unfortunately, as much as we like to believe we are invincible, all of us are aging. With aging comes a number of complications that occur via the musculoskeletal system like losses in bone density, muscle mass, muscle strength. These complications lead to a loss in an ability to complete activities of daily living and ultimately quality of life will begin to decrease. The increasing well of information on the subject seems to be pointing towards power and plyometric training as better methods for fighting back against aging versus just traditional strength training. A study involving older adults ranging from ages 44-70 years of age found that training plyometrically/powerfully this improved their functional ability (Fishbeck et al., 2013). Methods of training used in this study included box jumps, med ball throws, cone drills, ladders, and hurdles among others.
Not only do we see functional improvements in elderly people surprisingly we also see improvements in skill-related characteristics as well. Even though in some cases maximal strength may not increase with these individuals you do see an increase in characteristics like balance, agility, and jump height. (Fishbeck et al., 2013) & (Franchi et al., 2019). Not only are elderly people decreasing their risk of falling by improving their balance they are in a way, at ages of up to 84 years old becoming more athletic. Other improvements shown in elderly people show that when measured against traditional strength training some of the functional parameters measured don’t improve as significantly. Walking speed, and the speed at which an individual can rise from a chair have all improved at a better rate with power training versus strength training (Hazell et al., 2007). For a long time when considering training for older adults strength training was seen as the best option and it appears that just is no longer the case. Now I’m not writing this to say “throw strength training out the window entirely.” Strength training still has a place for increasing muscle strength which could also add on to the other benefits seen with power training as well as increase bone and cartilage thickness. A combination of both methods of training is the most impactful way to delay the unwanted effects of aging for both old and young.
It’s important that, when performing some sort of power training or plyometric training that you do it under the guidance of a trainer or coach to start you off right. With the element of adding high speed movement to these workouts, the risk of injury does also increase. Having someone to show you how to properly execute these movements is essential to completing a proper exercise program. Once you think you are prepared to try these exercises feel free to get creative and have fun doing them.
Author: Brandon Mgeni CSCS, CPT
Personal Trainer @ The GYM Milford
Fishbeck, M., Janot, J., Heil, C., Alsheskie, E., Daleidan, A., Erickson, E., Myrhe, S., & Somerville, N. (2013). The effects of plyometric training and agility on balance and functional measures in middle aged and older adults. Journal of Fitness Research, 2(1), 30-40.
Frenchi, M., Monti, E., Carter, A., Quinlan, J., Herrod, P., Reeves, N., & Narici, M. (2019). Bouncing back! Counteracting muscle aging with plyometric muscle loading. Frontiers in Physiology, 10(178), 1-10.
Hazell, T., Kenno, K., & Jakobi, J. (2007). Functional benefit of power training for older adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 15(3), 349-359.