Physical Power | What's this? How should it be trained? Exercises

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Robert Maurer

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Strength and Power

Popular belief has it that strength training consists of placing yourself under a barbell, loading 80-90% of 1RM and shooting 1-6 shots for 5-6 or more sets.

But what strength is being trained? Let's start by saying that generally, people use the term "force" to refer to maximal strength, i.e. the maximum force a muscle can generate in a full range of motion.

Also called maximum dynamic force; as the barbell is pushed up and down, the movement is dynamic, so dynamic strength can be trained even with 50 - 60% of 1RM, precisely because there is a joint movement and it is possible to express force for the entire movement. In fact, on the west side they have a method called Dynamic effort.

If you plan to train "strength" only with submaximal loads (80-100% of 1RM), you are starting on the wrong foot.

In sports training, the concept of strength can be expressed in many ways. We have the strength maximal, That isometric, that resistant and other types of forces. In this article we will analyze what is the power, simply one of the many aspects of strength.

Physical Power

Better known as explosive force, fast or rapid is the ability of the neuromuscular system to express high muscle tension in the shortest possible time with high speed of contraction. This ability is the protagonist of many disciplines, such as in combat sports, weight lifting and especially in team sports such as football, rugby, basketball and volleyball.

Technically this type of strength is developed through specific workouts that go around the <50-80% del 1RM with movements expressed as quickly as possible. To have high explosive strength developments, it is necessary to stress the muscle fibers of type IIa and IIb (also called white and intermediate) more strongly, therefore the execution of the movement must be particularly explosive but without ever losing control.

In weight training it is essential to maintain an optimal execution technique to favor both the gain of "explosiveness" and to avoid injuries. For example, it is unthinkable to place yourself on a machine and push as fast as possible by tossing the weights here and there and perhaps with a negative phase of the movement totally absent. The phase concentric it has to be explosive, so done as quickly as possible. The eccentric phase, on the other hand, must not be too fast, an excessively rapid eccentric movement implies the loss of tension in the muscle.

When working with the explosive force There are two ways to perform an eccentric phase of the movement:

1) The eccentric phase is performed much slower than the concentric phase; generally the eccentric must have a duration of at least 2s. (You don't have to count the seconds in the eccentric phase, they are just a general reference point, useful to make the athlete or reader understand that the execution time must be slow but not too much.

2) The second way to perform the eccentric phase is to be fluid; a fluid movement in the eccentric phase takes as much speed as the concentric phase, the point is that in an eccentric phase performed very quickly the tension on the muscle is very easily lost. This happens because often the weight is not controlled but left to itself, for the following reason the fluid movements are recommended to those people who know how to control weights in an optimal way. Novice newbies might approach machines rather than free weights, but always with particular attention.


Remaining on the theme of eccentric phase, in this phase the skeletal muscle can express greater strength in the concentric phase if it is stretched in the eccentric phase.

During the stretch (eccentric) the muscle stores elastic energy which in the subsequent shortening phase (concentric) will be returned by adding to the strength of the contractile component of the muscle. This type of contractions are called plyometric (explosive and fast).

Plyometric contractions strongly stimulate the stretching-shortening mechanism, both at the myogenic level (muscle tissue) and the neurogenic one (nervous system). The most important stimulus, however, occurs at the neurogenic level.

The motor neuron-alpha receives pulses and other types of information from the central nervous system and from fibers that intervene at the time of elongation, the latter send further stimuli through the beta-motor neurons that are added to those coming from the central nervous system, strengthening and allowing a greater recruitment of fibers.

Myotatic reflex

In summary we can say that plyometric contractions give an advantage to the elastic components, which, once pre-stretched, return energy that adds to the concentric contraction, this allows a further advantage for the production of force. Another factor that seems to favor this mechanism is the “coupling” time, that is the time that divides the stretching phase with the shortening phase.

In 1982, Professor Bosco showed that the shorter the coupling time, the higher the potential energy return.

In bodybuilding and fitness, workouts are generally composed of technical, slow and controlled executions, therefore it is useful to include plyometric executions within your workouts that stress the lengthening-shortening component, obviously it is necessary to be cautious because if in the stretching should we stretch the muscle too much (bench press with dumbbells) there is the possibility of an injury, so first of all we would need common sense.

This type of contractions are used with the second eccentric phase method described above.


Machinery, cables and presses are not used often, technically they do not allow an execution that can be carried out with decency an explosive or plyometric movement.

Very often they hinder movement, especially in the case of cables; seeing is believing.

Much more adequate are the exercises involving the use of barbells and dumbbells: The exercises used to improve the production of explosive force are called basic or fundamental exercises, they change in each discipline. In bodybuilding and fitness we find bench press, squat, deadlift, pull-up and militarypress.

In powerlifting in addition to bench press, squat and deadlift, we find their variants, such as the floor press, the box squat and sumo deadlift etc. While in weightlifting the fundamental exercises are pull, momentum and pushpress, but obviously the three classics are also performed. Below I list the absolute best exercises to work with plyometric or explosive contractions, also combining variants to be performed with dumbbells.

? Shoulders

With barbell - Push Press, Military Press, Shoulder press.

With Dumbbells - Seated Shoulder Press, Single Arm Shoulder Press, Side Raises.

? Bibs

With barbell - Bench press, floor press.

Bodyweight - Push-ups and its variants.

With dumbbells - Incline and flat bench presses.

? Back

With Barbell - T-bar row, Prone and supine grip row, Deadlift, Sumo deadlift.

Free body - Tractions (also with reverse and neutral grip).

With Dumbbells - Single-arm dumbbell rowing.

? Quadriceps

With Barbell - Squat, Box Squat, Sumo Squat.

A corpo libero – Jump squat, Jump squat su box.

With Dumbbells - Dumbbell Jump Squat, Bulgarian Split Squat.

Factors Limiting Explosivity

To conclude the article we can say that there are many factors that can limit the gain of explosive strength, but with the necessary precautions and common sense it will be possible to carry out workouts solid enough to be able to allow actual gains.

It is well known that skeletal muscle contraction occurs when the nerve impulse reaches the muscle fibers thus initiating a series of chemical reactions that lead to the production of force.

The factors that limit it are almost all related to the neuromuscular aspect, below we will analyze in a very concise way the various aspects that limit the production of explosive force, the previous ones will not be explored as they require more time and more lines, which would imply the loss of the logical thread of this article.

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