Strength or Power?

Ahh….The age old dilemma of lifting for maximum strength or maximum power?  Usually, this decision is made for you by your coach or your social group.  We – as people – gravitate towards those subjects we know best.  While there are more efficient ways to train, trust me when I say there is no wrong answer to this question.  There are only more appropriate choices based on your age and your specific needs.   The equation for power may reveal more:

POWER = (Force x Distance) / Time

Maximum Strength Training – Overview

Maximum strength training develops your ability to apply force.  This type of training progresses weights based on a percentage of maximum strength.  It’s usually set up in three or four phases.  The first phase characterized by higher reps and lower intensities (or percentages) develops muscle mass or hypertrophy.  The theory is that a bigger muscle is capable of lifting heavier weights.  Trap Bar Deadlift

Next, you will transition into a phase that I call accumulation.  During this phase you’re trying to accumulate as many reps as possible in the range of 75-85% of 1 rep max.  During this phase you’re still lifting at a high enough volume to stimulate muscle growth, but it’s heavy enough to promote strength gains.

Finally, you’ll enter into intensification.  This is when you’re working at 90% of your 1 rep max in rep ranges of 1-3.  The focus is purely on maximum peaking your maximum strength.

Power Training – Overview

Power training develops your ability to be explosive.  Explosive athletes dominate sport – particularly the throwing events.  The primary difference between power training for sport and maximum strength training for sport is that you don’t focus on the amount of weight moved but the speed at which you can move weight.  In this type of training you will likely spend a lot of time working at sub-maximum weights moving as fast as possible.

Periodization for power training works similarly to strength training.  There is usually a progression of volume and intensities into a peaking phase.  When applied to specific sport training, exercise selection and velocity become more important as you progress towards peaking.

Bringing them Together

If you’re young as an athlete, I would focus on learning the basic movement patterns – squat, hinge, proper bracing.  If you can’t squat or hinge properly, you’re setting yourself up for injury or underperformance.  That’s not what we want to do.  So here’s an overview of a training program.

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This program starts off as as maximum strength training program, but evolves into a power training program in month 5 and 6.  As a general rule of thumb I try to limit my weight training sessions to 75 minutes or less.

The science says there are many minimum thresholds of strength necessary to perform at the highest level.  Those numbers are usually a lot lower than you realize. For example in the shot put, the research says that a male athlete who can bench 440lbs, squat 550lbs, and clean 400lbs should be able to throw the shot put at speeds of 14.5-15 meters per second – far enough to break a world record.  Failure to break records more likely a technical issue at that point.


CampsI’ve spent almost 30 years strength training for optimal athletic performance outside the weight room.  A lot of my early years I focused on strength for the sake of strength.  When you’re young, you can get away with it.  Increasingly, I’m seeing young athletes develop at an earlier age under the expert guidance of a great coach.  These athletes aren’t nearly as strong as I was in the weight room, but they move more powerfully and efficiently.  And in doing so, they can produce much better results.  That’s one of my goals with our programs on this site.  Create a more efficient, more powerful athlete that’s capable of better performances than the bigger, stronger athlete.

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