Power Development Guidelines for Sport Performance

27 Jun Power Development Guidelines for Sport Performance

The development of speed, power, and the ability to change direction in sport requires the athlete to generate high force output levels in a short amount of time. The ability to create maximum performance in these aforementioned sport components requires power. Power is in the most basic terms strength plus speed. The ability of the strength and conditioning professional to develops these components within the kinetic chain can exponentially increase the performance parameters of the athlete in their chosen sport.

Power training develops the ability of the kinetic chain to generate maximum force outputs in a minimal amount of time. This process is achieved through modalities typically classified as plyometrics (neuromuscular reactive training) or Olympic Lifting. The stretch shortening cycle is the key component within both of the aforementioned training modalities of power development.

The stretch shortening cycle as stated previously is an eccentric muscular action where a muscle is lengthened, followed immediately by a concentric muscular action where force production is enhanced. Through the utilization of the stretch shortening cycle within power training the fitness professional can enhance the rate of force production, increase motor unit recruitment, motor unit firing frequency, and synchronization (Michael Clark, Integrated Training for the New Millennium, 198).

It is also important to note traditional weight training where high loads are executed for a specified number of repetitions increases strength and hypertrophy, but does not adequately increase the maximum power outputs of the kinetic chain.

As result it is necessary to implement power developmental modalities to increase the rate of force production required in the explosive muscular contractions of most athletic activities. In order for the strength and conditioning professional to accomplish this requirement successfully it is imperative to understand the three phases involved in the power training exercises which are: The eccentric phase, the amortization phase, and the concentric phase.

Eccentric Phase

The eccentric phase of power training modalities is classified as the time frame within the exercise where potential energy is stored within the muscle(s) due to a pre-stretch or active elongation of the muscle(s) (Donald Chu, Jumping into Plyometrics, 3). The potential energy stored within the muscle fibers during the eccentric phase will be exploited within the concentric phase of the exercise.

Amorization Phase

The amortization phase is classified as the time between the eccentric and concentric phase of plyometric training. The amortization phase is characterized by dynamic stabilization of the kinetic chain prior to concentric muscular contractions. In addition research indicates a prolonged amortization phase results in less than optimal neuromuscular efficiency, a loss in potential energy, and overall decreases in power production. As a result of this research the more speedily an individual can move from the eccentric to concentric phase, the larger amount of force production that will occur from the exercise.

Concentric Phase

The concentric phase of power training is classified as the phase in which force production occurs via the neuromuscular system. The concentric phase follows the eccentric and amortization phases of such training modalities.

Power Training Mechanisms

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine research indicates power-training modalities improve the rate of force production via three different mechanisms. These mechanisms are as follows: 1) Increased Muscle Spindle Activity, 2) Golgi Tendon Desensitization, and 3) Improve neuromuscular efficiency.

  • Increased Muscle Spindle Activity – Contractile speed is governed and limited by the neuromuscular system. The faster a muscle is loaded eccentrically, the greater concentric force production regardless of strength (Michael Clark, Integrated Training for the New Millennium, 203).
  • Golgi Tendon Desensitization – The golgi tendon organ is sensitive to both change in tension and rate of tension change that directly affects muscular inhibition. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine desensitization the golgi tendon increases the stimulation threshold of muscular inhibition allowing for increased force production with a greater load applied onto the kinetic chain.
  • Improved Neuromuscular Efficiency – Plyometrics, Olympic Lifting, and power training improves force production through enhancing the ability of the nervous system to react at maximum velocity to the eccentric action of the stretch-shortening cycle (Michael Clark, Integrated Training for the New Millennium, 203). This in turn allows for maximum force production during the concentric contraction.

Plyometric Training

Plyometrics as stated previously is one type of modality utilized in the development of power within the kinetic chain. Plyometrics are a category of exercises enabling a muscle to reach maximum force in as short a time as possible (Thomas Baechle, Essentials of Strength and Conditioning, 319). Plyometrics incorporate the force of gravity to store potential energy within the muscles. This occurs during the eccentric phase of such exercises. This energy is then used immediately after a brief amortization phase in the opposite direction during the concentric phase of the exercise.

The box jump plyometric exercise is a simple example where these components of such exercises can be easily understood. Standing on top of the box is the starting point of this exercise. The next step is jumping off the box where gravity will pull you down to the floor. At this juncture of the exercise potential energy is being stored as your feet come in contact with the floor and the musculature of the lower body elongates. Immediately following this brief contact time on the floor, you will jump forcefully upward through a series of concentric contractions by the musculature of the lower body. The potential energy stored within your musculature is utilized and transferred to kinetic energy during the concentric muscular actions of jumping off the floor, thus increasing the force outputs of the jump.

Plyometric exercises are typically classified into lower body and upper body exercises. Lower body plyometrics commonly referred to as jump training utilize gravity and the stretch-shortening cycle in conjunction with jumps, hops, and bounding whereas upper body plyometric exercises are characterized by throws, catches, and pushes often times utilizing a medicine ball within the exercise.

Plyometrics and power training in general are similar to resistance training in that both utilize the principles of progression, overload, and cross-specificity. As a result, it is necessary for the fitness professional to implement exercises in a systematic manner to continually challenge the neuromuscular system of the kinetic chain cross-specifically to the athlete’s chosen sport.

Olympic Lifting

Olympic Lifting is comprised of the clean and jerk and snatch lifts. Both of these lifts are very technically orientated for proper execution. As a result, hybrids and partial movements of these two lifts are commonly utilized in the development of power within the kinetic chain. The hang clean, push press, hang snatch, and single arm dumbbell snatch are examples of hybrids or partials.

Olympic lifting recruits the entire kinetic chain, encompasses the stretch shortening cycle, necessitates stabilization of the kinetic chain during execution, develops high levels of rapid muscle fiber activation, and increases force production within the neuromuscular system. As a result the inclusion of Olympic Lifts is very beneficial in the development of power production within the kinetic chain.

Systematic Training

A comprehensive conditioning program should follow a systemic and structured approach to the development of power within the musculature system. The processes by which this goal is achieved is through sequential training stages, where modalities are implemented in a progressive manner to continually challenge the physical qualities of the kinetic chain.

Systematic training for the power development utilizes a progressive four-tier system. Each tier within the system incrementally increases the training intensity and incorporates more challenging exercise modalities to progressively improve the rate of force production, neuromuscular efficiency, and coordination within the kinetic chain.

Characteristics of modalities utilized in a systematic training program for power development are exercises which are: multi-planar, multi-faceted, multi-joint, proprioceptively enriched, speed orientated, integrated, progressive, require rapid rates of force production, and are generally cross specific to movement patterns of the golf swing.

Sequence Continuum 

The development of stabilization, strength, and power within the musculature of the kinetic chain requires adherence to a system of progressively challenging the neuromuscular system with the appropriate training modality for the fitness professional’s client. This systematic progression of training modalities creates maximal training response within the client. A progressive and sequenced training continuum for the athlete typically begins with stabilization training, progresses to strength training, and is completed with power development.

Potentiation Effect

The potentiation effect is based on research indicating the combination of functional strength training in conjunction with power exercises results in the greatest recruitment of Type IIB muscles fibers. The benefit of this training mode is improved power outputs and overall increases in the rate of force development within the kinetic chain (Dr. Greg Rose, Titleist Performance Manual 184).

Summary

This information provides the strength and conditioning professional the general characteristics of power training for sport. Understanding the differing modalities and mechanisms by which power training improves the force outputs of the kinetic chain, and supplies the underlying structure for the creation of power developmental programs for athletes.

About Performance Coach Sean Cochran: Sean Cochran, one of the most recognized performance coaches in sports today. A career spanning positions with 2 major league baseball organizations, over 10 years on the PGA Tour and work with top professionals including three-time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson, future hall of fame Trevor Hoffman, and Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy. He has been involved in the production of numerous performance videos and authored books including; Performance Golf Fitness, Complete Conditioning for Martial Arts, and Fit to Hit. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations including the world renown Titleist Performance Institute.

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