Maximizing Power, a Practical Approach

Last week we outlined the key neural and muscular factors that may affect an athlete’s ability to develop power, after undergoing a strength training protocol. Before I continue, let me reiterate last week’s take home message: YES, lifting heavy weights WILL improve power production BUT only to a certain point. This week we will take a practical look at what to do once an athlete reaches this point.

*NOTE: When I talk about ‘power’ I am referring to ‘peak’ or ‘max’ power.

Why is Power in Sport so Vital?

Remember our Force-Velocity-Power curve (Figure 1)? Power falls somewhere in between force and velocity, or better yet, between strength and speed. A strong athlete may not always be a powerful athlete and this may also be true for a fast athlete. Practically speaking, power can be seen as moving a heavy load, with speed. This is important for a variety of athletes:


Figure 1


1) Two lineman trying to push each other out of the way. The more powerful athlete will ALWAYS have an advantage.

2) A big body check in hockey. Whoever can generate the most force in the shortest time will surely stay on his skates, while the other will be flat on the ice.

3) How about a bobsled team? A 2 man bobsled weighs 170kg (or 374lbs)! Getting off to a good start is vital and without tremendous lower body power, that sled won’t go, period.

A Power Comparison 

Let’s use a very strong hockey player as a practical example:

Table 1 


Table 2

Notice the difference? During the power clean, the hockey player can generate more than twice as much power compared to the back squat.

This athlete can lift 180 more pounds on his back squat versus his power clean. The heavy squat generates a ton of force but the speed of movement (velocity) is much slower when compared to power clean velocity. Moving a moderately heavy load, like a 225lb power clean is more effective in the development of power because this load can be moved with speed.

Nobody wants to be a slow and non-explosive athlete; therefore, training phases that target the development of power should always be a part of any athlete’s program. Some athletes (football players) will spend more time developing power while others (cyclists) will spend less time. In any case, it’s important to know which exercise can further enhance power output, and at what load.

Next Week: Ever feel like your strength improvements have hit a wall? Maybe you’ve reached your training plateau and need to reassess your training regimen. We’ll take a brief look at how you can overcome plateaus and reach your strength goals.


1) Cormie et al 2007. Optimal loading for maximal power output during lower-body resistance exercises. Physical fitness and performance.

2) McBride et al 2011. Effects of loading on peak power of the bar, body and system during power cleans, squats and jump squats. Journal of sports sciences.

3) Rippetoe and Kilgore 2006. Practical Programming for Strength Training.