Training for power isn’t just for athletes. While you don’t need to be able to shoot like Steph Curry or hit a tennis ball at speeds over 100 mph like Andy Murray to get fit, everyone can benefit from adding a few carefully selected power exercises into their workouts.
Movements like jumps, sprints and throws will help you build newfound muscle, strength and coordination. Keep reading to find out why you should train for power and which exercises to choose for your current fitness level.
Training for power will make you stronger and more resistant to injury. Here’s why power matters:
1. STRENGTH AND MUSCULAR GAINS
The muscles in your body are made up of three types of fibers:
- Slow-twitch (good for endurance, but not very strong or powerful)
- Fast-twitch (strong and powerful, but fatigue quickly)
- Intermediate (characteristics of both slow- and fast-twitch)
Power exercises effectively target fast-twitch fibers, which have the greatest potential for strength and muscle gains. (Think of the impressive physiques and explosive efforts of Olympic sprinters.) Also, we tend to lose power as we age, so training your fast-twitch fibers can help keep you stronger and leaner as you get older.
2. FORCE ABSORPTION
Every time you stride when you jog or step down a flight of stairs, your body must absorb force to cushion the landing. These forces can be surprisingly high. In fact, studies show that ground reaction forces approach three times your bodyweight when you run. Power exercises like jumps and hops teach your muscles to absorb these intense forces so your bones and joints don’t take a hit.
3. NEW RANGES OF MOTION
Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t get too crazy with exploring new ranges of motion in our workouts. Running is a low-amplitude movement — meaning the arms and legs don’t move through their full ranges — and those biceps curls aren’t exactly preparing you to do the splits. Power exercises, however, tend to require large ranges of motion and can build newfound mobility better than traditional exercises.
That said, not everyone is ready to go full speed ahead with advanced power exercises. Here are some progressions to get you started.
Marches and skips teach coordination of the hips, knees and ankles, making them a favorite warmup drill for sprinters. Add them into your routine to help you run faster.
Level 1: High-Knee Wall March
Keep your chest up and eyes on the wall.
Stay on the balls of your feet.
Punch the ground, and push the floor away from you as you switch legs.
Level 2: High-Knee March
Chop the air with your hands.
Keep your knees and toes up.
Punch the ground directly under your hips.
Level 3: High-Knee Skip
Stay light on your feet; imagine being as quiet as possible.
Keep your knees and toes up.
Jumps and hops teach you to put force into the ground and absorb force upon landing. Learning to land from a jump will give you strong and stable knees and hips. Try them before squats or lunges to fire up your legs.
Level 1: Snapdowns
Reach up on your tiptoes.
“Rip” the air down with your arms.
Finish in an athletic position with hips above knees.
Level 2: Hurdle Hops
Land soft; imagine making as little noise as possible
Keep hips above knees and knees in line with toes
Level 3: Box Jumps
Start with a box that lets you land with hips above knees; you shouldn’t have to pull your knees up to your chest
Same landing position as hurdle hops
Throws and slams train upper-body power and are best performed with medicine balls. Take some aggression out with overhead, chest pass and rotational variations. (Just be sure to ask your gym staff is it’s OK before you start slamming!)
Level 1: Chest Pass to Wall
Keep chest tall and elbows close to your sides.
Try to put a hole in the wall; throw it hard!
Level 2: Overhead Slam
Reach up as high as possible without arching lower back.
Sit your butt back, and keep your knees out over toes on the way down.
Level 3: Scoop Toss
Keep arms loose, using mostly your hips to throw the ball.
Rotate through your back hip.
Chest should face the wall at finish position.