As athletes, we all know that power is the name of the game.
Sure strength is important, but at the end of the day, being strong isn’t enough.
It’s being able to express that strength as quickly as possible that’s truly important.
The unfortunate thing is a lot of athletes aren’t training power correctly.
Or worse yet, they’re not training power at all!
If you haven’t been training or power, or you want to reintegrate it back into your programming, then this article is for you.
Here are four of my favorite power development exercises, along with a 5th exercise that could be the icing on the cake.
#1 – Med Ball Throws
Med ball throws are one of my favorite options for reintroducing power work early-on.
Depending on the variation that you choose, you can put an emphasis on upper body power, lower body power, core and trunk stability, or any combination of the above.
And another huge benefit of med ball throwing is that many variations have little to no eccentric demands, so they shouldn’t tear you down early in a training program.
Last but not least, when it comes to power there are tons of lower body options, it’s easy to feel limited to barbell options for training the upper body (bench throws, push presses, etc.).
So if your athletes need upper body explosiveness and power, the med ball can be your best friend.
With that being said, here are a bunch of med ball options you can try out, courtesy of my good friend Eric Cressey.
#2 – Kettlebell Swings
Another great way to reintroduce power to a training program is the standard kettlebell swing.
Swings are great because they help develop horizontal power (much like you would see in a broad jump).
Furthermore, since a swing isn’t a ballistic exercise where your feet leave the ground, they’re a great way to work on power without having massive eccentric forces such as when you land.
Here’s a short instructional video on the swing:
The only issue with the swing is that it can be challenging for some athletes to hinge well early-on.
Especially if they have a tendency to arch or extend their back to create stability, sometimes adding speed to a challenging movement pattern isn’t the best idea.
However, once you can teach someone to hinge effectively, the swing is a fantastic option for bringing their power back up to par.
#3 – Box Jumps
When it comes to power, there’s simply nothing more athletic than jumping and sprinting.
However, if you haven’t done power work in a while it’s probably not a great idea to jump right back into max vertical jumps and 40-yard-dashes!
When we are ready to start jumping again, though, the box jump is my entry-level progression.
The best part about a box jump is that you can go hard on the actual jump, while minimizing the eccentric stress on the landing.
Think about it like this – you jump as high/hard as you can, but then with the box it’s as though the ground is coming up to you.
Without the box, you’re going to incur much larger eccentric forces when you land, which your body may (or may not) be ready for early-on.
When it comes to the box jump, here are my big coaching points:
- Be Quick. Quick hands and a quick dip help us focus on power.
- Stick the landing! Land in an athletic stance with the knees slightly forward, the hips back and on balance. You should be able to move in any direction from your landing.
#4 – VERY Short Sprints
I’m not sure anything that makes you feel more awesome training-wise than running fast.
But again, just because it’s fun and awesome doesn’t mean we’re ready to do it Week 1.
I’m a big believer in building up sprint tolerance via very short sprints early-on.
I know, I know – you just watched the NFL Combine and you want to go run 40’s. (And chances are, you could beat Rich Eisen).
I get it.
But at the same time, there’s nothing worse then blowing a hamstring and not being able to train for the next 6-8 weeks. Let’s be smart about this and do it the right way.
Start with very short sprints of 5-10 yards for the first month.
Work on chasing the shoulders, getting the knees up, and pushing the ground away.
Take a full rest period, and keep the quality high throughout.
As you get back into it, feel free to start opening things up. Adding 10 yards per month to those figures will make sure you do it the right way, and keep yourself healthy as you go.
Last but not least if you’re limited either by injury or the space you have available to you, try using a Prowler or sled instead. These tools will get you into a similar body position, while giving you many of the same benefits.
Honorable Mention: Jump Rope
So here’s the 1/2 from above.
Could I have easily dropped jump rope in here? Sure.
But to me, a jump rope is such a short response time it’s more focused on elasticity than it is on power.
So it’s really semantics that keeps it off the list – but that doesn’t mean it should keep it out of your program!
One thing that I’m constantly shocked by is how athletes (young and old alike) need more elasticity work.
The young athletes need it because they simply aren’t getting it anymore. 30 minutes of gym class once or twice a week isn’t enough, so they’re losing out on a lot of the basic work that we got at their age.
And as adults, our goal should be to keep our elasticity for as long as we can.
It’s natural to trend towards pushing more and more weight, but that inevitably leads to longer response times on the ground and less “bounce.”
And the best part about jumping rope is that it’s so simple.
Literally all you need is a rope and some open space to get the job done.
Start off with either 1 minute rounds, or sets of 50 to 100 jumps. From there, you can increase volume, change up the style of jump (single-leg, alternating, scissor jumps, etc.) to keep things fresh.
BTW, the video below has a ton of different jumps, and is by far the least annoying You Tube video on the topic.
Whether you’re a competitive athlete who wants to dominate in their sport, or an everyday athlete who just wants to look and feel great, you need some power work in your program.
Start with some of the options above, and you’ll not only build a great base, but keep yourself healthy to boot.
Good luck and good training!