The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Power Training is for Everyone

Posted in
Fit Tips

Tuesday, Jul 24, 2018

Defined, muscular power is the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce the greatest possible force in the shortest amount of time. Mathematically, power can be defined as: Power = Work/Time or Power = (Force x Distance)/Time. While muscular strength refers to the maximum amount of weight lifted at one time; power is proportional to the speed at which you can apply this maximum force. While many attributes of power such as speed, acceleration, and deceleration come to mind when thinking about sports, they are equally as important in activities of daily living such as standing up, stopping a fall, jumping, pushing a door, etc. Because power plays a crucial role in sport and everyday activities, it is imperative that all individuals, young and old alike, train this skill-related component of fitness.

As can be observed in the above mathematical equations, power has two main components, work and time. Translated into exercise terms, this would be comparable to strength and speed, respectively. Therefore, both maximal strength and speed play key roles in eliciting maximal power. When the ultimate goal is to increase power, one should first focus on strength development followed by speed/velocity training. This method will give the exerciser the best potential of achieving peak power.

The exercises in the Fit Tip focus on upper body and core power. It is important to note that prior to training for power, the exerciser should have sufficient core control, trunk strength, joint integrity, and muscular endurance.

Power Push-up Variations:

  • Level 1: The participant assumes proper push-up position. The exercise begins with a two foot jump towards the hands followed by an immediate jump back into the push-up position (core and lower body power). Upon completion of the jump, the exerciser performs a push-up. The rotation of jumps and push-ups continues for the duration of the exercise. The number of repetitions performed is dependent on the participant’s current fitness level and goals.
  • Level 2: This is a slightly amplified version that incorporates lateral jumps for core and hip stability/power. This exercise is performed in the exact same manner as Level 1, but the jumping phase of the exercise is in the frontal plane.
  • Level 3: This is the most difficult version of the power push-up as it involves full-body power. Therefore, this version should only be performed by highly fit individuals. The exercise begins with a full body jump wherein the arms and the legs jump out to the side simultaneously. The exerciser then performs a push-up and immediately jumps back into starting position.
  • *Safety TipPower push-ups should only be performed by individuals with adequate levels of muscular strength/endurance. Ensure neutral spine and core engagement throughout all levels of this exercise.
Medicine Ball Slams:
  • The medicine ball slams are geared toward increasing core and upper body power. Assuming the participant has adequate hand-eye coordination, this exercise can be performed safely by most individuals regardless of age and fitness level.
  • Begin the exercise by assuming a semi-squat position wherein the spine is neutral and the hips/knees are slightly flexed. Extend the medicine ball away from the body and begin the exercise by slamming the ball to the ground. As the medicine ball bounces back from the ground, the participant will catch it and perform another slam as quickly as possible
  • *Safety Tip: The key in this exercise is to complete as many slams as possible while having adequate control of the medicine ball. However, if one is new to this exercise, more attention should be paid to the overall movement and form rather than the slam/power. Only once the participant has mastered the movement should the focus shift to the slamming of the ball.
Medicine Ball Throws:
  • Medicine balls throws are designed to increase power of the upper body, specifically the shoulders.
  • Similarly to the medicine ball slams, the participants assumes a neutral spine position with hips and knees slightly flexed. The medicine ball should be held at chest level. The exercise begins with a slight counter movement squat use to create momentum for the subsequent power throw of the medicine ball. Ensure that the ball is thrown vertically rather than horizontally. The exercisers should only take 1-2 steps forward between each throw.
  • *Safety Tip: As with all exercises, form and proper body movement must be correct prior to shifting focus to power.
Rotational Medicine Ball Throws:
  • Performed in the transverse (rotational) plane, this exercise is a great way to enhance core power, specifically of the obliques.
  • Face the body perpendicular to a wall and assume the neutral spine position with slight flexion at the hip and knee. To begin the exercise, place the medicine ball outside of the knee furthest away from the wall. Perform a semi-squat and with arms extended throw the ball laterally to the wall. Ensure the core is engaged throughout the movement and avoid excessive rotation of the hips (i.e. attempt to keep hips facing forward).
  • *Safety Tip: While the above exercise can be performed safely by most individuals, those with back problems should consult with their doctor first before attempting these rotational movements.
Power training is beneficial for all individuals and should be an essential component of any exercise program. Sufficient muscular power can enhance performance in sports, fitness, and activities of daily living. However, those who have suffered a significant musculoskeletal injury in the past should consult their primary physician prior to embarking on power-driven exercise program.