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Power Development

By Kip Steingart, 12/14/19, 12:45PM CST

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The athletes that can generate the greatest amounts of force quickly have a high level of rate of force development

Athletic Power Development

Power is the product of strength and speed. The athletes that can generate the greatest amounts of force quickly have a high level of rate of force development (RFD). The ability to generate high levels of force is dependent upon how efficient that athlete is at recruiting high threshold motor units. As an athlete this means improvement in performing at a higher level through physical qualities such as acceleration, deceleration, the ability to cut and change direction quickly, jump higher, and sprint faster. 

    Developing strength is an important and integral factor in generating high levels of explosiveness. What if we produce force fast, but produce a small amount of force? Developing maximal strength gives us the foundation, or potential, to be more explosive. The goal of power development is to generate high amounts of force quickly. In order to generate high amounts of force quickly we need to spend time developing strength and converting that strength into power. 

The force- velocity curve demonstrates the relationship between force and velocity. Looking at the force- velocity curve will allow the athlete determine where they are on the absolute strength/ absolute- speed end of the continuum given their specific sport they play. For example, a baseball players will spend the majority of the time on the right end of the continuum due to the nature of the game of baseball and it demands placed on lower load, higher velocity movements. It would make sense that baseball players would benefit most from spending more time on the right end of the continuum and developing absolute strength. At the left end of the spectrum is maximal, or absolute strength. Maximal strength entails we are lifting heavier loads as a percentage of our 1 rep maximum (1 RM), therefore the heavier the loads we lift, the slower the movement is performed. At the far right of the continuum, we have absolute speed, or ballistic training, meaning the lighter the loads; the faster the movement is performed. 

Determining where you are on the Strength- Speed Curve

Figuring out where you are on the strength- speed continuum will dictate where and how the athlete spends the majority of their time when training in the weight room. Depending on the athlete’s current status, they may need to spend time on certain components over others. The specific demands of the sport, the goals and needs of the athlete will all determine where they need to train throughout the course of a yearly training plan. This is important to determine because it will allow the athlete to maximize their performance by expressing these physical qualities at any given time, regardless if the athlete is in- season or off- season. 

For example, a baseball players will spend the majority of the time on the right end of the continuum due to the nature of the game of baseball and it demands placed on lower load, higher velocity movements. It would make sense that baseball players would benefit most from spending more time on the right end of the continuum and developing absolute strength. This isn’t to say we don’t spend time in each category; it’s a matter of where the individual will benefit the most from a performance standpoint. 

Absolute Speed    Speed- Strength    Strength- Speed    Absolute Strength

Long toss        weighted balls    med balls        strength training

Bullpens                    plyos

Flat- ground

Training power in the linear (sagittal) plane manner wouldn’t have the same transfer to rotational power sports, like baseball, compared to a program that emphasizes power development in the frontal (side to side) and transverse (rotational) planes. Specificity is important for power development, especially for sports like baseball due to the nature of rotational movements such as throwing and hitting. Just because a player may be good at producing power in the linear plane by jumping high or running fast, doesn’t mean that same player will be good at producing power in the frontal or transverse planes.  In 2012 there was a study published by Lehman in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research cited that baseball throwing velocity was predicted better by rotational medicine ball throw distance and lateral to medial jump distance than by bilateral and unilateral vertical and broad jumps.


Power Development