The word “power” as it relates to training has been thrown around so much that I believe most people have lost or conflated its meaning. Because of this, lifters everywhere make many disastrous mistakes when power training.

The first order of business is to define “power.” Once you know what power really it, you can then determine if power is indeed what you’re looking to train.

Put simply, power is the intersection between strength and speed. As such, it requires more advanced training methods, and exists on the prerequisites of having a good background and foundation with training principles and techniques.

Think about it: Adding speed to any movement means your muscles, joints, and technique all have less time to get things right. That’s a big ask, so if you’re a beginner, maybe power training ain’t for you yet.

Powerlifting Isn’t Power Training

This has to be the biggest misconception in the power training game.

First of all, I’m not saying that powerlifting doesn’t involve any use of the skill of power. Of course it does. But it’s not the optimal way to train for it. The reason why goes back to what was said in the definition of power above. Power combines strength and speed. For power training to really be maximized, the implement in question needs to move quickly. No lift that truly approaches or meets a lifter’s max effort (which is how most of powerlifting training is achieved), will ever move fast. All of that to say, going very heavy isn’t the way to become more explosive.

So what is?

The instant default a lot of intermediate lifters will jump to will be the world of Olympic lifting. These are among the best tools on the planet to become more explosive and powerful, but they’re also the most technically demanding and difficult to learn. For the rest of us, it’s useful for us to find suitable alternatives while abiding by important principles to keep us on the right path.

Accelerate Lighter Loads

We touched on this earlier, but here’s what it looks like in practice. Instead of only dealing with big compound barbell movements like push presses, deadlifts, or squats, exit the realm of strict barbell work and use objects that are easier to maneuver and better to project. Movements like medicine ball throws, kettlebell swings, and dumbbell snatches would be good examples of this, as each will likely pale in significance weight wise compared to a loaded bar, but will require you to recruit your fast-twitch muscle fibers to the max to get the most out of each set.

Keep Sets Short

It’s time for a quick science lesson. I Promise, it won’t be too boring.

To be powerful, the body needs to use its strongest, largest muscle fibers—the fast twitch fibers—but they have a pretty limited supply of energy. In fact, since they’re controlled by an energy system relying on creatine and phosphorus, they only get to really work for 10 to 15 seconds before they fatigue. This is the same for anyone, doing any discipline. It’s the reason why even elite sprinters can’t maintain top speed for the entire 200m dash.

The point of this is to say, you’re not going to be able to sustain the peak output of your power beyond this amount of time, so your sets should reflect this. Instead of choosing sets of 15 -20 reps, think more about sets of 3-6 reps. If the implement is too light, then think about timed sets (how many explosive reps can you complete in 15 seconds?) rather than a certain numerical value.

Add Jumping and Plyometrics to Your Power Training Routine

This should be taken with a grain of salt.

Plyometric training and jumping work both involve the body parting ways with the ground or any given surface, meaning the health of the joints absolutely must be on point. If you have a history of knee problems, hip problems, or shoulder problems, you probably should be addressing that before focusing on developing this skill.

There is a technique to jumping—and that will be covered in a different article. For now, it’s most relevant to know that plyometrics are an all-or-nothing endeavor. It won’t serve any purpose if you approach a set of plyometric bounds with half the effort. The goal should be to maximize force output on each rep. The same goes for a plyo push up or vertical jump. If you’re a bigger, heavier lifter, you can leverage the use of bands to assist you to take some of the loading off of your joints. Here’s an example using the plyo pushup as the exercise. Note that the principle above is also being applied, where the set is timed for 10 seconds of work.

The Total Body Power Training Workout for Explosive Power

Here’s a basic total body plan that may work well for a lifter looking for explosive power.

A) High Box Jump: 6 jumps

Rest as long as needed. Perform for four sets.

B1) Barbell Deadlift: 6 reps

B2) Kettlebell Swing: 15 seconds

Rest 2-3 minutes between supersets. Perform 4 rounds.

C ) 1 Arm DB Snatch: 5 reps (each arm)

Rest 2 minutes between sets. Perform four sets.

D1) Med Ball Slam: 10 reps

D2) Plyometric Pushup: 15 seconds

Rest 1.5-2 minutes between supersets. Perform 3 rounds.