Three of the most common and effective power training methods in my opinion are:
- Olympic lifts
- Medicine ball throws
There is no doubt in my mind that all 3 methods are extremely effective, and I’m not willing to say that one is superior to the others. The way I see it is there are different situations in which one method could be superior to another, depending on the training goal.
You might have heard of the speed-strength continuum before. It is a fairly simple concept that helps define the different types of power. Power being the product of the maximal amount of force you develop in the least amount of time.
Power = Force x Velocity
Although the equation is pretty simple, the outcome can be pretty different if the emphasis is put on either force OR velocity during a pre-determined exercise. The speed-strength continuum represents different levels of force production and velocity of movement. It could be represented as follow in a chart:
The terminology is a little different, but it’s basically the same concept as I explained above.
All of this to say that depending on what your emphasis may be in a training program, or with a specific exercise, there might be a more appropriate choice than another. Plyometrics are usually done bodyweight, which allows one to perform the movement quicker, although the total force production might be lower because there is no additional external load. This would put plyometrics more towards the speed-strength end of things. An Olympic lift like the hang clean on the other hand will use a bigger external load, but the speed or the velocity of the movement might be a little slower. That would put the hang clean more towards the strength-speed end of things. As far as medicine ball throws are concerned, they would be a little more towards the middle because they are loaded, but always with a low to moderate weight and the velocity of the movement is pretty high, but not quite like a bodyweight power exercise.
The other thing to take into consideration when choosing which power development method to incorporate is the segments of the body involved. To me, one of the main differences between plyometrics and Olympic lifts and med ball throws resides there. Plyometrics use only the lower body (or upper body if you’re using an upper body exercise) to develop power; as for the Olympic lifts and the med ball throws, they use a force transfer from the lower body to the upper body in the execution of most their variations, which in the end involves the whole body.
Total body power exercises should not be ignored from a program design standpoint because they will bring a lot of benefits for sports that require such force transfers. Tackling, blocking, pitching, swinging a golf club, taking a slap shot and throwing punches are only a couple examples of the athletic movements that require some sort of power transfer from the lower body to the upper body. To me this is a crucial component to sports performance and being able to transfer the gains from the weight room to the field or the ice.
And lastly, another component that is worth mentioning about power exercises is the plane of movement in which the exercise and/or the sport skills take place. Without going into too much details with this conversation, I’ll simply say that medicine ball throws offer a rotational component to power development, which is extremely important in rotational sports like baseball, hockey, lacrosse, golf and tennis. And you don’t find that same rotational power development component with Olympic lifts or plyometrics exercises.
Hopefully I broke things down enough so that now you understand better the differences between the 3 main power development methods, and that you’ll be able to make a better choice based on your training goals!
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It seems like there’s been a big issue going on on the internet in the last couple of months in the fitness and strength and conditioning world. The issue has been about people self-proclaiming themselves experts. People have called out other people about their expertise and/or experience in the field. It’s a situation that’s really hard to control in 2011 where starting your own blog takes 30 seconds, and with the right tools (Google keywords, SEO pack, etc), and a couple contacts one can gain a decent internet presence pretty quickly.
You don’t need to take a class…
With all the strength and conditioning professionals out there running a blog, I can say without a doubt that it brought our industry to a whole new level! Mostly for the better because we all have access to so much quality information; smart people can share their ideas, coaches can share their experience and we can all interact together more easily than ever before, especially we the networks being formed on Facebook and Twitter.
But as I just mentioned earlier, there have been quite a bit of controversy about the experts in our field on the internet, or should I say the “experts”. It is indeed easy to proclaim yourself an expert with very limited knowledge or experience. It is very easy to lie about your background, your clientele or claim achievements that you have never made . And I think this is what has been causing some waves.
This guy calls himself a fitness expert because he went to the gym once in 1991
I don’t think there is anything wrong with sharing thoughts, ideas or experience over the internet. Sometimes people will blame you for making statements, though, especially if you’re lacking the experience to back up your position. And to be honest, I feel pretty irritated myself when I see people write about training athletes when I very well know they don’t. We do need to understand that we all have different background; some of us are personal trainers and work with general members, some of us work in college or professional settings, some of us are more involved in the research side of things and we all have a different experience level. Some strength coaches seem to have a problem with research guys being considered experts because they don’t really train anyone, and some research guys will blame coaches for the lack of scientific evidence behind their methods. As a coach, I’m definitely biased in the way that I will sometimes have a hard time buying into what a research guy has to say about training athletes if he doesn’t train anyone, but I still understand that we need coaches and we need researchers to work together. And that’s what makes our industry evolve in the right direction.
In my opinion, we should all keep sharing information via our blogs, websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc. As long as you don’t try to hide yourself behind a wall of lies or pretend to be something you’re not, we should all share information and opinions with our own background and experience. However I do have a problem with people marketing themselves as “strength coaches” or “performance enhancement specialists” when they have little to no clients or if their clients are general fitness clients. You don’t specialize in sports performance training if you’re not training athletes, I don’t care what certifications you have or how athletic you are (and by the way, you can consider yourself an athlete, but can’t count that as training athletes). But luckily, it’s not the majority.
Bottom line: be yourself, share knowledge from YOUR experience (coach, personal trainer, physical therapist, researcher, etc), don’t market yourself as something you’re not and be ready to face criticism if you do. There is a way that we can all contribute to making the fitness industry a little better by taking advantage of what the internet has to offer to us in 2011.
What a beautiful concept
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I will get a little more theoritical than usual in this 2 part series; but for those of you not so familiar with geeky anatomy stuff I will still try to make it as simple and understandable as possible.
Synergistic dominance…what the hell does that mean?
Synergistic dominance refers to muscle action during movement. Let’s start at the basic: when you have muscles performing an action (flexion, extension, etc.) you will have an agonist muscle as well as antagonist and synergist muscles. The agonist is the primary muscle involved in the movement performed; the antagonist is the opposing muscle to the one performing the action, which must relax as much as possible to let the agonist contract; and, the synergist(s) is the muscle(s) that assist the agonist in its action. Let me give you a very simple example for those of you who that I might have already lost. In a simple bicep curl exercise, the action performed is an elbow flexion. In this case, the agonist muscle would be the biceps brachii since it’s the main muscle performing the action. The triceps brachii would be the antagonist because it’s the one on the other side of the arm and one of its functions is to extend at the elbow joint; therefore the triceps must relax to allow the biceps to contract more effectively.
The brachialis muscle is also an elbow flexor, but is definitely not the strongest one; therefore it assists the biceps during a biceps curl exercise. In this case the brachialis would be a synergist muscle to the biceps.
This is just to give you a basic idea of what synergist muscles are and what their implication is in different muscle actions.
So now we know that synergist muscles assist the agonist in its action; but what is synergistic dominance?
At every joint in the body, depending on the action performed, you usually have many different synergist muscles. The concept of synergist dominance is pretty much a muscle imbalance that refers to an agonist muscle not doing its job for different reason (dormant muscle, weak agonist, short or stiff antagonist, etc.) and the synergist taking over most of the work load to compensate for the problem. Then, what happens when a muscle that is supposed to just assist another one in its action is forced to take over? It puts more stress on that synergist muscle (more than it would be supposed to handle) and it puts you at risk for different types of injuries: muscle strains, muscle pulls and
tendonitis/tendinosis just to name a few. And the thing is it can also create some pretty bad muscle imbalances across your body and that can lead to a lot more problems. Therefore, it is very important to get muscles to work optimally so the athlete can perform at high level without being exposed to overuse injuries because of muscles not activated properly.
The goal in this part one series was to give you an idea of what synergist dominance is and what can result from it if that type of imbalance is not taken care of. In part 2, I will give you more concrete examples and how you can help fix them with proper training
At the risk of getting some hate mail for this blog post, I will call out one of the most popular exercise in athletes and fitness enthousiasts alike; the crunch. Whether they are done on the ground, on a stability ball, on a Bosu ball, with your legs straight, with your legs bent or juggling with dumbbells I don’t care; crunches are probably the most useless exercise to train your core (or abs, or midsection, whatever you want to call it).
Why? I am going to answer that question with another question: why are we doing crunches anyway? It’s probably for one of two reasons. The first one is because it is believed by many that the main function of your abs (read: rectus abdominis) is to flex your spine, so it would seem normal to train abs by doing flexions. The other reason is because crunches have been around forever, everyone has been doing them, so we just don’t think about why we do it.
The truth is a that flexion at the spine is not the main function of your rectus abdominis. Spinal flexion is actually one of the mechanisms that lead to low back injuries along with hyperextension and rotation. And Dr.Stuart McGill who is one of the lead researcher in the world in low back pain and injuries has actually described that in great details in his books. So why would you want to try to recreate an injury mechanism in your training?
The true role of the rectus abdominis is to prevent extension at the lumbar spine; in other words, its primary function is stability at the lower back. The rectus abdominis also works with the obliques (internal and external) as well as with the spinal erectors and inner core muscles to create a brace around the spine to prevent excessive movements.
That’s right, all these muscles work together to STABILIZE around the lower back. So why the hell would you want to find ways to create more motion at this joint that needs stability by using all sorts of flexion and rotation exercises? That just doesn’t make sense to me.
One more thing is that by training the rectus abdominis with repeated flexion doing crunches, you’re actually shortening that muscle. Keeping in mind that the rectus abdominis attaches at the ribs, what’s going to happen if this muscle keeps shortening and pulls the ribs down?
You’re gonna end up with a pretty bad kyphosis (rounded over upper back) and that’s gonna lead you to a whole lot of other problems.
The true role of the core muscles is to stabilize; prevent flexion, prevent extension, prevent side bend and prevent rotation to avoid excessive motion. So wouldn’t it make sense to train these muscles that exact same way? There are tons of excellent exercises that are gonna enhance stability of the trunk. If you don’t know where to start, there is a revolutionary exercise that we just discovered and nobody ever heard of, that is gonna do wonders to improve stability….it’s called a plank!
But what about rotation? You need rotational power when you sports, right? I totally agree with that, but rotation should be trained through the hips while the trunk muscles remain stable. Most of your rotational power is going to come from your hips anyway.
I think it’s about time we drop the crunches for good. Just because they have been around forever and it seems like everyone does them means they are good for you, nor you should keep doing them.