In this article we will talk about muscle power, what are the benefits of building muscle power and how to improve it.
To really understand muscle power picture a scene from those kung-fu movies, where a small guy overpowers a big guy through speed and agility. Generally these scenes get disregarded as fantasy, however there is some genuineness in it. Although the big guy in those scenes is strong, the small guy is more powerful.
You might be saying well doesn’t being strong also means being powerful. No! There is a subtle difference between the two. While muscle strength, as we discussed in our previous video, is the measure of how much force can your muscles generate, muscle power is more about how much force can your muscles generate in the smallest amount of time. Think of the difference between a slow moving big boulder and a bullet. You can stop the big boulder, but the bullet will pierce you through.
Having muscle power, or explosiveness, is extremely important for athletes, as most sports require a great amount of force generation in little time. More power in your muscles allow you to jump higher, run faster, throw further and tackle better.
How to improve power
There is a specific muscle fiber in our body, which is able to generate more power. This is a type II muscle fiber, also called “fast twitch” fibers. Some people’s muscles have more type two fibers than others. These people have a genetic advantage for explosive sports. Fortunately type two muscle fibers can also be developed through muscle power specific training.
A certain amount of strength and flexibility is required before anybody can start working on their power. Hence if you are beginner who is just starting out, we recommend you to check out our blogs on strength and flexibility and focus on those aspects right now. After you have built a strong foundation in strength and flexibility, then its time to focus on muscle power. There are three methods typically used to improve power. These are
Plyometrics is defined as exercises that enable a muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible. In simple terms, plyometric exercise teach our bodies to use our muscles as a spring, where we store energy by stretching our muscles and then release all that energy quickly by letting our muscles contract, and in the process generate a lot of power. Some of the best examples of plyometric exercises are Squat Jumps, Split Jumps, Box Jumps, Plyometric Pushups etc. There are various other great plyometric exercises, which we will cover in our later videos.
- Variable Resistance Training
Variable resistance training is another great way of developing power. Variable resistance training involved performing the exercises with resistance bands or some other form of variable load such as chains. The idea here is to make the load heavier as you come out of the lift. An example will be performing the squat with the resistance band attached on both sides of the bar. When you go down the resistance decreases as the tension on the band decreases, while on moving up, the resistance increases as the bands get under tension. This makes the exercise difficult because the load becomes heavier as you get into a stronger position. The result is improved muscle power gains.
- Olympic Lifts
The Olympic lifts make up the sport of weightlifting (not to be confused with lifting weights). This is the ultimate explosive sport, where rapid extension of ankles, knees and hips are involved. Many athletes use the Olympic lifts or elements of them to improve muscle power. There two Olympic lifts that you can perform, these will be the clean and snatch. A classic clean and snatch is performed with a barbell, but it can also be done using dumbbells, or a heavy kettle bell. Both these lifts are highly technical and beyond the scope of this article. If you are interested in performing these lifts, we strongly recommend you to seek the supervision of a coach that specializes in these movements.
Authors: FD Bulsara and Rahul Yadav