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Why You Should Try Power Building Exercises

Updated: Feb 13

Power:   The ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements. The two components of power are strength and speed. (e.g. jumping or a sprint start). (Eleven By Venus Williams, 2014)

Power training is proving to be just as important as strength training in maintaining or restoring function. As the name suggests, power training is aimed at increasing power, which is the product of both strength and speed. Optimal power reflects how quickly you can exert force to produce the desired movement. Here’s an example: Faced with a four-lane intersection, you may have enough strength to walk across the street. But it’s power, not just strength, that can get you across all four lanes of traffic before the light changes. Likewise, power can prevent falls by helping you react swiftly if you start to trip or lose your balance. (Harvard Health, 2013)

Some power moves are strength training exercises done at a faster speed. Others rely on the use of a weighted vest, which is worn while performing certain exercises that are typically aimed at improving functions such as bending, reaching, lifting, and rising from a seated position. (Harvard Health, 2013)

As we age, muscle power ebbs even more swiftly than strength does. So exercises that can produce gains in power become especially important later in life. That’s why some investigators in the field of physical medicine are now combining the swift or high-velocity moves of power training with more deliberate and slow strength-training exercises to reap the benefits of both activities. (Harvard Health, 2013)

By regularly incorporating power training in your workouts, you can expect to see:

- improved reaction time; particularly important in sports that require rapid directional change

- enhanced cardiovascular function; power moves ‘teach’ the heart to pump more blood with each contraction and to return to pre-exercise heart rate more quickly after high intensity exercise

- increased strength; most power exercises involve rapid contraction of the large muscles of the arms and legs, contractions that build and enhance ‘fast twitch’ muscle fibers

- elevated calorie burn (both during and after the workout); using big muscles explosively increases the number of calories burned during the workout and up to 24 hours later (the ‘afterburn’ effect)

- improved efficiency of movement; over time, the body learns to produce more force with less effort, thereby increasing endurance with the energy saved

But don’t over do it. A little power training goes a long way. When done properly, training for power should involve near-maximal effort. You shouldn't be able to do very many repetitions before needing a rest. I like to place my power exercises near the beginning of my workout, always after a proper warmup and before the muscles needed for speed and strength are already tired. And I rarely train for power two days in a row. (Eleven By Venus Williams, 2014)


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