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The Fit 5: Power Performance

Our expert weighs in on the differences between training for strength and training for power.

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For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our Twitter and Facebook pages, this one's for you. Each week, we tackle your most pressing fitness issues with help from our pool of editors and experts. This week, Tommy Caldwell, founder of Hybrid Health Corp. as well as host and creator of the Outlaws of Health radio show on iTunes, fields questions about the differences between training for strength and training for power. 

Check out more of the Fit 5:

The Power of Plyometrics >>>

Fighting Fatigue >>>

Core Power >>>


Q1: What’s the difference between power and strength?

“Strength is the ability to move a certain amount of weight, whereas power is the ability to move weight quickly. To give a simple example: Performing a deadlift involves a strong base of strength, whereas a movement like the snatch requires explosive power."

CrossFit WOD: Increase Your Power >>>

Q2: What are the optimal exercises for building power? How many sets and reps?

“Power development requires heavy weight, high sets, and low reps. It could be 4–5 sets of 3 reps, 5–6 sets of 1–2 reps, or up to 7–8 sets of a single rep. Prilepin’s Chart (based off of Russian research of Olympic lifting) is a good marker for those who don’t know how to control volume.” 

Your Ideal Rep Range >>>

Q3: What are the benefits of training for power?

“Aside from the fact that being optimally powerful makes you more badass, power is a crucial trait that allows athletes to jump high, hit hard, sprint fast, and makes them exciting to watch. Training for power develops the fast-twitch muscle fibers and the nervous system so they can generate all those explosive movements that make top-end athletes worth the money they’re paid.”

Increase Your Vertical Jump >>>

Q4: Is there a way to train for power, strength and size at the same time?

“If you’re a beginner or even a low-intermediate lifter, you can make gains in many areas at once through a process called periodization (the planned structure of your training regime used to dictate reaching certain goals at certain times). However, if you’re a high-intermediate to advanced lifter looking to get more powerful, just focus on that alone or you risk underdeveloping in many areas instead of making real gains in one. There are a ton of different periodization methods, so you’ll want to research them all and decide which one is most congruent with your specific goals.” 

Training Style to Know: Western Periodization >>>

Q5: What are the biggest mistakes people make when training for power?

“The biggest mistake people make is adding too much volume and resting too little. When you’re lifting 1–2 reps at a time with up to 3–4 minutes of rest between sets you don’t develop the same muscle soreness or fatigue that you may be used to——therefore you might feel as though you aren’t working hard enough or that the training isn’t effective. Don’t get antsy and try to accelerate your results. Remember what your ultimate goal is and that power requires controlled volume, set rest, and being ‘fresh’ for every single pull.”

10 Stupid Mistakes to Avoid in the Gym >>>

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