If you want to be a good athlete then being powerful can be a huge asset. Athletes with great power can absolutely dominate their sports and rise to the highest level their sports have to offer.
Think about some of the greatest athletes of all time. Mike Tyson punched with serious power, Babe Ruth swung the bat with power, Jim Brown ran over guys with power and Lebron James uses his power to explode through the lane and dunk the ball. While having large amounts of power is not the end all be all when it comes to athletics it is certainly a tremendous help and it can take your game to the next level.
In this article, we will go over what power is, why you need power as an athlete and what exercises you should be doing to build explosive power.
What is power?
A common misconception out there is that strength and power are the same thing. This is not true though, while they are a bit similar they are not the same.
The term strength refers to how much weight you can lift, while power refers to how fast you can lift a weight. So basically, power is a combination of strength and speed, two things that are of the utmost importance to athletes. Weaklings aren’t going to have the strength to generate much power and similarly slow pokes won’t be able to produce much power either even if they are strong. This is why many bodybuilders are not good athletes. While they are strong they usually lack speed, which means they also lack power. Both speed and strength are a must to generate power.
Why Athletes Need Power
Virtually every athlete out there needs power to do some aspect of their sport. Some good examples of power in sports would be a basketball player dunking a basketball, a football player firing off the line, a baseball player swinging a bat, a wrestler throwing his opponent and a volleyball player spiking the ball. Even golfers need power to drive the ball for distance off the tee.
There isn’t really a sport out there that where you don’t need some form of power, even long distance runners need to be able to sprint to the finish line and that requires power. I guess you could say race car drivers don’t need power but are they really athletes to begin with?
Here is a more in depth list of explosive power movements in athletics:
- Exploding off a line
- Swinging (bat, golf club, hammer throw)
- Lifting an opponent (wrestling and MMA)
As you can see power can be very useful no matter what sport you are in.
Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers and Explosive Power
In your body, you have 2 types of muscle fibers. There is the slow twitch that are used for endurance type of exercises. These muscles are used when doing things like running, biking or swimming longer distances.
When it comes to the fast twitch muscle fibers these are the ones that generate the power you need. In fact, fast twitch muscles are only used during high power outputs. This is why athletes should train for power so the body can learn to quickly recruit these muscle fibers. When the fast twitch fibers are trained and enhanced you can become a powerful, athletic machine. That’s what these exercises we are about to discuss are all about.
10 Power Building Exercises
We have covered what power is and why it is important for athletes to have explosive power. Now let’s get to 10 of the best exercises for building power.
It should be noted that you should have a decent base of strength before you start training for power. If you are new to training you should work and building up your strength first, then add in your power training later when your strength is established.
1 Power Cleans
How could we not start off the list with an exercise that has power in the name? Power cleans are one of our favorite exercises for building power and athleticism. Power cleans are an exercise that requires strength and speed, the two main ingredients that go in to power.
This is an exercise you can do off the floor or from the blocks, many people are able to do the power clean with better form when using the blocks so that is one thing to consider. You may also want to have a knowledgeable coach check on your from on this exercise because a lot of people get this one wrong. Making sure you are doing it right will help you get the most out of it and help prevent injury.
2 Heavy or Banded Kettlebell Swings
Bands a great tool to use for building explosive power, that is why this isn’t the last time you will see them on this list.
Heavy kettlebell swings alone are great power building exercise, some would say even better than doing Olympic lifts. The problem is many people don’t have access to a heavy enough kettlebell. Instead of using a heavy kettlebell you can use bands with your kettlebell and you have a great exercise for building explosive power.
Sprints are one of the mandatory athlete exercises. You can read more about why in our article on why you should be doing sprints. Sprints have many benefits, these benefits include fat burning, building quads and hamstrings, building athleticism and building power. There really isn’t a good reason not to do sprints so long as you are physically able.
4 Med Ball Throws
Throwing in itself is a great power builder, one of the best throwing exercises out there for building power is med ball throws. There are a wide variety of throws out there and you would be best served to use more than one style. Side throws against a wall are a great for rotational power in the upper body, wrap around tosses and chest passes are also really good. Mix up your tosses and even work on tossing the ball overhead. As long as you are throwing the med ball you can’t go wrong. Slamming the ball is great too, just be sure you have a ball that is tough enough to take a pounding.
5 Sled Sprints
Sled pushed are a great and underrated exercise, combine them with sprints which we have already covered and you have a serious power building exercise. By loading the sled with weight and pushing the sled as fast as possible you can develop great leg power. Mix in using heavier and lighter weights in your sled sprints and only perform the sprints for 10-20 yards. Do 4-8 sets of these sprints and reap the benefits.
6 Banded Deadlifts
We mentioned before that banded exercises are great for power building. Combine bands and deadlifts and you have a badass power building exercise. We prefer the trap bar on this but if all you can use is the straight bar that will also work. These can also be done with chains instead of bands if you like. We all know doing deadlifts with chains looks totally badass and makes you feel like a beast, now is your chance to shine and build some great overall power in the process.
When you are talking about the Olympic lifts basically all of them are good power builders and the snatch is no different, in particular the hang snatch. This is another exercise that you should have someone check your technique on, if you just wing it there is a good chance you aren’t doing it correctly.
Doing the snatch from the floor requires a lot of mobility which is something many athletes need as well so that is an added bonus. Mix in regular snatches as well as hang snatches for some serious power building.
8 Broad Jumps
Broad jumps are another highly effective and underrated exercise. This could be because we remember doing these as a kid in gym class so we just assume it is something for kids. But the fact is the broad jump improves the reaction of fast-twitch muscle fibers throughout the body and as we mentioned earlier the fast twitch muscles are of utmost importance when it comes to building explosive power. It is also an exercise they do at the NFL combine and they don’t do it just out of curiosity, it is a good measuring stick for many things including power.
9 Lunge Jumps
Lunge jumps are another nice power building jumping exercise. These are a great exercise for people who don’t have much room to exercises and may be working out at home or in a hotel or in a confined area. No matter where you are this is an exercise anyone can do to build power and also work your legs and buns in the process. If you haven’t done these you will definitely feel these the next day especially in the glutes. Hit these up as a part of your butt workout and you will be likely happy with the results.
10 Split Jerk
Here we have another Olympic lift. As we said before Olympic lifts are all great for building power. You could say top Olympic lifters are some of the most powerful people out there and you would be right. If you haven’t noticed Olympic lifts are a big part of training when it comes to all high-level athletes. That is because strength and conditioning coaches know the benefits these moves have when it comes to building power and strength in athletes.
The jerk is all about power, you need strength and speed along with some good technique to perform a good jerk. Training this movement with the split stance takes it to the next level helping you have fast feet along with an explosive upper body.
Let’s wrap it up
These 10 exercises can really help build some explosive power and improve your performance in your sport of choice. Perform 3-5 sets of around 4-8 reps and when you do these exercises perform them with explosive anger, go postal on these exercises so to speak. You should also hit the exercises at the start of your workout when you are fresh to get the most out of them and be sure to do it before your strength training. Also, be sure to take more time in between sets, power exercises are not meant to be done when fatigued.
Some of these exercises are pretty technical so you should probably get with a good strength coach to make sure you are doing them correctly so you get the most out of them and to protect yourself from injury.