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How important is maximum muscular strength for improvements in muscular power?

Prominent Strength and Conditioning researcher Dr. William Kramer (Fleck, S.J. Kraemer, W.J. Designing Resistance Training Programs. 2nd Edition. USA. 1997.)  Suggests that the development of power may be one of the most important physiological adaptations in athletic and everyday activities.

It is well known that if an athlete increases their maximal slow velocity strength, then power output and dynamic performance will increase. This statement is justified when we see that maximum strength, even at slow velocities contributes to explosive power (maximal power is produced at intermediate velocities of movement). All explosive movements start at zero or slow velocities, and it is at these phases of the movement that slow velocity strength can contribute to power development.

There is a large volume of literature that show’s improved performance in power activities following strength training, one such study by Hakkinen and Koma showed significant improvements in vertical jump ability following 24 wks. of intense strength training. The neurological patterns in a squat, seem to be very close to those of a vertical jump, therefore heavy squat training would seem to be very relevant for sports involving vertical jumping abilities.

A final consideration for strength training’s effect on power output, is the level of training experience of the athlete, as athletes with higher initial base strength levels, receive less benefit from strength training than an athlete with minimal base strength levels.  From a morphological perspective, strength training will increase the percentage of type II fibres, and it these fibres that contribute to power output.

Specifically, explosive strength training increase the slop of the early portion of the force/time curve, most explosive sporting movements take place in <300ms, maximal force increase cannot be attained in such a short period of time, leaving the athlete with no time to utilize their developed slow velocity strength.

For an athlete to reach maximal power output, time becomes a crucial limitation, the muscle must exert as much force as possible in short period of time; this ability is known as Rate of Force Development.  It is this ability that has shown why heavy strength alone has not always proven to increase power performance.  Heavy strength training may actually decrease RFD suggests Kramer.  It is activities in which the athlete attempts to develop force rapidly result in an ability to rapidly develop force.  Activities such as; plyometrics, squat jumps and bench throws have been cited as excellent activities to increase RFD.

Luke Delvecchio

  • Accredited Sport Scientist
  • Accredited Exercise Physiologist
  • MSc. (Exercise Science)
  • Post Grad. Dip (Exercise Rehabilitation)
  • Post Grad. Cert (Diabetes Education & Management)
  • BSc. (Exercise Science & Nutrition)
  • Associate Nutritionist

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