Improving Strength – What will that give you?
The raw force and strength gains you make through a solid strength program can greatly enhance power development alone. Remember again Power = Force x Velocity. After an effective phase of properly designed strength training, even in the absence of additional sports specific activities, your Force part of the equation should go up substantially, and your Velocity should stay the same or possibly even increase. However, your power will increase substantially more if you also focus on methods designed to increase the rate of force development and reactive strength, which allow you to apply your force in a shorter time span and also increase the velocity side of the power equation.
IMPROVING RATE OF FORCE DEVELOPMENT AND VELOCITY
Before I get into describing specific means of improving the rate of force development I’d like to mention again that even when you perform strength training with heavy loads you can also significantly impact your rate of force development as well. A high speed of contraction against a heavy load will not only help accomplish all the processes regarding the nervous system I described above but it will also train your CNS to quickly recruit FT fibers resulting in the best of both worlds - more force and improved rate of force development.
Can I really get both stronger and faster in the weight room?
Again, because of the stereotype that weight training builds muscle bound athletes who can’t move, and perhaps because many athletes are still under the influence of old-time coaches who think weight training automatically makes people slow; many people are under the misguided assumption that one can’t become both stronger and faster at the same time through weight training. The fact is there are correct and incorrect methods of training. Bodybuilding won’t do much for your speed and power but plenty of athletes have been using weights to not only get extremely large and strong but extremely quick and powerful as well. Consider Olympic lifters. Chances are you probably don’t know a whole lot about Olympic lifting other then what you see during the Olympic games on television, and even then the networks typically only show the heavier weight classes.
Olympic Lifters and Explosiveness
The Olympic lifts consist of the clean + jerk, and the snatch. In the clean and jerk, the weight is lifted from the ground, to the shoulders (called a clean), and then overhead (the jerk). In the snatch the weight is lifted from the ground all the way overhead in one motion. The Olympic lifts inherently have to be executed quickly and require a good blend of force, speed, and thus power in order to be performed correctly. Because of this, performance in the Olympic lifts correlates quite strongly with other tests of power. In fact, due to the nature of their training, Olympic lifters are some of the most powerful athletes in the world! In a test conducted at the 1968 olympic games the lifters were actually faster then sprinters in a 25 meter dash! Well how about their vertical jumps you might ask? It is well known in the strength and conditioning community that Olympic lifters consistently have very high vertical jumps relative to their size. It's not uncommon to see lifters weighing nearly 300 lbs. with verticals of 35 +! The same thing can be said for high level shot-putters and throwers. In fact, if you take a true vertical jump from a standstill without any run-up, these folks tend to vertical jump as well or better then any group of athletes. The world record standing broad jump is actually held by a thrower weighing close to 300 lbs!
Now I’m not going to try and turn anyone into an Olympic lifter and I’m not saying their training is perfect for what you want, but this is just an example to illustrate a point! The point is that if you train properly in the weight room with a program designed to increase your power production you definitely can become both very strong and very explosive at the same time, even without much jump training. When jump training is added to a properly designed resistance program the results are magnified even more.
When you’re lifting weights, all you have to do is pay attention to how fast you attempt to lift the weight. There are some movements that can be dangerous if you try to do this, but whenever possible try to control the load during the negative portion and execute the positive portion with as much speed as possible. Doing so will allow your muscular system to adapt to quickly recruiting the fast twitch muscle fibers. If you’re lifting a heavy enough load the weight probably won’t actually move all that fast but your force application against the resistance should still be as quick as possible. One thing you can do to help achieve this explosive attitude is to maximize your concentration and motivation prior to each set. You don’t have to go into a manic rage in the gym or anything but try to get focused up prior to each set of every exercise you do!
Rate of Force Development
So how does rate of force development fit into the picture and why is it so important? You’ve probably seen the following scenario many times. There are some athletes who are very strong under the iron, with a very large muscle mass, yet be unable to effectively display their “potential” power due to an inability to contract their strong muscles in a very short time. The typical muscle bound athlete comes to mind. Usually when you see someone like this they train for maximal size or maximal strength like a bodybuilder or powerlifter, rather then maximal power like a thrower, Olympic lifter, or jumper.