DEVELOPING POWER FOR GREAT PERFORMANCES
By CEO Robert Forster, PTPower is a function of strength with the element of time added. If strength is the ability of muscle to generate force then Power is the ability to develop force quickly. In triathlon the quicker your muscles generate force and apply it to the ground, pedals, or water the faster you will go. Power is the most elusive of fitness elements for the endurance athlete as many athletes lack the necessary strength. Others simply over train with too frequent over distance workouts that leave them constantly “leg dead” and unable to produce truly Powerful efforts.
Why Power for Endurance Athletes?Power enables you to crest a hill quickly as opposed to labor over it; likewise, Power is the ability to close a gap on a competitor or create one! Power is present when you feel like you’re “dancing” on your pedals, or when you’re “floating” over the ground as you run. Many athletes and coaches think that training for Power and endurance is mutually exclusive. It’s true that overtrained endurance athletes lose the “snap” in their legs but the proper combination of strength, Power and endurance training will provide greater speed and more victories. This is evident in the professional cyclist who surges to catch a competitor. Blending just the right amount of strength and power work to your endurance training is done with the inclusion of a Power Conversion Phase after the Maximum Strength Phase in your training progression. Although strength is a critical ingredient for Power, strength alone is of little use to the endurance athlete. While strength work develops the muscular machinery for creating force it is a neurological adaptation that results in the quick application of that force. The Strength to Power conversion phase creates sport functional use of your strength gains with weight training and plyometrics that improve the connection between your nerves and muscles.
Weight Training the Neuromuscular connectionWe have previously discussed that good form or mechanical efficiency is the product of purposeful recruitment of muscle fibers by the nervous system and the ability to relax one muscle as another contracts. While a high volume of exercise (many hours of repetition of the same movement) and sport specific drills are critical to improve the neurological connection between the brain and muscle, weight training and plyometrics are a short cut to increase the speed and efficiency of this muscle fiber recruitment.
Getting StartedAfter one or two, three-week cycles of Maximum Strength development (with one week recovery after each) you are ready to turn your gains in Strength into performance improving Power. With a slight twist the Power Phase utilizes the same exercises as those of the Maximum Strength Phase. These are mulitjoint or compound exercises that closely resemble the movement of your sport; i.e., low row, lat pull, leg press, toe raise and leg curls. At this phase we re-calculate your one rep maximum (see April issue of this column). After two warm-up sets of twenty repetitions with 30% of your one rep max bump up the weight to 50% and perform two sets of 10 repetitions. What makes this program effective is the speed of movement. While Maximum Strength exercises were done at a slow to moderate and consistent speed Power workouts are done with a quick but controlled burst of movement at the start of the exercise. This carries through approximately ¾’s of the movement and slows to a controlled pause at the top before lowering. It is imperative that you control the weight and not allow the joint to lock out at either end of the movement. The speed of movement stimulates the nervous system to create a larger muscle contraction than would occur with a steady rate of movement. Long rest intervals of 3-6 minutes are critical because fatigue is the saboteur of Power Development. The nervous system and muscles must be fully recovered to achieve the maximum muscle contraction desired.
WATERPOWER | Plyometric Training in the PoolPlyometric training is the ultimate tool to trick the nervous system into the quickest most massive simultaneous muscle fiber recruitment possible. Sometimes called stretch-shortening exercises Plyometrics involves a quick stretching or lengthening of a muscle immediately preceding a contraction. This stimulates nerve receptors housed in the muscles resulting in a reflexive muscular contraction of a magnitude greater than that which you could create voluntarily. This type of contraction is evident in many sports including when a long-jumper or basketball player quickly lowers their center of gravity in the step before springing upward in a jump. This creates a quick stretch of the quads, hamstrings, calves and gluts facilitating an explosive contraction to propel the athlete higher or further than from a standstill jump. While bounding and box jumps on dry land can be injurious, if done in the pool they are safer. Since water softens the landing there is a built in protective aspect of water plyometrics. Furthermore, water provides six-times the resistance of air so the resulting muscle contraction becomes even larger in magnitude. Since triathletes are in the pool 2-3 times per week this is a natural fit. While land based Plyometrics must be progressed slowly (with 2-4 years of low impact activities, i.e., skipping before progressing to high impact Plyometrics such as box jumps) water plyometrics can be performed safely if the requisite Anatomical Adaptation (January issue) and Maximum Strength (April issue) gym workouts are completed.
Getting StartedPlyometrics are best done at the beginning of a training session unencumbered by fatigue. It is best to work Power on days when you are not working pure aerobic capacity. Lower body Plyometrics are well suited to your swim day, as typically the legs are not worked intensely. Upper body Plyometrics are done with medicine ball work. After a thorough stretching of the gluts, adductors, quads, hamstrings and calf/Achilles perform a 10-minute swim warm up. The first day of these exercises perform one set of ten repetitions for each movement illustrated. (Water shoes are strongly suggested to improve traction on the pool bottom and prevent injury.) For the first week do this workout one day only. The second week increase the frequency to twice and the volume to 2 sets of ten repetitions. The third week increase to three sets of fifteen repetitions and if you are injury-free attempt to increase the force of the upward explosion in each exercise. Minimize the contact time of your feet on the pool bottom. Recover completely for 4-6 minutes between sets to improve the quality and effectiveness of these workouts. You may swim lightly during the recovery interval.
POWER PHASE WEIGHT TRAININGDuration 4-8 weeks 1-2 cycle Days Per Week Two Load 30-50% of one-rep max Sets Two sets in training zone Number of exercises Low (Prime Movers Only) Variety of Exercises Change every three week cycle Order of Exercises Vertical Rest between sets 3-6 minutes Speed of Movement Quick burst at start movement
Plyometric Water ExercisesAfter a thorough stretch and light warm up perform the first warm up set at 75% speed and explosiveness and follow with two sets of explosive exercise efforts. You must recover fully for 4-6 minutes between sets. Water shoes are highly recommended.
POWER AND SPEED TRAINING
The purpose of the entire Periodization Training Program is to bring your power, speed, and conditioning to a peak for a given event or competition. Cycles of hard work and active recovery are orchestrated to build fitness throughout the training period; and when we reduce the workload, your fitness, power, and speed will skyrocket. This is the essence of periodization training, and it is the most neglected concept of exercise and fitness. In many sports speed is a critical requisite for success. Faster movement and times are achieved with mechanical efficiency to conserve energy, and by building power and speed. At PHASE IV your Power and Speed Training Performance Specialists will periodize your training into phases. This will build the proper foundation for a fitness pyramid that includes injury prevention, functional joint stability, core strength, endurance, power, and speed. Pictured here is PHASE IV OLYMPIC AND WORLD HEPTATHLON CHAMPION, Jackie Joyner Kersee, whose legendary Olympic performances have crowned her, "The Greatest Female Athlete of All Time." Call PHASE IV 310-582-8212 or send us a message
PHASE IV WATERPOWER PERFORMANCE© PROGRAM
Working against water’s natural resistance makes for a healthier more balanced workout than is possible on land, with virtually no risk of damage to the body. For both exercise programs as well as rehabilitation, active recovery, and cross training, pool workouts build aerobic and anaerobic fitness, muscle strength and tone, flexibility, speed, good body alignment and agility. The PHASE IV Waterpower Performance Program© can be conducted either in our private facility, your home, or other location. Pictured here is the United States most decorated World Champion, Allyson Felix with CEO Robert Forster, PT at Forster Physical Therapy pool in Santa Monica, California. Allyson rehabbed a severe ankle injury just weeks before the Olympic Trials. Like so many others before her, Allyson emerged from Forster's WATERPOWER© workouts to post a world record in the 2016 Olympic trials. She advanced to Rio for her 4th Olympic Games; and surpassed Jackie Joyner Kersee, as the winningest female in USA Olympic history. Call PHASE IV 310-582-8212 or send us a message