What is power training? How do you train power?

A simple example to demonstrate power is to carry two 24kg kettlebells over 100m at the speed of 100m per 60 seconds. In the end, a total of 48kg has been moved over 100 meters distance.

Now carry the same weight over the same distance at a speed of 100m per 30 seconds (twice the speed). In the end, the same work has been done, the same weight is moved over the same distance. But more power was required to go faster. We increased the power output required by decreasing the time available to complete the task, i.e. we increased the speed. You could also increase the power output required by increasing the load.

Power training is, therefore, a type of training with the aim to increase power. Increased power means you can more quickly exert force to produce a movement under load. With programming, you will want to keep in mind the objectives of power training. NB: The example above is not something one would actually use to increase power and was simply used to clearly demonstrate the attributes of power training.


In simple terms, power training is training with the objective to increase load and decrease time to complete a rep. —Taco Fleur


If you have someone that is strong but not fast you need to train their speed. If you have someone who is fast but not strong you need to train their strength.

Let me give you one more example of power with the barbell power snatch. The weight starts dead on the ground and the objective is to get that weight overhead as fast as possible. The distance is therefore from dead to overhead. The barbell plus weight is 20kg + (2 x 20kg) = 60kg. The athlete moves the weight to overhead in 1.5 seconds. The next day the athlete moves it overhead in 1.7 seconds, the power decreased. Following day the athlete adds another plate to the bar and moves it overhead in 1.5, same as the first time, his power increased, even though it’s the same time as his fastest time, the load increased. Of course, you would not judge someone’s performance with one rep, this was just for the purpose of explanation.


Train power

To train power you could have the athlete carry some weight and get them to do sprints, working on increasing the load and decreasing the time it takes to complete the distance, but that would just be the power in the legs. In our field, you want to look at increasing power all over, unless you’re working with someone who has special requirements.

Snatches are great to train the ballistic aspect of power. Back squats are great to train the strength aspect of power. Box jumps and clap push-ups are great to train the plyometric aspect of power. These are just some examples of exercises there is a whole spectrum of exercises which would need to be included appropriately over a long term program.

One last example: Back squats, you’ll think of these as a strength exercise and usually see them performed slowly. If you change it up and apply the same principles of increasing speed and load you’ll be power training, however, since we already determined that strength is also required for power, strength training is also part of power training.


The difference between strength and power training

In simple terms. With strength training, you want to conquer resistance, and with power training, you want to conquer resistance as fast as possible. In strength training, you’ll be working on your 1RM, but you’d never use that same weight in your power training because the maximum weight you can lift simply can’t be lifted as fast as possible.


What weigh to use?

The amount of weight to use will be determined by what component of power training you’re working. For the ballistic component, you want to use a weight that stays within that range of being able to increase velocity throughout the movement, a good example of an incorrect weight would be where you would pull and very quickly the pull decelerates into a moment where you need to press the weight out. You want to be able to go from start to finish with minimal deceleration.

Overall for power training, you want to be in the range of 0% to 70% of your 1RM for that exercise, meaning, if you the heaviest weight you can snatch for one maximum effort rep is 100kg, then for power training you’d want to be using 70% of that or below, depending on the component you’re training.


How many reps or sets for power training?

In general for power training, you’ll want to do high sets and lower reps, and the higher the sets the lower the reps. With an average 1 to 2 minutes rest in between sets, although in general, I don’t see those rest periods implemented in boxes myself which I believe is because those who do not have serious goals, don’t train seriously, and that’s ok. We’re also talking group fitness, not individual personal goals, hence, we need to be more generic. 3 to 5 sets in the 1 to 5 rep range per exercise.

Optimal programming for an individual would be with a focus on 1 exercise with enough rest but when programming for groups and needing to cater to ‘attention spans’ it’s quite alright to for example program one exercise for upper-body followed by lower-body, or one exercise for posterior followed by anterior and so on.