Strength Training vs Power Training: Performance Specialist Weighs In

strength training vs power training

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As more and more people get into fitness, exercising, and lifting weights, the act of exercising becomes more detailed. Now, you’re not just working out anymore, you’re doing strength training, or maybe power training.

These two terms come up a lot among trainers and can be heard tossed around at your local gym. So, are they the same? Why differentiate? After all, don’t you gain power by building up strength?

The difference between strength and power

Strength training is the type of training you are probably used to doing. It is the act of performing physical exertion in an effort to build up muscle.

This can be done through weights, repetition in workouts, applying force or resistance to your body and then pushing back appropriately, or really any other workout you can think of. The point of strength training is to build up your muscles, which has the added benefit of building up the bones those muscles are attached to.

Power training is a little different. You see, all the muscle in the world won’t equal swift reflexes. Yes, you may be able to climb your stairs with ease because your legs are stronger, but how fast you react to tripping requires you to have speed and power behind those muscles.

Power training is the act of performing weight training actions at a high rate of speed. By combining the act of doing something quickly with performing weight training exercises, you build up your body’s speed, thus making you quicker and more nimble.

power vs strength training in a running example

How to Maximize Results

For many, it’s not enough to simply lift weights. A lot of athletes like to perform a blend strength and power training to build up both muscle and speed at the same time.

Not only does this tend to work (and work pretty quickly), but it also helps to burn calories at a greater rate. In other words, it is considered more effective than traditional working out.

Training for power

So, how does one do power training? Well, first you start with your existing workouts. Keep in mind, the goal is to make you quicker and more nimble, not to break you.

If you’re physically limited and have to only do certain exercises to limit the risk of personal injury, then your power training will be limited to those exercises as well.

You start by performing your normal routine, but then speed it up. Some people like to do this start to finish, while others like to save the speed runs for their second reps. Regardless, you do your power training at a pace that benefits you, not one that hurts you.

A really great guide by Men’s Health on power training can be found here:

Indirect strength gains

The neat thing about power training is that it really helps to build up strength fast. Your body is forced to rapidly accommodate for the work you are doing, which means that you’re going to be sore much faster, but the results, and your strength, will go up dramatically.

Some people do this by trying their workout at an increased speed while wearing a weight vest, or weighted arm or leg bands. The idea being that you’ll get used to moving at a fast pace with these limitations, so when you take them off, you’ll be even faster.

woman doing power training with dumbbells in the gym

Using sets with Maximum Effort

When training, pay attention to what your goals are. Are you looking to get bigger? More toned? Faster? You want to focus on the sets that work the muscle groups you want.

You also want to make sure that you’re applying your weight workout to the areas that need an increase, while your power workout focuses on areas of speed or tone. It can be easy to mix the two up and get some odd results.

Multiple forms of resistance

When working out, there are all kinds of resistance you can use to build muscle and power. Whether it’s by lifting weights, pushing against a wall, wearing a weight vest, or simply using your body’s own weight against itself, you can adjust your resistance levels based on the type of result you’re after.

Power and explosive strength training

Some people like to go to the extreme with their weight training, but be warned that when you increase speed and weight, you also increase the risk of injury.

Make sure that if you are going for what some call explosive, or extreme weight training, that you do so under the supervision and guidance of a trainer.

Conjugated periodization method

Considered by many to be one of the best forms of working out, this style focuses on rotating between ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ workouts. This will give your muscle groups a break, while making sure your entire body gets the focus it needs.

Whatever kind of training you are considering, you can’t go wrong by talking with a trainer to get some advice on reaching your goals. With a combination of strength and power training, you’ll be both strong and powerful.

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