Do you want to increase your power – maybe to improve your vertical jump or bat swing speed or maybe to try something new? Power is very important in everyday functional movement. Athletes need power to improve performance. Parents need it to catch a kid from falling. Seniors need power to regain balance and prevent falls after tripping. Power is important and training should be part of most conditioning programs.
The mathematical equation for power is P= F*D (or Work)/T. Basically, power is the amount of work done over a period of time. Using basic math, the higher the amount of work performed (force and distance) in the least amount of time will yield high power. So it seems logical that if I want to improve power I must perform explosive exercises such as box jumps, lateral hops, and other plyometric exercises. Right? Well although your are not wrong, you are also not 100% correct.
I am sure you have all heard the phrase – “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” This statement also fits in with human movement. When we perform a power exercise – say for example the vertical jump – our neuromusuclar system must not only decide which muscles are going to generate power, but it must also tell other muscles to stabilize joints. During the vertical jump our quads, hamstrings, glutes and calfs (along with other muscles) are producing power. At the same time we also have muscles that are maintaining stability and control of the low back, hip, knee, and foot / ankle joints. If our joints are not stable, they will move. If they move we will lose ability to produce power or worse, become at risk of significant injury. If our kinetic chain has a weak link – then we are weak.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning earlier this year examined the effects of core strength on the measure of power in the extremities. There has been several studies showing evidence of core strength on injury prevention, however, little evidence exists on the relationship of core strength and extremity power.
In this study twenty-five NCAA football players went through a series of core-strength tests followed by a series of athletic performance tests. The data was analyzed to find the correlation between dynamic core strength and athletic performance. The results of that studied showed that those who had higher levels of dynamic core strength also produced greater one rep max squat, one rep max bench, vertical jump, and push press.
This is important when following and implementing a training program designed to enhance power output. While it is important to perform explosive exercises as mentioned above, it is much more important to make sure you have a sound base. If you are looking to improve power you should follow a systematic exercise progression designed to enhance core strength first. Training the core will prevent injury and allow you to generate more power in the long run.
Shinkle J, Nesser TW, Demchak TJ, McMannus DM. Effects of Core Strength on the Measure of Power in the Extremities. J Strength Cond Res. 26(2):373-379, 2012.