Training for maximum strength and training for maximum power are two very different styles of workout that many people get confused.

You can train for power or strength by simply changing the way you perform your lifts.

Maximum Strength Training:

Ironically Maximum Strength Training is what people typically refer to as Powerlifting, and the most common exercises are the bench press, squat and deadlift. You can apply maximum strength training to other multi joint lifts like military press, incline press, pulldowns, weighted chin ups and rows as well. It doesn’t make much sense to do this kind of lifting for single joint lifts and small muscle groups like biceps as the risk of injury will increase and maintaining good form becomes very difficult if not impossible.

Maximum strength training is characterized by slower heavy lefts. We are talking about using really heavy weights, up to 80-95% of your one rep maximum. When the weight is this heavy you can’t lift it fast, if you can lift it fast then it’s not heavy enough (note: even though technically your mindset should always be that you are TRYING to move the weight as quickly as possible…maximum strength type weight just really won’t go very fast when it’s this heavy).

Each rep takes maximum effort, so the weight will move slowly. This type of lifting builds your maximum strength, which will help with your ability to handle heavier weights during your explosive lifts and your power style lifting. Each working set is very heavy. Never lift more than you can handle, but don’t do any less that you can handle either. Every rep of this kind of training will feel like it is pushing you to your limit but never over it.

Mind Muscle Connection Key: Maximum strength training requires a positive mindset before each lift. You’ve got to start each set with 100% concentration and believe that you will get every rep. You can’t be distracted and your form has to be perfect. Visualize each lift before you perform it, block out all distractions, and see yourself getting each lift. This visualization helps with your focus before each set and puts you in a positive mindset to make the lift a success. In order to get stronger you have to believe and convince yourself that you will get the lift.

Power Training:

This is typical of Olympic style lifts (clean and jerk, snatch), but can also be done for many of the other traditional lifts like bench press, squats, push press, pulldowns, rows, high pulls. Power training can also be done for smaller muscle groups and single joint movements as the risk of injury is lower and form can be maintained.

Power training is characterized by medium weights and lifting them quickly. With this style of training the goal is to use a weight that is challenging but you can move much faster than a maximum strength lift. This style of training translates into greater explosiveness during sports competition and in turn also helps with some maximum strength lifts as it trains your nervous system and muscles to fire quickly. Power training teaches your nervous system to react faster and recruit your muscles at maximum speed and coordination. As you become more experienced with power training you will learn a ‘groove’ for each lift and recognize when you’ve hit the groove.

Mind Muscle Connection Key: Start a power training lift with the intention of generating as much speed as possible. You should constantly be rehearsing the mantra of speed to yourself before each lift. There is even research that proves your mindset before the lift will be a major determining factor in how well you actually lift! Visualize these lifts moving with super speed each rep.

By using both types of training you can increase both your strength and speed, making you a better, stronger and faster athlete.

Being strong rarely wins fights. Being strong and fast is a recipe for victory.

John Barban, MS

Author, The Adonis Effect

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