Training for Power with Weights

Power Training Explained

Man bench pressing
Bench press. PhotoAlto/Sandro Di Carlo Darsa/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

This article considers weight training for power. The American College of Sports Medicine also considers training modalities for strengthhypertrophy (muscle building), strength endurance and older adults.

Muscular Power

Maximum power is increased when the same amount of work is done in a shorter time, or when a greater amount of work is done during the same period. Power is a function of force and time.

Power is required in the movements of sport, work, and daily living. In simple terms, power means doing the same work faster, whether lifting a weight or pushing a wheelbarrow, running a 100 meters race, or tackling an opposition football player.

ACSM Recommendations

Exercise Selection and Order. The use of predominately multiple-joint exercises performed with sequencing guidelines similar to strength training is recommended for novice, intermediate, and advanced power training.

Loading/Volume/Repetition Velocity. It is recommended that concurrent to a typical strength training program, a power component is incorporated consisting of one to three sets per exercise using light to moderate loading (30-60% of 1 RM for upper body exercises, 0-60% of 1 RM for lower body exercises) for three to six repetitions.

Progression for power enhancement uses various loading strategies in a periodized manner.

Heavy loading (85-100% of 1 RM) is necessary for increasing the force component of the power equation, and light to moderate loading (30-60% of 1 RM for upper body exercises, 0-60% of 1 RM for lower body exercises) performed at an explosive velocity is necessary for increasing fast force production.

A multiple-set (three to six sets) power program be integrated into a strength training program consisting of one to six repetitions in periodized manner is recommended."

Rest Periods. Rest periods of at least 2-3 min between sets for core exercises are recommended. A shorter rest interval (1-2 min) is recommended for assistance exercises."


  1. The recommended frequency for novice power training is similar to strength training (2-3 d/wk) stressing the total body.
  2. For intermediate power training, it is recommended that either a total-body or an upper/lower body split workout be used for a frequency of 3-4 d/wk.
  3. For advanced power training, a frequency of 4-5 d/wk is recommended using predominantly total-body or upper/lower body split workouts.

For a review of weight and resistance training fundamentals, you can read the beginner documentation.

A Sample Power Program

The exercises above form the basis of a sample program that follows. You can try various combinations of the above exercises once you get used to this form of training.

If you've not done any weight training previously you should start by reading up on the fundamentals and introducing weights gradually before attempting these exercises.

Follow these guidelines in power weight training.

  • Don't choose a weight that's too heavy. You need to be able to thrust the weight into position with explosive speed. Yet, the weight needs to be heavy enough to challenge you over a short series of repetitions.
  • You will rest between sets until fully recovered. That means about 3 to 5 minutes. Power needs to be expressed when the phosphocreatine energy system is fully reconstituted.
  • Similarly, if at any time between repetitions you feel lacking in strength, take a 30-second break.

Here is the workout:

  • Hang Power Cleans - 3 sets of 6 reps, fast
  • Push Press - 3 sets of 6 reps, fast
  • Hang High Pulls - 3 sets of 6 reps, fast
  • Romanian Deadlifts - 3 sets of 6 reps, fast
  • Chest Press - 3 sets of 6 reps fast

Remember, this is not a bodybuilding program so you are not aiming for a pump or lactic acid build up in the muscles, although by the end of the workout you inevitably will get some. You want each lift to be as explosive as is appropriate. The selected load should be heavier than a bodybuilding program but not as heavy as a strength program.

You can use dumbbells instead of barbells for the upper body work if you prefer. Adjust the loads, sets and reps until you get something that works for you. An experienced trainer can show you the best form for these lifts. Power on!


Nicholas Ratamess, Brent Alvar, Tammy al. Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy AdultsMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: March 2009, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 687-708.

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