29 Oct Training Focus. What’s Yours?
Bigger muscles have the potential to create more force. More force creates greater power output. Greater power output means sprinting faster, jumping higher, changing direction more efficiently and ultimately better performance.
Whilst it’s important to note that it’s not all that black and white, having a fairly distinct training focus and outcome is vital to the design, structure and overall success of most resistance training programs.
To put it very, very simply; we want athletes with more muscle, who can apply high amounts of force and do it rapidly.
Hypertrophy. Strength. Power.
Hypertrophy – build more muscle
Simply put hypertrophy means an increase in the cross-sectional area of muscle. When all else remains constant the larger the muscle the greater potential that muscle has to create force. There are many factors involved in the hypertrophy of muscle tissue, generally we are most concerned with the amount of muscle mass recruited and the overall volume load (reps x sets x kg).
Typical Hypertrophy guidelines – 8-12 repetitions, 1-3 sets, 30-60 second rest intervals.
Strength – create more force
The term “strength” refers to our ability to create force against an external resistance, it is the single most important motor ability for athletes. Stronger athletes are faster, more powerful and more resilient to injury. The ability to generate force is not only dependant on muscle cross sectional area, but even more so on our neuromuscular system. The motor unit (a motor neuron and all the fibers it innervates) is of utmost importance, ultimately we are trying to recruit larger and more motor units, increase their discharge rate and synchronisation.
Typical Strength guidelines – <6 repetitions, 1-3 sets, 2-5 minute rest intervals
Power – display force rapidly
Power can be defined as an amount of work for a given period of time, or the product of force and the velocity of an object in the direction of force, thus Power = Force x Velocity. Power is arguably the most important factor for athletic performance, but remember athletes are not as powerful if they are not strong. As there are limits in our ability to increase unloaded movement velocity increasing the force (strength) rather than velocity component has a greater potential to improve our power output, which is why we typically focus on strength in most athletic programs.
Typical Power guidelines – <6 repetitions, 1-3 sets, 2-5 minute rest intervals
Without opening up the can-of-worms that is periodization, athletes should cycle through training blocks focused on each of these outcomes at the appropriate time, for their individual needs, and for the needs of their sport. Naturally some sports may dictate that an athlete focus more on one than the other i.e. A rugby player who is too light may need to focus on hypertrophy in the off-season, a powerlifter will typically focus on strength to increase their 1RM’s, and a sprinter may focus on power output leading into a big race. For most athletes your focus should be clear, but not stagnant. More muscle, more force, more power, greater muscle, greater force, and greater power. Repeat.
Exercise Right recommends:
- Always be clear what you are focusing on.
- Don’t stay in a particular phase forever, cycle through hypertrophy, strength and power focused programs when it’s appropriate.