So far, we’ve looked at physical components of fitness that can be improved over time with consistent training. Next on our list is elements of fitness that can be enhanced through both training and practice. Central to this is power in sport. Power in sport is not only for power sports themselves, like powerlifting, but is relevant to all sport.
Power in sport is often mistaken for strength. But let’s be clear – power is about muscle performance. As such it can be improved with resistance training and other sports that hone muscles.
Important for overall fitness, power plays an important role in a number of sports. From the thrust behind Andy Murray’s arms, to the force behind Ronaldo’s right kick and the swing in Rory Mcilroy’s arm and shoulders. Talent may get you there in the first place, but power is what will get you over the line.
In this article, we look at power – what it means and how to build it over time through organic change in the body.
What is power in sport?
In simple terms and according to Livestrong, power is the ability to move weight with speed. Some of the top sports that require peak performance in power include weightlifting, boxing, ice hockey, tennis and football.
A more technical version is best summarised in an extract from Developing Power. This describes it as a sports coach might, by “describing their movements as occurring at a high velocity relative to the force they must produce or load they must overcome during the movement.” It goes on to suggest that the term ‘powerful’ may best be interpreted by the mathematical equations such as speed multiplied by strength.
In sport, you may occasionally hear the term ‘explosive power’ this is in reference to rapid movements that require a maximum power output in the shortest amount of time.
Why is power in sport important?
Power in sport is a great measure of overall fitness of an athlete. While it may be more important in some sports than others (such as tennis versus diving), there’s a certain degree of power that all athletes need to exert in order to succeed.
There’s much focus on power training for certain sports people – think heptathletes and endurance runners. The ambition of such training is to improve the rate of force production behind them.
As with other physical components of fitness for athletes, strength in sport is one such way to improve overall fitness, maintain control and enhance performance.
Testing your limits
Depending on your sports coach and their preference, there are numerous power and speed tests that can be undertaken.
Some of the most popular are ‘jumping and running’ tests that can measure one’s force. For instance, water polo players might be tested against vertical jumping in the water, while long jumpers might perform ‘vertical jump tests’ which look at measuring leg power.
Then there’s throwing and hitting tested. These involve using medicine balls, baseballs and power balls in a series of moves to determine endurance and power.
Finally, there’s a variety of speedy tests that can help determine power in sport by measuring stamina and velocity. Sprint tests (varying from 20 meter dashes to 60 metre sprints) may be employed by a sports coach, or possibly using GPS or accelerometers to track speed. There’s also cycling, punching and swimming tests, which can be tailored to certain sports.
Improving your power
From resistance training to specialised techniques, there’s a number of ways you can work with your sports coach to develop power over time. All the exercises mentioned below can easily employed into your training programme too.
Medicine ball: During training and gym sessions, head for your medicine ball for improving overall body power. Used correctly squats are a great exercise to perform, which can tone and define muscles all over, including the glutes and hamstrings.
Squat jumps: If you’re looking to improve power in the lower half of your body, squat jumps are a great way of achieving this.
If, however you’re looking for another sport to adopt that will help improve your power and overall fitness levels, try your hand at any of these sports:
Boxing: A favourite second sport to many professionals, boxing or boxercise techniques are a brilliant way to increase strength and explosive power. Start with weekly sessions of 20 minutes to an hour, building up as you improve your fitness.
Rock climbing: Growing as a popular pastime and sport, rock climbing is ideal for those who like training solo, or pushing their body to its limits. With rock climbing you’re forced into unusual and different positions, to strengthen your overall body especially in parts that you might otherwise neglect.
Weightlifting: Resistance training is one of the best ways to improve overall strength and power. Weightlifting is one of the best ways to achieve this, and has been found to increase muscle strength.
Power in sport is essential for peak physical performance. As such, it’s one of the physical components of fitness that is essential to hone and develop, in partnership with a sports coach. Power can be developed in accordance with relevant exercises and workouts, that are specific to your chosen sport. From tennis and football, to basketball and volleyball, power plays an important role in any type of competitive sport. As such, it deserves to be integrated into your training