Demonstrate Power

Why do adults participate in strength training? Well I imagine most people interested in strength training want to get stronger and more powerful. Or else what’s the point of putting yourself through all those torturous workouts?

There comes a point in your training when we want to see the fruits of our labour and so we set about finding a way to show off our hard earned gains. Now I’m not really focused on the superficial bodybuilding style gains here I’m getting a little less subjective and a little more empirical. By that I mean that progressive weight training should actually lead somewhere, that there were probably some goals in mind the first time we picked up a weight.

I should probably define what I mean by both strength and power. Rather than take an excerpt from a dictionary (I took it from wikipedia instead) that leaves both open to interpretation I’m going to take a more simplified version supplied surprisingly by physics. Power is simply the rate of doing work and work requires an element of strength for it’s completion.  For example the same amount of work is done when carrying a load up a flight of stairs whether the person carrying it walks or runs, but more power is needed for running because the work is done in a shorter amount of time.

My Strength and conditioning version of this is the difference between watching a powerlifter grind out a max deadlift slowly to lockout and on the other end of the spectrum there are Olympic Lifters who explosively launch their barbells skyward.

This got me thinking about how we demonstrate strength and power and what this means to the way in which we train to get there.  I also think that the way in which we percieve this changes over the years not least because perhaps we’re not as mobile as we once were and some injuries prevent us from doing some of the basic lifts.

I’ve recently found a new respect for bodyweight exercises. Most of which I found quite boring in my youth and could easily do hundreds of press ups and sit ups. Next part of the evolution was chin ups and later dips all with bodyweight. I remember all of these being land mark points of reference providing me with a challenge at the time.


My latest challenge has been the “Muscle Up” and this has ignited a spark of desire to be able to demonstrate this feat of what I percieve to be strength and power. This in turn got me thinking of the many ways in which strength and power are both demonstrated and trained for. Also how I looked at these training approaches has changed as each one has something beneficial to offer.

In training assistance exercises to complement the muscle up I’ve turned to weighted chin ups, weighted dips and some speed chins where I accelerate my body up and over the bar. However having spoken to someone recently (he can do more muscle ups than me – so he must know what he’s talking about, right?) they suggested completing some ultra slow reps and bringing my chest up to the bar. This then will hopefully translate into increased strength especially at the top of the movement right before the transition where the pull becomes a push. So in essence, strength with added acceleration equals power. Explosive power seems to be one of the principle ingredients in successful muscle ups.

Well I seem to have hijacked this post on demonstrating strength with my quest to perform a functional strength bodyweight movement. My intention was to examine other sports more closely and the training methods they employ to progress in their chosen field. I think that how strength and power is demonstrated and measured in other sports can play an important part in our own training depending on our goals. But perhaps that would be better served in a separate post later.

In terms of my own personal training I’ve been focused on the basics of the squat, deadlift and bench for years. These staples have provided me with both measurable challenges and progress. I’m now at a stage however,  where I want include more athletic moves to my repertoire and so I have now incorporated movements such as toes to bar, muscle ups and I’ve even begun taking instruction on olympic lifting.

I understand that I cant be elite or successful in every segment of the fitness community but at least I am open to new training methods and programs in my forties. I’m still learning, still motivated and happy to be in a position to do so.

I believe that as you age, maintaining mobility and functionality is probably more important than any demonstration of strength or power but it’s still fun to be motivated enough to want to achieve new goals. Whatever approach we take in becoming stronger and fitter I’ve found that it’s important to respect the diverse framework we all use in our quest to get there.


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