Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Power Circuit

Since Monday's workout focused on endurance and strength (20 minutes hill profile on the treadmill, followed by my Total Body Strength Training Mini-Workouts), I decided I needed to choose another one of my 8 Key Aspects of Training for Tuesday's workout.

I chose power.

In athletics, "power" is often referred to as "explosiveness."  You can imagine a powerful basketball player launching a chest pass to a teammate before being blocked by the other team, a defensive lineman exploding off the line of scrimmage to immediately tackle an opponent, or a gymnast like McKayla Maroney springing off the vault to reach an incredible height.  What do these examples have in common?  Each athlete must produce a lot of force very quickly.  

We can break down what "power" means by using engineering/physics.

Power is the rate of energy production.  Work is another term for energy.

P = dW/dt   

In the above equation, P is power, W is work, and t is time.  The d represents the derivative, or the change in work divided by the change in time, to represent the instantaneous power.  Power is given in the SI-unit "watts" (like a light bulb).  Watts is the unit for joules per second.

Work is force times distance.  Work is given in the SI-unit "joules" (Newtons * meters).

W = F*D  

In the above equation, W is work, F is force, and D is distance.  We can re-write our power equation as follows:

P = d(F*D)/dt   

Looking at this equation, what does this tell us about how we can increase our power?
  • Increase force
  • Increase distance
  • Decrease time (be quicker)
When we train to become more physically powerful, we must keep these three points in mind: force, distance, and time.  The more weight we can lift/throw/spring, the further we can lift/throw/spring this weight, and the faster we can do it all equates to increased power.  We need to train our muscles (more specifically, our motor units) to respond quickly and generate a large amount of force.  To do this, our training must focus on explosive movements, exercises that force us to generate a lot of power... this usually comes in the form of plyometrics.

Plyometrics are exercises built to improve power.  They test a person's ability to generate high force in a short period of time.  Such exercises often including jumping and hopping.  With this in mind, I designed the following circuit to train my (super)power.  Perform each exercise for 1 minute and repeat the circuit 3-4 times total, resting between sets.    

Warning: Plyometrics are intense by nature and are not appropriate for people with joint problems, especially those with bad knees.  Additionally, beginners should gradually build up to such a circuit by slowly incorporating one or two exercises into your normal routine.  Form is especially important in these exercises because the quick actions increase injury risk.    


Tuck jumps: Just as it sounds, jump and tuck you knees to your chest.  As soon as you land, immediately spring into another tuck jumps. 
Make it easier: Straight jumps, alternate tuck jump-straight jump
Make it harder: Tuck jump on a soft surface that absorbs your energy.  In gymnastics, we used the pit mat, and it was killer on your legs (and lungs and heart)!

Plyo push-ups on medicine ball: Assume a push-up position, with a medicine ball (of any weight) in between your hands right below your chest.  Bend your arms to do a partial push-up and touch your chest to the ball.  Immediately spring off your hands and land them on the medicine ball, balancing for a couple seconds.  Spring off the medicine ball and land in a push-up position on the floor.  
Make it easier: Plyo knee push-ups, push-ups and tap the ball with each hand (one at a time), plyo push-ups to tap the ball with both hands simultaneously (without balancing)
Make it harder: Plyo push-ups extending your arms up by your ears as you spring up (no medicine ball), handstand push-ups

Sit-ups with medicine ball chest pass: Grab a partner for this one (thanks, Nick, for being my partner).  Have your partner stand on your feet as you assume a sit-up position.  Sit-up and chest pass the medicine ball (I used 10 lbs) to your partner.  Perform a regular sit-up and grab the ball back at the top of your sit-up.  Repeat, alternating between chest-pass and non-chest-pass sit-ups.  Be careful with this one!  I hit Nick in the lip the first time around (oops, sorry, honey!).  I recommend either having your partner put his/her hands low and you chest pass it directly to his/her hands (so while you toss the ball with plenty of force, it barely travels) -or- have your partner stand further away to catch the ball (use another heavy medicine ball to hold your feet down).  

Squat jumps: Just your basic squat jump.  Concentrate on proper form- knees behind your toes, soft landing, land and immediately prepare for another jump, push through your entire leg (including your toes!) to jump as high as you can (you should have pretty pointy toes in the air if you're doing it right).  Feel free to swing your arms with your body motion to help you get higher.

As I said before, this is a very intense, high impact workout.  Please be careful!  I even had to ice my knee afterwards because (while I wasn't in pain) it swelled up and felt stuffy.  I probably had a slightly off landing but didn't notice until afterwards.  Make sure you are listening to your body!

Let me know what you think of this circuit.  Do you have any other favorite power/plyometrics exercises?  

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