So what is best for power development? de Villiers suggests programming should:
- Be sport and movement-specific
Regardless of performance level, many sport-specific movements are ballistic in nature and require the recruitment of type-2 muscle fibres (often referred to as fast-twitch).
“To develop power, exercise movement needs to be ballistic in nature … plyometric-based exercises in power training programmes have been shown to significantly improve maximal power output during sports-specific movements, like change of direction,” de Villiers said.
- Be completed by athletes who have fully recovered from fatigue
“The fatigue status of an athlete plays a key role in the effectiveness of the program and an athlete’s ability to produce peak power,” he said. “So power output training should take place when the athlete is recovered.
“To recruit the type-2 muscle fibres needed for short bursts of power, firstly you must recruit them, then fatigue them through movement-specific training and allow the body to recover to allow adaptation.”
He said to monitor athletes’ fatigue levels through establishing individual benchmarks and completing regular handgrip strength tests and wellness questionnaires.
- Contain compound training methods
There are various training methods that can be used to develop power – complex, contrast, and compound. But compound training, through research and practice, seems to be the most effective method, de Villiers said.
“With complex methods, athletes perform strength- and speed-based sets in the same session using heavy loads, typically 80 to 85 percent of 1-rep max. For example, a squat followed by a box jump.
“Compound methods of programming include strength-based exercises followed by ballistic exercises … with this method, you’re making use of the post-activation potentiation across different days.
“An example of a compound method includes athletes completing box squats and bench presses at 85 percent [of 1-rep max] on day one. Then on day two, athletes can do bench throws and squat jumps at 30 percent at high speed.
“Contrast methods combine heavy and light load exercises in a session. The key difference here is that heavy load exercises are completed at the beginning of a session and light at the end.”
A simple example of a contrast training protocol is the use of heavy back squats followed by a biomechanically similar, yet lighter load, exercise such as vertical jumps (after an adequate rest period).
To summarise the effectiveness of the different methods, de Villiers stated:
Compound > Complex > Contrast