Do you want to train for strength or power?
If you’re thinking, aren’t they the same thing? The answer is no.
Strength and power are two similar yet different terms. They are often used interchangeably, which isn’t always correct. .
So, what is the difference between strength vs power?
Strength refers to the body’s ability to overcome resistance. Power also refers to the body’s ability to overcome resistance, but it also looks at how fast the load is moving. So while lifting weights is a strength-based activity, when you move the weight quickly, it’s more of a power-based activity.
While they may overlap, they actually require different types of training and knowing whether you want to train for strength and power is pivotal to actually designing a plan that’ll help you reach your goals.
We will run you through the main differences of each such as what they mean, what type of training they require and which one you should focus on.
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WHAT IS STRENGTH?
Strength refers to the amount of force a muscle group can produce. It is force production and force is what moves weight. In other words, the person who can produce the most force is the strongest.
You’ll be able to see examples of strength at the gym. The three big lifts, the squat, bench and deadlift, are all examples of strength moves.
It doesn’t matter how fast you complete the movement, as long as you do it.
Powerlifting is, therefore, a discipline that measures strength, which is measured by your 1RM. 1RM stands for one repetition maximum. It refers to the highest amount of weight you can lift one time.
Yes, this is sort of confusing because “powerlifting” has the word “power” in it. But powerlifting requires very little power, as we’ll discuss later.
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WHY IS STRENGTH SO IMPORTANT?
Who wouldn’t want to be strong? Strength is something that is important for everyone and can really make a difference in your day to day life.
1. ENHANCES QUALITY OF LIFE
Strength training is an important aspect of anyone’s life.
By improving your strength, you can really enhance your quality of life, due to better, well, strength.
It also develops your balance and coordination as well as your ability to complete everyday tasks like carrying the groceries from your car to the kitchen. You’ll find that these daily tasks will come much easier to you which in turn, will make life easier.
In addition, you will have better posture so that even minute things like sitting in a chair or walking around, can be greatly improved and be much more ergonomically beneficial.
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2. IMPROVES YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH
It can reduce the chances of developing diseases and chronic conditions like lower back pain, obesity, depression and anxiety, heart disease and diabetes.
Decreasing the risk of osteoporosis is another reason why strength is so important. Strength training increases the density of your bones as well as builds your tendons and ligaments.
You’ll have a much stronger body overall, both inside and out.
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3. IMPROVES YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
On top of all these amazing physical benefits, strength can really build your confidence and make you feel good about yourself.
Being able to lift heavier than what you used to can really boost your self -esteem that you can take out of the gym and in your everyday life.
Seeing aesthetic changes to your appearance is also a nice bonus to all your hard work and can be very rewarding.
4. MAINTAINS MUSCLE MASS
Unfortunately, a part of ageing is losing muscle mass.
While it’s not impossible to grow muscle as we get older, it definitely can be much more challenging than those at a younger age.
This is why it’s important to get a headstart on strength training earlier, so we can make a difference in how much muscle we can preserve later on.
5. BURN MORE CALORIES
Strength training is a great metabolism booster.
Muscle is a much more effective calorie-burner than fat is, so the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you’ll be able to burn!
Not to mention, your body continues to burn calories even after you’ve stopped exercising, so you’ll be reaping benefits long after you’ve finished your last rep.
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HOW TO TRAIN FOR STRENGTH?
Training for strength gains differs from training for power.
Here, we are going to run you through how to train specifically to increase your strength and get you lifting more weight.
FOCUS ON COMPOUND MOVEMENTS
Compound movements are those that engage more than one muscle group at a time. This means that you’ll be targeting multiple muscles doing one exercise, really priming you for strength gains. The compound lifts are the squat, bench, deadlift and overhead press.
Centre your workout around these lifts. Make sure that you complete them first when you’re feeling refreshed to get the most out of them. Then, afterwards, you can include any other accessory lifts that complement the main lifts. While these accessory lifts can help improve any areas and tighten your weaknesses, focusing on compound movements will mean that you’re getting the most out of your strength training and will see faster results.
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Strength training typically consists of heavier loads at lower reps.
Ideally, you’ll be looking at a rep range of 1-5 reps at one given set. Anything over that, such as 6-12 reps, will fall under hypertrophy (muscle building as opposed to strength building rep ranges) which will make your muscles grow but not necessarily your strength.
INCREASE THE WEIGHT
The lower rep range also means that you should be lifting heavier weights. You’re looking at a minimum of 80% of your 1RM and upwards. The higher the percentage of your 1RM, the fewer the reps.
REST FOR LONGER
If you’re training for strength gains, then it’s recommended that you actually increase the amount of time you rest in between sets.
Typically, a good rest period to aim for is around 3-5 minutes. Even though you’re doing fewer reps, you’re lifting at a much higher weight which means that you’re going to need all the rest you can get.
WHAT IS POWER?
Power also takes into account strength but it also adds another variable into the equation and that is time. Power is the ability to exert as much force as possible in the shortest amount of time. To put it simply, speed + strength = power.
When it comes to power, you won’t be able to lift as much weight as you would if you were focusing purely on strength. However, you will be lifting at a much higher velocity (speed) rate.
Fitness disciples that focus more on power rather than just strength is Olympic weightlifting, that is, your snatch and clean and jerk.
While in weightlifting, you want to move as much weight from point A to point B as possible, but you also want to do it in an explosive manner.
WHY IS POWER IMPORTANT?
There are so many great benefits to improving your power. Here are a few reasons why you should consider training for power.
1. IMPROVED CARDIOVASCULAR ENDURANCE
As power training involves fast reaction times, lots of jumping and hopping and is high-intensity in nature, it can do wonders for your cardiovascular endurance.
You’ll teach your body to not only pump more blood but also how to return to your normal state faster after you’ve finished training. You’ll be able to recover much quicker and keep your heart healthy at the same time.
This also comes with the added bonus of improved movement efficiency. Your body will learn how to generate force while using the least amount of energy as possible so you’ll be able to do more for less.
2. INCREASE REACTION TIME
With power training, your ability to react to things will improve.
This will be beneficial because it’ll assist in protecting your body from potential injury that’ll be handy not just in the gym but also in everyday life.
It’s no secret that the older you get, the more susceptible to falls you become so this is an asset that you’ll thank yourself for in the future.
BETTER BALANCE AND COORDINATION < /p>
Power training will mean that you will be constantly working on your balance through the dynamic exercises.
You’ll learn more body and spatial awareness and be able to better coordinate your movements over time.
Power exercises mean that you will get better at skills that are not only beneficial in sport performance but also in day to day life.
You’ll be able to run faster and jump higher and further and move with explosiveness and speed.
HOW TO TRAIN FOR POWER
Training for power requires a focus on two components:
Training to improve the amount of force generated, i.e. the weight you lift
Training to improve the speed in which this is performed
You can develop your power through (1)plyometric moves,(2) ballistic movements, and (3) dynamic effort.
These three training types are designed to boost your fast-twitch muscle fibers to increase your explosive power.
1. PLYOMETRIC MOVES
Plyometric training is also known as jump training or shock training.
It focuses on the stretch-shortening cycle which consists of the lengthening of a muscle (eccentric contraction) that is immediately succeeded by the shortening of a muscle (concentric contraction).
This cycle is commonly seen in movements such as jumping, which is why plyometric training involves movements that require a jump, hop and/or skip. With plyometrics, your contact time with the ground is limited.
It is a form of high-intensity and high-impact training. That’s why it’s important to ease into it.
First, focus on perfecting your form in the normal, non-plyometric movement before adding in the jumps or hops and only do it if your joints can handle it.
Examples of plyometric moves are jumping squats and lunges and skipping.
2. BALLISTIC MOVEMENTS
Ballistic movements, also known as trajectory training, can sometimes be confused with plyometric movements but while they are similar, there are still defining differences between them.
One key difference is the amount of time you spend in contact with the ground during the landing phase which must be fewer than .3 seconds. When it is longer, it changes from a plyometric to a ballistic movement.
Ballistic training also focuses on the releasing of the weight, that is, the acceleration component of an exercise.
Examples of ballistic exercises are overhead medicine ball throws and rotational medicine ball toss.
3. DYNAMIC EFFORT
The dynamic effort method is sometimes called speed work and concentrates on explosive strength.
It requires lifting a submaximal load with maximal speed and works on helping you recruit your strength as fast as possible.
With the dynamic effort method, you focus on lifting compound movements at a much lighter weight (50-60% of your 1RM) in the 1-5 rep range.
Move through the rep as fast as possible while still keeping correct form. In between the sets, make sure that you’re taking longer rest time, about 3-4 minutes long.
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Should You Focus On Strength Or Power?
So the final question is, which is better for you, strength or power?
The answer is that there is no right answer. Each has its own uses and advantages.In the end, it also depends on your goal.
If you’re a powerlifter, then strength is definitely going to be the most important aspect of your training. With the end goal being to lift as much weight as possible, then focus on strength exercises.
On the other hand, weightlifters may be better focusing on power with the goal to lift weight as explosively as possible.
Also, athletes that come from a sport which requires them to sprint faster down a field or court or jump higher will greatly benefit from improving their power. In fact, we can very well say that it’s actually an integral component to their exercise regime. These disciples require explosive speed and strength, which means that being able to move as fast as possible is an important factor.
However, it is a good idea to have a combination of both. Trying to become as strong as possible while learning how to better recruit these muscle fibres in a fast and efficient way will give you a well-rounded exercise routine that covers all the important basics.
Strength and power are two diffe
rent concepts that tend to overlap quite often, and with good reason. They each have its advantages and its place in your fitness regime. While your main focus does depend on your personal goals, don’t be afraid to incorporate both into your fitness workout so that you can really maximize your results and reap the benefits both inside and out of the gym.
About The Author
As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.