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Power Play

Power Play

We say “Power” training you say: ___________? Power training, what sort of images does that conjure?  Little old ladies stepping off a curb or giant hulks performing snatches and cleans?  If you think snatches and cleans you’d be right.  But, if you think little old ladies stepping off of a curb, you’d also be right. Because power training is not about a specific set of exercises, it’s ultimately about load, acceleration and intention.

In this episode, “Power Play,” we once again separate the supposed from the science, like mistakenly relating human power output to the watts displayed on cardio machines, or that moving faster doesn’t mean we’re generating more power.  Dr. J and GG explain why there’s a difference and why it matters.

And if power is a product of stimulating fast twitch muscle fibers, how is that measured?  What do electromyography (EMG) studies tell us about how we recruit different motor units?  What’s a motor unit you ask?  Good question, and an important one at that.  Not to worry, Dr. J and GG provide a simplified explanation.

Finally, the duo gets to what really matters; what we can do in the gym, at home, or anywhere to improve our power.  But in typical Fitness For Consumption style, the solutions are more diverse than you may have originally thought.  Lifting heavy weights? Sure.  Lifting light weights? Sure. Walking, leaping, hopping, skipping?  Sure.  But using these tools that are already in your Fitness Eco-System™ effectively, for developing power, is all in the details and the details are in the episode, so give it a listen and let us know what you think!

In this episode we discuss:

  • Power training is not a specific type of exercise
  • Power training is primarily about Rate of Tension Development (ROTD)
  • Difference between velocity and acceleration and why that matters for power training
  • What happens in our neuromuscular system when we intend to move rapidly
  • What happens in our neuromuscular system when we intend to move slowly
  • Why using heavy load is good for developing power
  • Why using light load is good for developing power
  • Why using no load and no movement is good for developing power
  • Why using no load and no movement is limited in it’s functional transfer for developing power


Acceleration - the rate of change of velocity, or velocity divided by time

Joule - International Systems of Units (SI) measure of work.  One Joule is equal to the work done by a force of one newton acting through one meter

Motor Unit - a single motor neuron and all of the muscle fibers that it innervates

Power - the rate at which work is done, or force times distance, divided by time

Rate of tension development (ROTD) - time course over which the neuromuscular system produces muscular tension

Velocity - the rate of change of displacement, or displacement divided by time

Watt - a unit of measure of power, defined as pound-feet per second

Work - force times distance


  1. Behm, D. (1995). Neuromuscular implications and applications of resistance training.Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 9(4): 264-274
  2. Enoka, R. (1994). Neuromechanical Basis of Kinesiology. Second Edition. Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL. p159
  3. Enoka, R. (1996). Eccentric contractions require unique activation strategies by the nervous system. Journal of Applied Physiology. 81(6): 2339-2346.
  4. Fielding, R.A., LeBrasseur, N.K., Cuoco, A, et al. (2002). High-velocity resistance training increases skeletal muscle peak power in older women. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 50(4): 655-662.
  5. Hannaford, B. and Lehman, S. (1986). Short time fourier analysis of the electromyogram: fast movements and constant contraction. EEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. BME-33(12): 1173-1181.
  6. Kaneko, M. (1974). The Dynamics of Human Muscle. Kyorinshoin Book Company, Tokyo.
  7. Komi, P.V. and Viitasalo, J.H.T. (1976). Signal characteristics of EMG at different levels of muscle tension. Acta Physiologica Scandinavia. 96: 267-276.
  8. Komi, P.V., Viitasalo, J.H.T., Rauramaa, R., and Vihko, V. (1978). Effect of isometric strength training on mechanical, electrical and metabolic aspects of muscle function. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 40: 45-55.
  9. Kranz, H., Williams, A.M., Cassell,J. (1983). Factors determining the frequency content of the electromyogram. Journal of Applied Physiology. 55(2): 392-399
  10. Loeb, G.E., (1985) Motoneurone task groups: Coping with Kinematic Heterogeneity. J Exp Biol. 115, 137-146
  11. Milner-Brown, H.S., Stein, R.B., and Lee, R.G. (1975). Synchronization of human motor units: possible roles of exercise and supraspinal reflexes. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology. 38: 245-254.
  12. Moritani, T. (1993). Neuromuscular adaptations during the acquisition of muscle strength power and motor tasks. Journal of Biomechanics. 26(s1): 95-107
  13. Richardson, D.L., Duncan, M.J., Jiminez, A., et al. (2018). The perceptual responses to high-velocity, low-load and low-velocity, high-load resistance exercise in older adults. Journal of Sport Sciences. 36(14):1594-1601.

You might also like:

Season 1, Episode 2 - Why we move Part 2 - The Fitness Eco-system™

Season 1, Episode 8 - You’ve Got Nerve

Season 2, Episode 1 - I feel the Earth Move

Season 2, Episode 2 - The Fine Print - What’s it all about?

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