The Secret to Boosting Athletic Performance: Train for Power

By: Andrew Losik, Certified Personal Trainer at Axis Personal Training.  Graduate of The National Personal Training Institute with specialties in sports performance training (PGA Golf Professional) and general health and wellness.

I cannot count how many times I’ve heard an athlete say they want to get stronger or faster but don’t want to bulk up because they don’t want it to negatively affect their speed or mobility on the court, field or golf course. The point that these athletes are missing is the fact that every single sport, including golf, requires the athlete to perform with speed, power and explosiveness. If you are training with high reps and lower weight, you are not training your body to be powerful or explosive.

Whether you are an Olympic sprinter, elite basketball player or a scratch golfer you must train for power if you want to elevate your game. You need you muscles to fire with maximum output in short bursts, which means you need to not only change what muscles you are training, but more importantly “how” you are training them. Compound sets are the easiest way to add a power element to you training by pairing a heavy strength training exercise with a light, quick, explosive movement.

Most athletes I see are not training for power, and in addition, they are neglecting their posterior chain – the muscles in the back of the body – and are leaving seconds, yards and ultimately performance on the table. Here are my 3 favorite compound sets to strengthen your body and to add some power and explosiveness to your posterior chain, and your game.

Deadlift
Possibly the single best exercise to strengthen the entire body, but more specifically the posterior chain and core – including hamstrings, glutes and erector spinae muscles of your lower back. Try a few different variations if you’re new to the movement including Trap-bar Deadlifts which focus more on hips and leg strength, or Romanian Deadlifts which focus more on your hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Remember to keep your back from rounding on all forms of the Deadlift.

Do these as part of a compound set with squat jumps to add the power element to this strength exercise.

Sets/Reps:
4 x 6-8 with 10 squat jumps (no rest)
*rest 2-3 minutes between sets

Back Squat
Arguably one of the best exercises to strengthen your quads, hamstrings, glutes and lower back, these need to be a part of any athlete’s strength training routine. If your knees cave in during the squat, use a band wrapped just below the knees to force you to keep your legs pressing outward – this will also help activate your glutes which are an essential element to a proper backsquat. Keep your chest up, chin level, and hinge at the hips for proper squat mechanics.

To add a power element to this exercise, compound this set with a set of 10 plyo-box jumps to maximize explosive muscle recruitment.

Sets/Reps:
4 x 6-8 with 10 box jumps (no rest)
*rest 2-3 minutes between sets

Bench Press
Easily one of the most popular exercises in any gym on any given day, this strength training exercise my not work the posterior chain, but it is a great multi-jointed exercise that works the chest, triceps and anterior deltoids. Remember to keep you elbows at a 45 degree angle from you body to maximize force production. At this angle, the chest, triceps and delts are all involved in the lift, and stress on the shoulder and rotator cuff muscles is minimized.

Pair this with a set of max-rep plyo-clap push-ups to make this strength exercise into a power movement.

Sets/Reps:
Pyramid set 10-8-6-4-10 with max-rep plyo-clap push-ups (no rest)
*rest 2-3 minutes between sets

All three of these basic lifts will strengthen the largest muscle groups in the body, which are responsible for our most powerful movements. Compounding these strength sets with plyometric movements will give those same muscles an added explosiveness that will help you take your game to the next level.