Developing Strength and Power: What Works?

I saw a tweet the other day that said something to the effect of “Kettlebell swings will not improve your power.” If his tweet was directed at high level athletes who regularly train explosively with heavy weights, the tweeter may have been right. However, I would argue that for the most part, and for the rest of us, he is not correct.

This morning, I tweeted the following:

No one follows me on twitter so don’t expect any replies.

Now, my response is not necessarily true either. It all depends on what a person has adapted to do.

So, let’s go back to the first tweet. The coach said that kettlebell swings will not improve your power. Again, if you have high level athletes doing heavy snatches and cleans on a regular basis, then no, kettlebell swings are better used as a tool for conditioning and core strength.

HOWEVER, if you have a young athlete new to strength training or a person new to fitness, kettlebell swings will almost certainly make them more powerful. Here’s why:

Power is simply the ability to express strength explosively. In other words, move faster. A powerful athlete can jump farther, run faster, and strike harder. In order to do all of those things, the athlete must first be strong. Strength is the basis of power and so the number one way you can improve power is to make a person stronger.

The other part of power production comes down to coordination. Some individuals are naturally powerful because they are more coordinated and as a result, their muscular system responds much more rapidly and in a more organized fashion to the signals sent by their nervous system.

If we take an uncoordinated person and give them a simple set of exercises to perform such as squats and pushups, they are going to get more coordinated. They will learn to move large groups of muscles together in a coordinated fashion. That is what getting stronger is. It enables you to move better (strength), and consequently, move faster (power).

There is a caveat:

Strength and coordination can take a long time to develop and connective tissue and bone take a long time to strengthen. Because literally doing anything will make you stronger and more powerful, people new to fitness routines often see big gains early on. This may encourage them to try the more powerful tools, the more complex routines, and add more and more to their workouts. Unfortunately, what happens a lot of times with beginners and people new to fitness is that their enthusiasm for getting stronger outpaces their bodies’ ability to adapt. Those slowly adapting connective tissues and bone often bear the brunt of our enthusiasm and sometimes they break.

If you are not a high level athlete who has been training for over a decade and regularly lifting heavy weights explosively, then I am happy to tell you that simply adding something just a bit more challenging to your routine will most certainly make you stronger and more powerful. Kettlebell swings, squats, pushups, and depending on your fitness level, even walking and ballroom dancing are things that will actually improve full body strength as well as conditioning. If you are getting stronger, you are getting more powerful.

This is what strong looks like.

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