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Maximal Power Training _MPT_


In the power sector, the squat is recognized as the ultimate measure of strength, while leg strength is recognized as the measure of body size or strength of the mark. This is because the power of leg strength accounted for the largest proportion of the body, and the most practical.

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									          Maximal Power Training
                    Vern Gambetta is well known to many readers as a coach, writer, founder of USATF’s
                   Coaching Education, professional sports consultant, and even ex-editor of this esteemed
                     periodical, among other things. When the call went out for articles, Vern responded
                  immediately, and this piece is an excellent summary of the work of two Australian sports
               scientists, Greg Wilson and Robert Newton. In our opinion, Gambetta has always been on the
                cutting edge of training, and you will agree when you read this piece. For more information
                on what Gambetta is up to, his web site address is This
              article has been reprinted with the kind permission of Eleanor Frankel, who edits Training and
              Conditioning. You may call 607/272-0265 to get further information on this journal. Currently,
                       it comes out six times per year, but it will be bumped up to nine times in 1999.

                             REPRINTED FROM TRACK COACH #145 (Fall 1998)

     The quest for the development of       application. I will attempt to sum-       Explosive ballistic work was done out
power as a means to improve sports          marize their research and give some       of necessity because their performance
performance is never ending. Training       practical ideas on the implementation     arena demands the highest expression
methods to improve power have run the       of their concepts.                        of explosive power to propel their
gamut from heavy weight training to              Power is the application of          body or an implement with maximal
light fast weight training to plyometrics   strength with speed. Strength is only     velocity.
where the acceleration and deceleration     concerned with the application of force        To achieve maximal power the
of the body is the overload.                as expressed by the formula F x D. The    bar or the implement must accelerate
     All these methods have produced        time of the application of force is of    throughout the movement. A major
results, although the results have not      no consideration; force production is     limitation of using weight training to
always been commensurate with the           the main goal.                            achieve maximal power is that the bar
training time invested. As a coach I             Power is expressed by the formula    must achieve zero velocity at the end
have tried many of the methods with         F x D/Time; here speed is of the es-      of the concentric phase of the move-
varying degrees of success. I have          sence. Power is the quality needed        ment. This means that near the end
always felt that there had to be a more     for performance in the athletic arena,    of an exercise, whether it is a squat,
systematic way to approach power            where movements take place in less        clean or bench press, the bar must slow
development.                                than .3 of a second.                      down in preparation for stopping.
     In my continuing search to find              The training methods to achieve           Research has shown that in a
a better way to train for power the         this kind of power are not new. They      maximal lift 23% of the movement
research of Australian sport scientists     have been used for years by jumpers       is accounted for by deceleration of
Greg Wilson and Robert Newton ap-           and throwers and more recently by         the bar. In a lift at 81% of maximum
pealed to me because of its practical       sprinters and hurdlers in track & field.   the deceleration phase accounted for

                      By Vern Gambetta, Gambetta Sports Training Systems

                                                 TRACK COACH — 4630
52% of the concentric movement (Wil-        Therefore, to attempt Maximal Power
son 1994). This is one of the major         Training (MPT) with the traditional           MAXIMAL POWER
limitations of weight training for the
development of maximal power.
                                            weight training exercises on machines
                                            or with free weights would be counter-       TRAINING EXERCISES
     In addition, traditional weight        productive to the stated goal of raising
training is unable to imitate specific       explosive power.                                  Plyo Power System—This is
sport movements. This is true of both            MPT is a marriage between              a machine that Wilson and Newton
machines or free weights.                   strength training and plyometrics.          used for their research. It is essen-
     That is not to say that weight         “Maximal power training could be            tially a modified Smith machine with
training is unimportant. Much to the        considered a form of plyometrics            a computer-controlled braking device
contrary, it is very important to have a    training that is specifically performed      to catch the bar after it is released. It
base of absolute strength, but as with      at a load which maximizes the power         is the safest way to utilize maximal
any other method, it must be used at        output of the exercise” (Wilson 1994).      power training with weight training
the proper place as part of an overall      The loading is greater than plyometrics     because of the brake to catch the weight
program. It can’t be the sole focus of      because more resistance than body           upon release. It is also very effective
the program. It is necessary to train       weight is used. But lighter than tra-       because of the computer interface that
across a broad continuum of speeds          ditional weight training.                   gives instant feedback on the power
and external resistance to achieve               The danger in this method is that      generated by the athlete.
optimum results. No one method will         due to external loading the exercises             The caveat to this method is that
get the job done.                           have greater impact forces as well as       it is still guided resistance so that the
     In the search to utilize weights to    greater contact times at a slower ve-       proprioceptive and stabilization de-
raise explosive power one method that       locity than using plyometric training       mand is not as high and it is limited
has been advocated is to lift lighter       where there is no external load. This       to exercises in the vertical plane. The
weights fast. Superficially it appears       makes it imperative that the athletes       system is expensive and currently
that the bar is moving fast but even this   using this method have a very good          unavailable for sale in the USA. With
approach does not solve the problem         training base or they will be at greater    some ingenuity it is possible to modify
as the bar is accelerated for only a        risk of injury.                             a regular Smith to be able to catch the
short time at the first part of the move-         To effectively use MPT, exercises      bar upon release.
ment. The rest of the lift involves the     should be selected that allow for the             Jump Squat—In this exercise
production of very little force since       production of the highest forces pos-       the athlete rapidly squats down and
the work is directed at slowing down        sible throughout the whole range of         explodes back up as fast as possible
and stopping the bar at the end of the      movement. One of the best examples of       aiming to achieve maximal height. To
movement.                                   this type of movement is the weighted       achieve the goal of maximal power
     High power production is best          squat jump. The power potential for         production it is best done with external
represented by sport activities like        this exercise is very high. According       load.
putting a shot put. throwing a baseball,    to Baker, “The multiple repetition                To determine the appropriate load
swinging a golf club or a baseball bat.     jump squats are associated with power       it is necessary to first determine the
The common characteristic of all these      outputs usually only generated by elite     Total System Mass = Body Weight
activities is that the implement or ball    weightlifting during the second pull of     + Barbell Weight (Baker pp. 12). For
is accelerated progressively throughout     jerk thrust.” He goes on to conclude.       example if the athlete weighs 200 lbs.
the movement until release or contact       . . “ Multiple repetition jump squats       and has a maximum squat of 375 lbs.
occurs. This results in high power pro-     may provide an excellent alternative or     the total of 575 lbs. is the total system
duction throughout the movement.            supplement to the traditional Olympic       mass.
     According to Wilson (1994),            weightlifting style movements for the             To determine the optimal training
“Maximal explosive power training           development of speed-strength.”             load take 40% of 575 lbs. which would
involves performance of dynamic                  Incorporating these methods will       be 230 lbs. Then subtract the athlete’s
weight training at the load which maxi-     involve a paradigm shift for many           body weight from that, which results
mizes mechanical power output.” This        people who have relied almost ex-           in a training load of 30 lbs.
involves lifting loads in the range of      clusively on heavy external loading               It is imperative that special care
30-45% of maximum at high speed.            through weight training. It will demand     must be taken so that loads that are
     Based on the previous discussion       more imagination as well as creativ-        too heavy are not selected. That is why
it should be obvious that the exercises     ity on the part of the user to develop      it is so important to take into account
must not be the typical weight training     programs that serve the needs of the        total system mass. This workout is best
exercises where the bar reaches zero        individual athletes relative to the power   performed in rep ranges from 8 to 15
velocity at the end of the movement.        demands of their sport.                     reps for 3 to 5 sets. Two times in a

                                                 TRACK COACH — 4631
seven-day microcycle is sufficient.          •    Triple Extension Throws Forward         base and an extensive weight training
     Elastic Equivalent—These work-               Use 3 to 5 sets of 6 to 8 repeti-      background in explosive movements in
outs consist of pairing of exercises        tions.                                       order to be able to handle the intensity
consisting of one heavy exercise in               Pendulum swings—This is an             of the work necessary to insure im-
the traditional weight training mode        exercise that technically does not fit        provement. It is probably best utilized
followed by an MPT exercise that al-        into the MPT mode of training but it         during the times of the training year
lows acceleration over the entire range     can achieve many of the same effects.        when you want to raise power to new
of the movement. Use no more than           Hang a heavy medicine ball on a rope         levels.
three pairs of exercises in a session       suspended from above. Swing the ball              The traditional approach would
and only two sessions a week for a          out creating a pendulum swing. As            be to put it at the end of a training
maximum of three weeks. This is very        the ball swings toward you catch the         program just before the most important
intense work of high nervous system         ball with either one or two hands and        competitions. That is acceptable. But
demand that has the potential to raise      immediately accelerate the ball back         it would probably be better to use it
explosive power to higher levels, but       out.                                         several times throughout the year in
if overused it can dull the nervous               Kettle Bells (Powerballs)—This         two- or three-week blocks to raise
system.                                     is a favorite of the Eastern European        explosive power.
                                            throwers. Kettle bells are essentially       Remember, this method is not a method
Examples would be:                          a large heavy metal ball with handles        that should be used with beginners; you
• Squat (4 - 6 @ 75 to 80%) & Jump          for gripping that enable the athlete to      must have a good base of training and
    Squat (10 to 12 reps)                   throw them. They are not currently           good proficiency in your sport before
• Bench Press (4 - 6 @ 75 to 80%)           available in the USA except in the           beginning this type of training.
    & Medicine Ball Chest Pass (10          form of throwing weights for track
    to 12 reps)
• Hang Power Clean (4 - 6 @ 75
                                            and filed.
                                                  Instead I use a powerball which is
    to 80%) & Stair Jumps with a            a plastic ball with a handle for throw-      1.   Baker, Dan. “Selecting the appropriate exer-
    weighted vest (10 to 12 reps)           ing that can be thrown on any surface             cises and loads for speed-strength develop-
                                                                                              ment.” Strength and Conditioning Coach, Vol. 3
     Use 4 to 6 reps on the weight          without damaging the surface. The                 #2 1995 pp.8-16.
exercises at about an intensity of 75       powerball varies in weight from two          2.   Baker, Dan. “Improving vertical jump perfor-
- 80% of max. Use 8 to 12 reps on           pounds up to 40 pounds. With these                mance through general, special and specific
                                                                                              strength training: a brief review.” Journal of
the elastic equivalent exercise.            balls it is possible to execute a clean or        Strength and Conditioning Research, Vol.10 #2
     Medicine Ball—To achieve the           a snatch movement and release the ball            May 1996 pp 131-136.
                                                                                         3.   Wilson, Greg J., Newton, Robert U., Murphy,
MPT training effect it is necessary to      to achieve maximal power production.              Aaron J. and Humphries, Brendan J. “The
use heavier medicine balls. If heavier      It is best to perform these exercises in          optimal training load for the development
                                                                                              of dynamic athletic performance.” Medicine
balls are not available it is possible to   the range of 6 to 8 repetitions for 3 to          And Science In Sports And Exercise Vol. 23 pp.
use weight plates thrown into a sand        5 sets.                                           1279-1286 1993.
or a foam pit.                                    To achieve optimum results from        4.   Wilson, Greg J. “Strength and power in sport,”
                                                                                              in Applied Anatomy And Biomechanics In Sport.
• Triple Extension Throws Back-             this method of training it is necessary           Blackwell Scientific Publications (1994), Carl-
    ward                                    to have a good overall general fitness             ton, Australia, pp. 110-208.

                                                 TRACK COACH — 4632

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