Power can be defined as the ability to exert maximal force as quickly as possible. In sports such as ice hockey, baseball and golf rotational power is a prime attribute for an athlete. How an athlete develops the power, how efficiently they develop the power, how much power is developed and how the power is controlled and decelerated all play factors on performance as well as prevention of injuries. Improving power is nothing new in the training world, but how we do it has vastly changed over the years. Olympic lifting has been proven to develop power and has been around forever, but is it the best thing for all athletes and all stages of their development? What are the goals of the training program and is the program devised to meet those goals?
A big problem I find today in sports performance training is that Coaches see these cool looking exercises that are difficult and just throw them into a program. Does the athlete have the stability and strength to perform the exercise correctly? Does the exercise relate to the sport they are trying to improve in? These are all questions that must be deciphered prior to utilizing an exercise. Renowned Strength Coach, Mike Boyle states “The ability to resist or to prevent rotation may in fact be more important than the ability to create it. Clients or athletes must be able to prevent rotation before we should allow them to produce it.” He makes a valid point here. Can an athlete control the motion we are asking them to? In my opinion, this is where your program should begin. I suggest using exercises such as planks while lifting an arm or leg, chops with either a medicine ball or with a band or pulley system. These exercises will create a rotational force and the athlete must maintain a proper and stable position.
Once the athlete shows rotational stability in a neutral position, they must be able to perform exercises with trunk rotation that is controlled. This not only includes core stability, but also the stability that is provided by the hips and legs. Rotational force is produced from the ground up from the feet through the trunk and out the hands. Think of someone whipping a towel. The force begins where the person holds the towel and is transmitted through the length of the towel until it snaps at the end (occasionally stinging a friend at the other end!). Watch a power hitter in baseball or a hockey player with a great slap shot and look how they begin their motion with their legs and end with the bat driving the ball or the puck exploding off the stick. The most powerful athletes are not always the strongest, but the ones that can create the most power through an efficient and stable motion.
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Chris Phillips is a certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He has spent over 20 years in professional sports including the National Hockey League, Arena Football and Men’s and Women’s Professional Soccer. Chris currently owns Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Orange County, CA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through their website, www.competesportsperformance.com.