Strength and power are terms that we hear often in discussing muscle, fitness, bodybuilding, and sport performance.
So often, actually, that the meaning behind each has become blurry for weekend warriors, health enthusiasts, and even those whose employment lies within the fitness industry.
Let's take a closer look at each so that you will understand the differences and how this knowledge will help you define your fitness success.
Both strength and power are important elements in your overall health and function, and can be included appropriately into your training program to help ensure that you don't hit a fitness plateau.
Strength is one's ability to move a weight or resistance through a set range of motion. Let's use the example of a deadlift. We'll say that Weightlifter A (David Bohmiller J ) is going to perform a deadlift of 315 lbs. for 1 repetition. If, in fact, this is his 1RM (one rep max), then it is an example of maximal strength. The lifter's objective is going to be to lift that weight from the floor as fast as possible. That last part is the most important: as fast as possible.
You see, there is no exact way to know how long it is going to take to move the weight from the floor to the end point of the deadlift. It may take 3 seconds. It may take 5. It may even take 10 seconds. Whichever it ends up being, to complete the lift, it will have to be done as quickly as possible.
When we think about power, most people would say that there is still strength involved. That is true. However, the major difference between strength and power is the speed at which the exercise is performed. With power, as fast as possible, now becomes explosive.
An example of a power exercise is the Olympic lift; the clean. Much like the deadlift, the resistance to be lifted starts on the floor, but the finishing position of the bar is different. Rather than the endpoint of the lift being below hip level, in the end position of the clean, we find the bar at shoulder height.
Let's say for a moment that we attempt to use the same weight for our clean (our 1RM) that we used for the deadlift. As an extreme, if it took us 10 seconds to lift that weight to just about hip level and now we have to continue to move it closer to shoulder height, well, the length of time that would take doesn't seem very explosive, does it?
In order to complete the clean effectively, the lifter must decrease the resistance, use correct technique, and make the movement explosive.
Here's another way to look at it. Think about the heaviest weight you've used for your one rep maximum. Whatever that weight is, could you bring it to your chest and then throw the bar up in the air? Probably not, right? (P.S. please don't try this at home or in your gym!)
So, before we move on, let's be sure we understand the difference. Strength is demonstrated by moving a resistance through a range of motion as fast as possible (even though it may take 5-10 seconds or more). Power is demonstrated by lifting a resistance through a specific range of motion at an explosive speed.
Here's why incorporating each of these techniques into your training is important. We've all heard of plateaus, where the results that we had been seeing begin to stall or stop completely. In order to break through those plateaus, we often experiment with several variables: the load, number of sets, number of repetition, rest periods, and more.
In my years of personal training experience, most people that workout on their own move through stages of strength training for endurance, size (hypertrophy), and strength. For some, they have been using the same program for so long, that only slight changes are necessary to break through that plateau.
If you are an intermediate or advanced lifter, however, you may be robbing yourself of advances in your training and results if you are not incorporating a power component into your periodization.
Another important item to note about power training is that the exercise selection is not limited to the lower body. There are literally hundreds of effective exercises that can be employed for upper body power training, lower body power training, total body power training, and core power training.
If you have never dabbled in power training, it is safe for men and women of all ages, as long as you:
Have been cleared by your doctor to engage in resistance training
Have a good foundation built through endurance, size, and strength training
And, employ proper technique for these exercises that may be new to you
If you are unsure of your form or technique, it is advisable to consult with a fitness professional to go through a complete evaluation of your fitness level and your specific needs.
About the Author:
David "Boh" Bohmiller holds a Bachelor's degree in Physical Education-Exercise Science from Bridgewater State College and is NSCA-CSCS certified. He is the owner of "My Personal Trainer School" headquartered near Boston , MA .
Boh spends his days writing, performing health seminars, Personal & Group Training, consulting with athletic teams, and mentoring those new to the fitness profession. To find out more about how Boh may be able to help you, visit him at My Personal Trainer School .
Drawing upon his experiences as a Master Personal Trainer, Fitness Manager, and Faculty Instructor, Boh has authored the e-book Personal Trainer Course: Complete Sales Strategies, a top resource for fitness professionals looking to increase the profitability of their personal training business.
As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.
Home > Tools and Resources HQ > Articles > Muscle Articles