Have you ever hit a plateau in the gym and try as you may you never seem able to break through, or increase a certain lift or weight ? That’s when using full acceleration exercises can help you reach new personal bests and break through previous barriers.
Traditional gym exercises that are used to build strength (squats, deadlifts,bench press, push press) are normally carried out at a slow movement speed. Power equals the weight multiplied by the speed. If there is a heavy load on the bar, this slows the movement of the bar resulting in a low power output.
If the athlete decides to use a lighter weight to move the bar quicker, then this must be accompanied by a large deceleration phase in the latter half of the movement. This deceleration is needed in order to stop the muscles and tendons literally being torn of the bone at the end of the lift. If the bench press is used as an example - when lifting a 100 kg, most people would have to move the bar at a slowish controlled speed. If the weight was dropped to 40 kg , the bar can then fly up on the concentric/positive phase, but would have to seriously decelerate at the end range of the lift. Effectively then, you are training the body to decelerate and not accelerate. This is not what most athletes require to fulfill their roles in enhancing power output.
So if heavy weights don’t contribute to power, and lighter weights cause deceleration, what is the solution? The answer is to incorporate special resistance exercises, which include full acceleration and faster movement velocities. These type of exercises need to be added into strength programmes with the objective of increasing power output and acceleration.
Exercises for developing more power.
At this stage it may be worth noting that only after an athlete has a solid 4-5 year training age, and has a good general strength base, should they seek to enhance power-training methods. This will entail full acceleration exercises, which rely on high movement velocities to yeild high power outputs.
Choosing the initial exercises for developing power is fairly simple. In a way it is a throwback to the older more traditional ballistic exercises, such as med ball throws and jumps using only bodyweight as resistance.
These simple ballistic exercises are very effective in improving power in moderately experienced athletes. They are easy to learn from a technical point of view, and they lay the foundation for effective learning of the more difficult power exercises that follow.
As the athlete learns how to use his/her body in more explosive powerful manner, and their body adapts to the demands, the introduction of more power oriented exercises such as jump squats and bench throws can be safely introduced. Sports Science boffins tell us that a resistance of 30-45 % of your 1 rep max is optimum to get the real benefit of these exercises. The guide is that no more than 6 reps should be compleeted with 90 seconds recovery.
The table below lists types of “strength” exercises and “power” exercises. The simplest way to differentiate between the two is that if the exercise entails accleration throughout the entire range of movement, it is classified as a power exercise.
Squat Jump Squat
Bench Press Bench Throw
Push Up Power Push Up
Military Press Barbell Throw
Single arm Jammer Barbell Catch and Throw
Using Power Bands and Chains to Increase Power Output.
Most elite powerlifters use power bands or chains to provide variable resistance when they lift. The bands or chains are attached to the bar and the resistance increases during the exercise as the chains come off the floor or the bands stretch.
A simple example is the bench press, when the barbell is lowered to the chest, the chains are furled on the floor and only provide minimal resistance. As the barbell is lifted, the chains unfurl and steadily increase resistance throughout the range of motion. This is also the case for all other lifts such as deadlfts, squats, power shrugs etc. Using this method means a lighter resistance can be lifted explosively and the additional resistance the bands or chains provide allow the athlete to attempt to accelerate the bar throughout the lift (acceleration lasts longer into the range of motion and a higher force is generated late in the movement )
A research study in Australia showed that band and chain training increase bar velocity in almost any type of exercise. Inexercises such as squats, bench press and deadlifts, using a 17.5Kg chain draped over the bar increases the concentric/positive (pushing the weight) velocity by 10 % compared to normal protocols. The chains especially, increased the eccentric/negative (lowering the weight) velocity, due to the constant tension exerted on the bar from the links of the chain.
Chain and band training improves the lifting explosiveness by increasing the activity of the stretch-shortening cycle.The chains/ bands increase the velocity of the bar in both the concentric and eccentric phases of the lift, which causes increased stretching in the muscles being worked.
It is a great way to get more bang for your buck, and if you are looking to become more powerful to play rugby, then get onto the chain gang.