Power Up


Many current gurus provide sample speed/power plans that recommend volumes of speed/power elements that I find paltry for the majority of situations. I think a lot of this bias can be traced back to incomplete backgrounds heavily centered toward the force end of the force/velocity curve (weightroom centric strength and conditioning backgrounds, heavily powerlifting based backgrounds, etc..) If you’re used to nothing at all these volumes may be sufficient to induce some positive adaptations, but for well prepared speed/power athletes I find the volume of speed/power elements to be a very underrated quality.

The oft-repeated maxim of quality over quantity has validity, but you can only increase quality so much. Once you’re doing speed there’s not much faster you can go. Similar things can be said with plyos, olys etc.. Don’t get me wrong, a depth jump is generally more intense than a stiffness hop, but between the same or very similar elements small intensity manipulations, while crucial, can only be manipulated so much (in speed/power (example olys) I often favor more of something at high intensities vs less of something at max although both have their place).

Now at different points in a season and at different points in an athletes development, training plans change and volumes can be manipulated to allow for natural intensifications; but in times where physiological speed/power adaptations and meaningful changes in very absolute qualities are needed, I’ve consistently found that challenging volumes are necessary.

The problem then becomes how much is necessary, how much is enough, and how much is too much. I tend to like the maxim that more is more, but I’ve amended that a bit with as long as it makes you better for one of my overzealous athletes. Undershooting it is indeed better than grossly overdoing it into injury and maladaptation, but if you’re not challenging the body’s capacity for speed/power work and taxing it’s systems and structures why should they adapt.

To push adaptation you have to push the envelope a bit and where and how you make that push is important. Athletes that are functioning well and are efficient in there movements and patterns (can move well and are taught/do it right) can generally handle larger volumes, distributing the stress to the joints and tissues as it is intended for both better adaptations and less collateral damage. Having good sports medicine expands possibilities and expands feedback (enhancing the quality of joints/tissues and also observing how joints and tissues are responding); having an athlete who is healthy and has less sports medicine needs expands the athletes possibilities (invest in training and sports medicine to have well functioning athletes). Understanding the individual athlete is critical to know areas you can go for it and areas you have to tread carefully. Again, understanding the overlap and interplay between Biomotor Abilities is critical as creativity to stack or exclude elements that tax similar qualities expands the possibility for doing more without overloading too much on one system or joint. Balanced development specific to the athlete’s sport is important and well rounded programs produce more consistently, but in that framework I find better adaptations with larger volumes where needed and when you can.

Matt Gardner
As a track and field coach Matt has produced school record holders and state champions in the sprints, hurdles, jumps and middle distance events. He has coached athletes from a wide variety of sports including Professional Football, World Cup bobsleigh, Swimming, Track and Field, Olympic Weightlifting, Baseball, Tennis, and Golf. Matt has extensive experience consulting and collaborating with high level sports medicine professionals to help rehabilitate injured athletes and optimize the performances of healthy ones.