Join Date: Aug 2009
Reasons to power train.
The difference between strength & power is the ability to generate force production in a single moment. Strength can be described as how much weight you can move, power can be described as how fast you can move it. You can be strong as hell, but slow as an Ox. Bruce Lee was a good example of power. Power is primarily velocity based.
MOTOR UNIT COORDINATION
The presence of muscle mass, does not necessarily correlate with the amount of power you can produce, though it is indicative of how much strength you have. What primarily discriminates one from the other are MOTOR UNITS. Your muscle fibers are lined with motor units. Motor units innervate multiple muscle fibers, meaning, one motor unit could be responsible for stimulating 1 muscle fiber or it could control 100 or 1000 muscle fibers. When your muscles contract, like for a bench press, your motor units will begin to recruit muscle fibers for stimulation, however, not all of your motor units fire at the same time. Think about a downtown turning their lights on at dawn, one here, one there, five six there, twelve fifteen there until the entire city has it’s lights on or full muscle contraction. That is how strength is expressed. Power is expressed, when all the motor units fire in coordination at one time, so all the city lights come on at the exact same moment. Therefore, someone with less muscle, but greater motor unit coordination, could generate more power, then someone with more muscle, but lesser motor unit coordination.
GREATER RECRUITMENT OF MUSCLE FIBERS PER MOTOR UNIT.
As discussed, you can train your body to fire all their motor units synchronously, but furthermore, you can also train your motor units to recruit more muscle fiber per contraction. For instance, rather then one motor unit stimulating 100 muscle fibers per contraction, it may stimulate 500-1000 muscle fibers per contraction.
RELAXING OF THE GOLGI TENDON ORGAN.
Your muscles are also lined with golgi tendon organs, they are an autonomic function. When you throw a punch forward, in an automatic reaction, opposing muscles will contract by reflex (though you don’t feel it) and it does that as an inherent protection mechanism. When you throw out a strike at high speeds, your body does not know you intend to stop the strike at a certain point, so it’s natural reflex is to stimulate the golgi tendon organ, which will begin deactivate the muscles slight, so that you don’t throw your shoulders out of socket.
When you flex your biceps, your triceps contract. When you flex your abs, your lower back contracts. Your body is full of co-contractions. It is very difficult to flex an anterior muscle without flexing it’s opposing posterior muscle. Anything you do moving forward at high speeds, you have the golgi tendon organ performing a manual shut down to a small extent and you have co-contraction occurring which pulls you back, if you’re moving forward. Power training teaches your golgi tendon organ to relax “more,” during high velocity situations, as well as decreasing co-contraction.
INCREASED NEURON FIRING
In power training, because the movements are high velocity, placing that demand on your body for sudden movement will create the adaption of your neurons finding or creating a shorter path to the working muscle. Meaning, the message from your brain, down your spinal cord and to the working muscle takes a short amount of time. Though any improvements with reaction time are minute, it’s those minute moments, like shooting faster, sprawling quicker, ducking & dodging, countering just a bit sooner then the opponent that has great implications.
LARGER MITOCHONDRIA, THEREFORE, GREATER ADENOSINETRIPHOSPHATE PRODUCTION
On a molecular level. High burst intensity (and strength training as well) causes you to create larger mitochondria (endurance exercises cause you to create more voluminous mitochondria). Mitochondria produces adenosinetriphosphates and large Mitochondria produces larger amounts of ATP at one time. ATP is burst energy currency (ADP and AMP or low intensity energy currency).
- Coordinated Motor Unit Firing.
- Increased Muscle Fiber Recruitment by Motor Units per contraction.
- Relaxation of the Golgi Tendon Organ
- Decreased Co-Contraction.
- Increased Neuron Firing.
- Larger Mitochondria/Greater ATP prodcution.
All these elements have an effect on your ability to generate power & velocity.
All these adaptions will happen to an extend with normal sparring. Punching, kicking, sprawling, shooting are all power movements, but eventually, your body stops making improvements in this area, because the body only adapts to “new stress.” Punching no longer becomes a “new stress” after a very short time, especially for something as strong as your core/hips. I’m a big fan of putting my athletes through power training. Hope this helped.
CERTIFIED STRENGTH & CONDITIONING COACH - NSCA CSCS