We Love Fitness

5 big-time power moves - part 1

You may be wondering, Why would anyone want to train solely for power? The answer lies in the research: Various studies in exercise science have shown that the more power you possess, the stronger you’ll be when it comes time to put some real weight on the bar, as power and strength go hand in hand. And the stronger you are for a one-rep max lift (1RM), typically the stronger you’ll be for an 8- or 10-rep max. This, of course, translates directly to muscle growth. That said, the following five exercises are the best in the business for maximizing muscular power, which will in turn boost strength and size. Now who said power training was counterintuitive?


Best Way to Do It: Set a flat bench in the middle of a Smith machine so that the bar lowers to your middle chest. Lie back, grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip and unhook the latches. Slowly lower the bar to your chest just as you would during a normal set of bench press. When the bar reaches your chest, explosively press it up so that you throw the bar up as high as possible, to the point that it actually leaves your hands at the top. Upon release, keep your arms extended with a slight bend in the elbows and catch the weight as it comes back down. Reset your hands so they’re even before doing the next rep.

Best Weight: 50%-80% of your 1-rep max (1RM) on bench press

Best Set/Rep Range: 3 sets, 3-5 reps

Best Time to Do It: As the first exercise in your chest workout

Why It’s the Best: When you do a normal bench press, you actually have to slow the bar down at the top, meaning you decrease the force you’re applying to the bar at the end of each rep, which is counterproductive for developing power. With the Smith machine power press, you don’t need to slow the bar down; it can leave your hands, thus allowing you to produce the most power possible.

[pagebreak] Best For Back: ONE-ARM SMITH MACHINE POWER ROW

Best Way to Do It: Place the bar at the very bottom of the Smith machine and stand sideways to it with your right foot 12–18 inches away to provide the bar plenty of clearance when you release it. Grasp the bar with your right hand, bend your knees slightly and keep your back flat. Using your back muscles, pull the weight up forcefully and let go of the bar as you pull your shoulder blade back. Let the weight fall to the start; it will be cushioned by the bumper springs. Repeat for reps, then switch arms.

Best Weight: 40%-60% of your estimated one-arm row 1RM

Best Set/Rep Range: 3 sets, 3-8 reps

Best Time to Do It: As the first exercise in your back workout

Why It’s the Best: Like the Smith machine power press for chest, this version of one-arm row prevents you from having to decrease force production at the top of each rep. Because you can let the bar go and it will be guided along the guide rods, you’re able to apply explosive power all the way through the range of motion. Regularly performing this explosive exercise will not only help you increase your strength on all rowing exercises, but you’ll never have to pull the start cord on any lawnmower more than once.

[pagebreak] Best For Delts: DUMBBELL OVERHEAD PUSH PRESS

Best Way to Do It: With your feet shoulder-width apart, clean a pair of dumbbells to shoulder height, palms facing forward; this is your start position. Take a deep breath and hold it, expanding your chest and raising your shoulders while contracting your abs and lower back to keep your trunk tight. Dip straight down, bending your knees until they bend to about 120º, then drive your body up with an explosive extension of the hips and knees, similar to a vertical jump. The drive should provide enough momentum to push the dumbbells almost to the top (arms extended) position. When the leg drive is complete, press the weight the rest of the way overhead using your shoulders and arms. Slowly lower the weight back to the start position.

Best Weight: 50%-80% of your estimated 1RM for overhead push press

Best Set/Rep Range: 3 sets, 3-5 reps

Best Time to Do It: As the first exercise in your shoulder workout

Why It’s the Best: Due to the assistance from the legs, the push press lets you drive up more weight than you’d be able to do with your shoulders and arms alone. Plus, the drive from the legs supplies momentum to speed up the dumbbells. Those two factors – weight and speed – are the two most critical for developing power.

[pagebreak] Best For Legs: JUMP SQUAT

Best Way to Do It: Hold a loaded barbell on the backs of your shoulders as you would for a set of regular squats. Slowly lower into a squat, keeping your chest out and back flat, until your thighs are about parallel to the floor, then explode up as fast as you can so that your feet leave the floor at the top of the motion. Land with soft knees (never land with your knees locked out), settle yourself, then go down into your next rep.

Best Weight: 40% of your 1RM on squats (or bodyweight only, no bar)

Best Set/Rep Range: 3 sets, 3-10 reps

Best Time to Do It: As the first exercise in your leg workout

Why It’s the Best: Because you leave the ground as you reach the top of the squat, you don’t need to slow down the weight at the top. This builds maximal lower body power and will also help you lift more on standard squats (not to mention other leg exercises) to enhance muscular strength and size.

[pagebreak] Best For Triceps: CLOSE-GRIP BENCH PRESS WITH CHAINS

Best Way to Do It: Perform these as you would normal close-grip bench presses – hands spaced just inside shoulder-width, elbows in tight to the body – with the difference being the chains added to either end of the barbell. We suggest you order the complete set of chains from a retailer such as elitefts.com, which comes with two 3/8” chains and two 5/8” chains. The 3/8” chain is used to wrap on the end of the bar and hold the 5/8” chain. One 3/8” chain (5 pounds) plus one 5/8” chain (20 pounds) weighs about 25 pounds. When setting up the chains on the bar, it’s crucial that the 5/8” chains be completely on the floor in the bottom position and halfway off the ground at the top.

Best Weight: Load the bar with a weight equal to 40%-70% of your estimated 1RM for close-grip bench press; the remaining resistance will come from the chains. Because only half of the 5/8” chains will be off of the floor in the top position, you’ll have about 30 pounds of additional chain weight in the top position.

Best Set/Rep Range: 3 sets, 3-8 reps

Best Time to Do It: As the first exercise in your triceps workout

Why It’s the Best: Using chains provides what’s known as linear variable resistance (LVR) – resistance that increases with the range of motion. This means the resistance gets progressively heavier the further up you press the bar, which necessitates the application of more force toward the top of the lift, thus limiting the slowing down at the top of an exercise that normally occurs to stop the weight.


 Articles & News
We Love Fitness - 2013