Introducing power training to young athletes

May 18, 2019


It's important to remember that the definition of strength is force X distance, while power, is defined as force X distance divided by time. The difference is the time element.  In other words, how fast force can be applied. The term speed strength is often used to describe power.

Developing Power Through Strength

Adhering to the Athleticism Pyramid, introduced in earlier blogs, I agree that strength, the foundation of the pyramid, is the one component of training that most affects the other areas.  Because of this reality, young athletes and beginners should first focus on simply and safely developing strength.

When an untrained individual becomes stronger, regarding relative strength, his power output as expressed with the vertical or long jump will increase, his speed expressed through short distance sprints and agility drill times will improve.  Positive things happen when the athlete can apply more force into the ground!

Introducing Higher Velocity Exercises to Beginners

The positive relationship between strength and power isn’t linear. As the athlete becomes a more accomplished strength trainer, he should also include training that has higher movement velocity in order to to continue to improve the ability to exert power.  When the tests used to evaluate power no longer show improvement from strength training alone, it’s time to introduce specific power training.

Previously, I talked about introducing lower level jumps and gradually progressing to entry level plyometric exercises (rebounding quickly between jumps.)

These movements seemed to be a more common component of childhood outdoor play activities in the past.  Hops, skips, and jump variations are present in tag games and less structured ball games such as dodge ball and backyard football.  Surely, introducing these movement skills in a more structured, supervised environment isn’t contradicted.

Teaching Olympic Lifts to Beginners

Before introducing Olympic lifting exercise variations, it’s possible to begin effective power training through the use of exercises most commonly associated with pure strength development like the press and squat variations.  These closed chain, free weight exercises when performed with less weight and with greater concentric speed, will result in increased power output in similar movement patterns.  You must emphasize safely moving the bar faster. As a coach, we should always want the athlete to move the bar faster regardless of resistance level.

The following methodology is my suggestion for effective power development implementation.  First, lighten the training load to 50-60% of the athlete’s one rep maximum of the exercise.  Second, reduce the number of training repetitions per set to a submaximal number, less than commonly prescribed.  Lastly, make the athlete pause and stop the movement at the bottom of the squat or press variation and then aggressively accelerate the bar up as fast as safely possible following the pause.

This method of submaximal, higher velocity training is best implemented on the second and third day of training similar movements during the training week.

Here are several methods of implementation in commonly used formats:
Note: 1RM = 1 Rep Maximum

4-Day Training Split – Undulating Periodization Model

Monday (Using Percentages of 1-Rep Maximum)

Heavy Back or Front Squat
Warm up — 6-8 reps
64% —5 reps
70%—5 reps
76%—5 reps
82%—5 reps


Interval Back or Front Squat
Warm up—6-8 reps
5 — 6 sets -3 reps 50-60% of 1RM – (Stop and Stab)
One minute rest between sets

4 –Day Training Split – Undulating Periodization Model

Tuesday (Using Percentages of 1RM)

Heavy Bench Press
Warm up- 6-8 reps
64% – 5 reps
70% – 5 reps
76% – 5 reps
82% – 5 reps


Interval Close Grip Bench or Incline
Warm up —6-8 reps
5-6 sets – 3 reps  50-60% of 1RM – (Stop and Stab)
One minute rest between sets

3 Day a Week Tier System Concept – Lower Body

Mon. (Using percentages of 1RM)

Undulating Periodization Model
Heavy Back or Front Squat
Warm up- 6-8 reps
64% – 5 reps
70% – 5 reps
76% – 5 reps
82% – 5 reps


Barbell or D’Bell
Box Step Ups or Lunge Variations
3 – 4 sets of 5-6 reps each leg


Interval Back / F. Squat
Warm Up —6-8 reps
5-6 sets of 3 reps – 50-60% of 1RM – (Stop and Stab)
One minute rest between sets

Three Day a Week Tier System Concept – Upper Body

(Undulating Periodization Model)
Using Percentages of 1RM


Interval Close Grip or Incline Bench
Warm up 6-8 reps
5-6 sets of 3 reps – 50-60% of 1RM – (Stop and Stab)
One minute rest between sets


D’ Bell Alternate Bench or D’ Bell Incline Bench
3-4 sets of 5-6 reps


Heavy Bench Press
Warm Up- 5-8 reps
64% –  5 reps
70% – 5 reps
76% – 5 reps
82% – 5 reps

Measuring Bar Speed

If you are fortunate to have measurement devices at your facility for measuring bar speed, like the Tendo Units offered by Sorinex, or the myriad of GPS devices adapted for this purpose, watch out!  Your program’s power training just became competitive among your athletes.  You may find your role shifting from encourager to referee!  Good luck!

Click here to read other articles from Mike Gentry on his website.


Mike Gentry is a former Associate Athletics Director for Athletic Performance who brings his expertise, innovation and leadership to build out and grow collegiate athletic programs, and he has created a website: High School Strength. From his early days at the University of North Carolina, East Carolina University, and, then, Virginia Tech, Gentry developed the strategies and tools that helped individual athletes realize and improve upon their performance. As Director of Strength and Conditioning for Athletics then Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Performance, he helped Virginia Tech build out their program by introducing the first Sports Psychologist and Sports Nutritionist programs.  Gentry is a National Hall of Fame Inductee, Coach of the Year and Master Coach. He was inducted into the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame in 2010.

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