Strength Development - part 1
Developing your strength takes time and effort, so make sure you are maximising the return you get from your investment. In this series of posts, we will look at what exactly we mean by ‘strength’, how to develop it and some of the science behind it.
Strength is a multifaceted thing and is often broken down into sub category’s, each with their own performance characteristics, methods of training and applications to sports performance. Here are some of the most common you will see –
Maximal Strength – As the name suggests, is the maximum force you can produce for a single repetition and is often tested using 1 repetition maximum (RM) testing.
Strength Endurance – Strength endurance is a specific type of strength that allows you to perform multiple repetitions at a submaximal load over a longer period of time. This could be tested using something like a 20RM test or performing a maximum number of reps in a given time frame.
Reactive Strength – Reactive strength is a measure of how well the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) functions. It shows your ability to change quickly from an eccentric to a concentric contraction and your ability to develop maximal forces in minimal time.
It is important not to confuse strength with power. Strength is force, whereas power = Force x Speed. When we talk about strength development we are focusing on developing force, and depending on the athlete and the test, this may or may not be the area of weakness. If we are talking about improving an athletes 1RM Back Squat or Deadlift, then yes, improving force production will lead to an improvement in the lift. But, if we are talking about improving an athletes 1RM Snatch or Clean and Jerk then we may also need to develop the lifters power production, which requires a slightly different approach.
When deciding whether it is purely strength, power, or a combination of the two that needs developing we need to look at each athlete on a case by case basis. In an ideal world we would be able to bring them in and run a range of tests using force plates and Linear Position Transducers (LPTs) such as a GymAware, to construct a graph showing their force velocity curve. This would show use their greatest are of weakness and allow us to focus their training in that direction. However in a lot of cases this isn’t possible. Instead we can use gym based tests such as 1RM’s, jump tests and video analysis to create a picture of which area of an athlete needs to develop to meet the goal of the training period.
Initially we will take a look at how to develop an athlete’s maximal force. Before moving on to look at methods of power development.