For some odd reason, there is a perception that once a person becomes an adult, speed and power training are no longer a necessary part of their training program. Yet, many of these people perform activities and sports that require a great deal of speed and power!
I guess it comes down to the nature of the beast. Once people reach middle age or older, it is assumed they have much higher risks of injury and fragility, therefore any form of exercise that can exacerbate this potential is unwarranted.
Well, obviously this form of thinking has many flaws. First, not all speed and power training is geared to be 100 percent effort with high risk exercises. Second, just because someone is older doesn’t mean they don’t have the ability or the need to perform such speed and power exercises. I personally would say that if you don’t include some form of speed and power training with every capable client, you are not fully allowing them to reach their physical potentials.
Let’s take a look at the huge benefits of speed and power training. When individuals perform exercises at a high intensity that requires their anaerobic system to be the primary source of energy, many good things happen: the cardio-respiratory system must adapt and eventually become stronger, the musculature system must adapt to higher demands and the hormonal system will release high levels of HGH for quite some time (two to four hours) even after exercise is finished. The higher release of HGH gives some wonderful benefits to your body such as a more muscle, younger looking skin and greater energy, to name a few.
When I speak of speed and power training, I think this immediately conjures up images of high intensity weight lifting and super hard football practices. Obviously, this is not what I am referring to when I speak of speed and power training for the masses.
Exercises such as throwing a medicine ball require power. There are numerous ways to throw a medicine ball that are safe yet invite the fast twitch muscle fibers to be responsive. How about running, riding a bike or swimming hard for roughly 10 to 30 seconds? This is a form of speed training. Obviously, there needs to be a lead up time with clients who may be out of shape and not ready to push at higher levels (85 to 95 percent) of intensity. But as you can see, virtually any form of exercise can be used to increase speed and power and, more importantly, get the benefits that speed and power training has to offer.
What exactly are the benefits of power training for the average adult? When people are able to quickly apply force with the extremities or torso, they are able to perform many household, sport-related or injury preventing actions with greater results. For example, you might be working with a client who loves to play tennis. The tennis serve, ground strokes and footwork all require certain levels of power. If this client was only trained at a slow tempo during his or her workouts, the results would not be as beneficial as if they were to have been doing higher speed training like medicine ball throws of quick rotations with tubing or cables.
Let's step out of the sporting arena for a moment and look at a housewife rearranging furniture in the house. There are going to be times when pushing a heavy piece of furniture or lifting a heavy object will require some power (moving the object with greater speeds). By training this client how to use her legs and back properly while performing exercises at the gym with greater speed, this can be transferred into the home rather nicely.
Speed training can be easily misunderstood as well. Speed training does not require the client to only perform running exercises on a track, although that is a great way to get the benefits of anaerobic training. It could be riding a bike, swimming, walking fast up a hill or rowing. The goal with speed training is to get the body into the anaerobic state in which oxygen debt will occur. When this occurs, there are some great benefits to the body caused by the release of HGH. HGH is a hormone that has been linked to youthfulness and energy. Many people are paying tons of money to have injections of this hormone to gain its youthful anti-aging benefits, when really all they need to do is let the body produce more of it for them!
How do we get the body to produce more HGH? As mentioned above, there are many exercises that can be performed. It isn’t the exercise that is the key element. The key element is the intensity of the exercise.
In his book Ready, Set, Go, Phil Campbell outlined the important benchmarks that must be reached to gain the remarkable benefits of HGH release. The first benchmark is that there must be a state of oxygen debt. This occurs when the intensity is high and causes the body to not recover quickly enough with simply using oxygen. This state of oxygen debt must force the body to supply oxygen to the blood with rapid breathing. During this state, the release of HGH is generated.
The next benchmark is the muscle burn effect. When this occurs, there is a build up of lactic acid and HGH is released. Having the body temperature increased is the third benchmark for the release of HGH. Simply getting the body to raise its temperature enough to get a sweat going is a sign that the body temperature has increased.
Finally, the Adrenal Response is a benchmark that has been shown to help the release of HGH. The client must become out of breath. There is a release of adrenaline that occurs during high stress that is used to normalize blood circulation.
There are other factors that will play a role in the release of HGH, but the above mentioned benchmarks are important if HGH is going to be released at higher levels during exercise.
The value of speed training is more than just becoming faster. Many years ago, when I was working with groups of adult athletes, I was using this form of training in their daily workouts. It was physically obvious to them and to me how their bodies changed and their energy levels increased. Also, it doesn’t take a long time to do a higher intense anaerobic workout. It is important to progress clients to this form of higher intensity training. A complete physical by a qualified professional should occur beforehand.
Exercises and Equipment for Group Speed and Power Training
- Medicine Ball Standing Chest Pass - Simply pass the ball back and forth with a partner. It is advisable to let the ball bounce so the potential for injury is reduced to the hand and fingers.
- Medicine Ball Side Push Pass - The partners will stand sideways to each other and pass the ball by rotating the hips and upper body to push the ball to the each other. Similar to a ground stroke, golf swing, batting action.
- Medicine Ball Overhead Throw - Perform this exercise under a high ceiling or outdoors. The client gets in a good squat position with the ball between the knees and then explosively throws the ball above the head with a good body extension.
- Tubing/Cable Rotation - The client will assume a good athletic stance with the tubing or cable handle in both hands. They will quickly rotate the body and arms to one side and slowly return it to the start. Once again, this action is like a batting or tennis action.
- Fast Lifting - Power training can be performed with dumbbells, body weight, barbells, Kettlebells or any other piece of equipment. The key is to use good form and perform the exercise at high speeds.
- Track Sprinting - Simply run around a track, performing 10 to 30 second sprints from 75-95 percent effort.
- Stationary or Road Bikes - Following the same time frame and intensities as above.
- Swimming - This can be done by actually performing swimming strokes or doing running, jumping or twisting exercises in the water for the 10-30 second time frames.
- Hill Walking - Simply walking up a steep hill at a fast pace will greatly increase the intensity of the workout.
- Ladder Drills - Using a quick foot ladder to perform intervals is a great way to get the intensity levels up. It also improves coordination and body awareness.
- Rowing - This can be actual boat rowing or machine rowing.
- X-country skiing - This is a great way to get intensity levels up.
- Roller Blading - Can be used just a like sprinting.
As with any exercise program, it is important to evaluate your clients' goals prior to beginning. Also, there may be postural issues, weaknesses and/or imbalances that must be corrected. Nutritional considerations are vital to gain the benefits of a proper exercise program, especially in this instance when poor nutrition can hinder the results of HGH release. Once these issues are addressed, you will quickly see the results that can be realized from a properly executed speed and power training workout!
- Campbell. Phil., Ready, Set, Go! Pristine Publishers, 2003. Pg 42-44