PT on the Net Research

Power Walking


I’m putting together a periodized program for a client who wants to power walk. How do you go about building speed and endurance?


Periodized training programs help build speed, strength and duration faster than other types of training in athletes, including power walkers. Periodization involves adjusting one or more of the following: the exercises, the number of sets and repetitions (volume), the amount of resistance and time under tension for the muscles or the rest time between sets (intensity) and the number of workouts performed in a given week (frequency). Research has consistently shown that regularly modifying these principles will result in superior and quicker gains for individuals than following a usual routine in the gym.

Periodization works effectively by safely introducing stress to the body to which it is unaccustomed. It also helps prevent overtraining and helps the neuromuscular system recover quicker since the routine is changed at the point of adaptation. An intriguing aspect about periodization is that daily changes to a routine result in greater strength gains than traditional periodized training in which changes would be made every four weeks. Strength development is just as important as increasing speed and duration for power walkers. If one increases his or her fatigue resistance in the legs, than he or she can sustain higher intensity efforts longer and therefore increase VO2Max.

One other note about increasing power walking performance is to first ensure that optimal technique and efficiency is being used before you focus on strength. This is a technique called skill-strength periodization that the Russians first employed successfully in training their Olympic athletes. After proper technique is mastered (such as walking tall and not bending forward at the waist), developing specific strength as it relates to power walking will be achieved easier.

The starting training point for an individual and the rate of progression for him or her depends on the current fitness level of the individual and the length of the event for which the person is training. I have listed a sample training schedule and strength workout that helps develop power walking-specific strength. This will result in increased exercise economy and increased VO2 max. This emphasis periodization routine was developed in part by Russian exercise scientist Yori V Verhoshansky. Length and intensity of the workout should be adapted to your client’s individual fitness level.

Strength Specific Workout

  1. 10 to 15 minute light walking
  2. 400 meter power walk at five kilometer race pace
  3. Five strength exercises – six squat jumps, four pull ups (assisted by trainer or pull up machine if needed), 12 crunches, 10 push ups, 20 body squats
  4. Repeat 400 meter power walk interval
  5. Repeat strength exercises
  6. Repeat power walk interval
  7. 10 to 15 minute cool down walk

Include three minutes of easy recovery walks after the strength exercises if needed and gradually reduce this as the client’s exercise capacity increases. Increase the power walk intervals 200 meters at a time and add more times through the circuit as tolerated to keep challenging the body. Research has shown that the biggest gains in this type of training occur in weeks three to four and taper off after the fifth week. Include a lighter training week every six weeks or so for muscle recovery.