Expressing Power or Developing Power

December 14 “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among rocks.” -Charlotte Bronte

A popular and somewhat sound argument for Olympic lifts (clean, jerk, snatch, etc.) is based on performing exercises that maximize power.

Using the following formula:

Work= Strength*Distance
Speed= Distance/ Time
Power=Strength * Speed
Thus Power= Strength* Distance/ Time= Work/ Time
This means that Athlete A who lifts an amount the same distance as Athlete B, only faster generates more power. The example shown by M. Arthur and B. Bailey in “Complete Conditioning for Football,” is


The above is exactly right but we believe it is incomplete. Arthur & Bailey’s example is actually defining what Ken Mannie, Strength and Conditioning Coach at Michigan State University, calls “Expressing Power”. It seems to me that athlete A is expressing power because he moves the load faster, however, he is not developing power.

Mannie tells us there is evidence to support developing power through slow to fast speeds as well as isometrically, so we cannot allow that speed is the sole factor in developing power. In order to develop power there is only one truth= Large loads must be used.

Mannie says it best, “The point we are making is that there is a clear distinction between developing power and expressing it. Expressions of power in the athletic setting, (hitting a baseball, jumping, sprinting, blocking, tackling, throwing a discuss, etc..), are the result of strength/power increases from the weight room coupled with the neuromuscular and cognitive components of skill development through quality practice.

Safety: An Important Factor

Coaches should provide a safe strength training program for their athletes. Many coaches forget about the safety factor in weight training. After all, one of our goals is to prevent injuries through strength training. I have witnessed many programs that use momentum lifts such as power cleans, snatch, power press and have always heard many complaints that their back or wrists are bothering them.

According to Dr. Ken Leistner “who has long [spoke out against] ballistic lifting [a.k.a. Olympic lifts] in training programs, points out that the inclusion of these movements in these strength programs may, in fact be the genesis of injuries incurred later in practice and games. As Dr. Leistner states, “…the continuous exposure to acceleration/deceleration forces present when doing cleans, snatches and jerks can produce tissue damage which literally is an accident waiting to happen.” In younger athletes, the risks of damage to the epiphyseal [the area on the end of the bone where growth takes place] is also a cause for concern, as complete ossification [cartilage turning into bone] may not take place until the late teens or older.”**

Even if a coach does not hear many athletes complain about injuries, do they ever stop to think about how the athletes back will feel 10-20 years from now? I know of many athletes that attribute momentum lifts to their back pain in later life. As coaches, we owe it to our athletes to provide a safe strength training program.

**Taken from “Explosive Weight Training” by Ken Mannie.

One Response to “Expressing Power or Developing Power”

  1. Ballistic Training – Stronger Athletes Says:

    […] Flanagan also concluded that other beneficial options include dumbbell jumps releasing them in mid air so the deceleration does not occur. That one really tops it off! Does having 30 athletes training in the weight room doing jumps with dumbells releasing them and bouncing on the floor all over the place sound safe? Besides, that exercise is still unproductive for strength and power development. [See Express vs. Developing Power.] […]


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