Developing maximal neuromuscular power: Part 2 training considerations for improving maximal power production
Adis int Ltd
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
ECU Health and Wellness Institute
This series of reviews focuses on the most important neuromuscular function in many sport performances: the ability to generate maximal muscular power. Part 1, published in an earlier issue of Sports Medicine, focused on the factors that affect maximal power production while part 2 explores the practical application of these findings by reviewing the scientific literature relevant to the development of training programmes that most effectively enhance maximal power production. The ability to generate maximal power during complex motor skills is of paramount importance to successful athletic performance across many sports. A crucial issue faced by scientists and coaches is the development of effective and efficient training programmes that improve maximal power production in dynamic, multi-joint movements. Such training is referred to as 'power training' for the purposes of this review. Although further research is required in order to gain a deeper understanding of the optimal training techniques for maximizing power in complex, sports-specific movements and the precise mechanisms underlying adaptation, several key conclusions can be drawn from this review. First, a fundamental relationship exists between strength and power, which dictates that an individual cannot possess a high level of power without first being relatively strong. Thus, enhancing and maintaining maximal strength is essential when considering the long-term development of power. Second, consideration of movement pattern, load and velocity specificity is essential when designing power training programmes. Ballistic, plyometric and weightlifting exercises can be used effectively as primary exercises within a power training programme that enhances maximal power. The loads applied to these exercises will depend on the specific requirements of each particular sport and the type of movement being trained. The use of ballistic exercises with loads ranging from 0% to 50% of one-repetition maximum (1RM) and/or weightlifting exercises performed with loads ranging from 50% to 90% of 1RM appears to be the most potent loading stimulus for improving maximal power in complex movements. Furthermore, plyometric exercises should involve stretch rates as well as stretch loads that are similar to those encountered in each specific sport and involve little to no external resistance. These loading conditions allow for superior transfer to performance because they require similar movement velocities to those typically encountered in sport. Third, it is vital to consider the individual athlete's window of adaptation (i.e. the magnitude of potential for improvement) for each neuromuscular factor contributing to maximal power production when developing an effective and efficient power training programme. A training programme that focuses on the least developed factor contributing to maximal power will prompt the greatest neuromuscular adaptations and therefore result in superior performance improvements for that individual. Finally, a key consideration for the long-term development of an athlete's maximal power production capacity is the need for an integration of numerous power training techniques. This integration allows for variation within power meso-/micro-cycles while still maintaining specificity, which is theorized to lead to the greatest long-term improvement in maximal power.