Strength versus Power

Difference Between Strength and Power, and Does Power Training Have to be Explosive?

 I asked several training-related questions in our online communities without engaging much in the responses. It’s interesting and I truly learn from different responses as they show you different thought patterns and different ways of explaining things. Below is my attempt at explaining the difference between strength and power, and power and explosiveness. I have listed some of the interesting responses from the public further below.

 

Force is energy exerted. Moving a large mass with a low change in its velocity (acceleration) versus a small mass with a high change in its velocity can both imply high force.
Strength is the capacity for exertion.  To exert is to put forth. Muscles contract to create force. Muscles move the body.
Power = Work ÷ Time. Work = Force x Distance. Power = (Force x Distance) ÷ Time.

Low power. High power. Maximum power. All are power.

 

When pressing a 32kg kettlebell overhead in 1.2 seconds, which is a distance of approximately 40 inches, versus the same weight pressed overhead in 2 seconds is higher power versus lower power. The first rep is more power than the second rep. See the calculation at the bottom of the page.

When hang cleaning 24kg versus dead cleaning 24kg and both would take the same time, the dead clean would be more power as it would travel a greater distance. See the calculation at the bottom of the page.

When snatching a 24kg kettlebell and the kettlebell enters its ballistic flight just before hip versus chest height is a more explosive snatch versus a less explosive snatch.

 

Power Exercises

We generally associate exercises like the kettlebell clean, jerk, and snatch with power exercises as these are the exercises performed at the higher end of the power spectrum. These exercises must be performed at the higher end, they simply can’t be performed with low power as they would not enter the ballistic flight. A ballistic flight is required for the clean and snatch as without it the all-important grip transition can’t take place. The ballistic flight is where the kettlebell is powered and then keeps moving unpowered for a certain distance.

There are exercises more suited to develop explosive power but it comes down to the athlete in using them explosively, in other words, you can snatch and not build explosive power.

This is a good time to talk about my favorite explosive power kettlebell exercise, the Dead Snatch! Ok, if we go outside the boundaries of what most consider acceptable or normal, then there is the Dead Release Snatch as shown here.  With this variation, you can keep pulling and don’t have to worry about holding back on force generation. Whereas with the Dead Snatch, you need to get the force generation right to be able to catch the weight. With the Dead Release Snatch you don’t need to worry about that.

 

 

Power can involve explosiveness but is not required for it to be power. If we rely on momentum then force doesn’t play a big part, and force is part of power. Momentum is the tendency of the kettlebell to keep going in the same direction with the same speed. This depends on mass and velocity. Velocity, in our case, is a measure of the speed and direction of the kettlebell. Because that kettlebell is swung through the legs (backswing), hangs from a fixed point (shoulder) it will swing back out (upswing), and momentum will increase. This is known as the kettlebell pendulum swing and is used in kettlebell sport to reduce the amount of effort required to move the kettlebell(s).

An example of explosiveness would be where the kettlebell comes through the legs, reaches the end, and is then pulled back out as fast as possible, i.e. with maximum force in minimum time (Hardstyle). If we compare the two examples, in the first example the weight is mostly controlled by its environment, and in the second example, the weight is pulled out by force. With the second example, the pull can lack explosiveness but still be a pull, i.e. the movement is powered by force. A list of kettlebell power exercises can be found at the end of this article.

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Power Training

When training for power one trains to increase their speed with moderate load. Speed reduces time over the same distance, and with the same load a reduced time increases power. Strength is a component of power but not at the same load as one would use for strength training. Using the same weight that’s used for 1RM, or even close that, would result in the speed component being drastically reduced to the minimum. To improve power, both the force and velocity components must be improved.

 

Strength Training

When training for strength one trains to increase their 1RM and the speed of lifting does not matter. To improve strength, the force component must be improved.

 

Explosive Training

When training for explosiveness one trains to increase the rate of force development to allow maximum force to be developed earlier. If we take an explosion as an example, it’s a violent burst as a result of internal pressure. It’s quick and the fast action happens at the start. Power is about increasing the overall speed, and explosive is about increasing the rate at which that speed is created.

 

Endurance

Endurance is the ability to sustain activity without stopping. The objective of endurance training is to increase the duration to be able to sustain activity without stopping by increasing muscular and cardiovascular endurance. Power or explosive power training is not the most effective method to increase these components, in fact, it’s the opposite. Of course, there is an endurance component that comes into play even if training with the right load, reps, and sets for power or explosive training. Think of endurance as submaximal and power or explosive training as maximal.

 

In terms of progression, one first works to develop a base of strength and then power.

 

 

 

Following are the expressions and opinions of external sources, they don’t necessarily represent the views of Cavemantraining.

 

YOUR opinion: What is the difference between strength and power?

Power is physics.
Force = mass × acceleration
Power is literally maximizing the force-velocity curve through performance.
Strength is being able to apply force to a mass. —Alex Maklary

 

Power = strength divided by time. The fastest you can apply strength the bigger the power
Deadlift or back squat is strength.
Clean, snatch, jump is power —Bogdan Savu

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Strength is how much force you can apply and power is how quickly you can apply it. —Nikolai Puchlov

 

Strength is one unit of measurement. Power is strength combined with speed. —Jan Charles Mittemeyer

 

Strength refers to the body’s ability to overcome resistance. Power also refers to the body’s ability to overcome resistance, but it also looks at how fast the load is moving. —Marian Cowan

 

Our muscle fibers are like light switches. At first, we need to train to get the ability to “turn them all on”. Once we can get all switches working we can now train to change them from slide switches (slowly making the room brighter) to a flick of the switch (maximum brightness with one click)…aka power.
This is why, IMO, until you have laid the foundation of strength and take time to truly reach a max on any given lift, power or explosive training ain’t doing it for you. —Kiel Holman

 

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YOUR opinion: Does power have to be explosive?

 

I don’t think so. The best way I can express my opinion is to use the following analogy… A race car and a large tow truck are both very powerful. Just in different ways for different purposes. —Elvin Kubicki

 

YOUR opinion: aesthetically pleasing muscle mass is responsible for more amazing physical abilities?

Not particularly, flexibility is responsible for amazing physical abilities. Muscle mass and low body fat are an indication of someone’s dedication to training and diet. Having the mental strength the train and eat correctly is equally as impressive as any physical feat. —Alex Murrells

 

Aesthetically pleasing muscle mass is a possible consequence of the amazing physical abilities, but also of diet, sleep among other factors. —Johan Vrolix

 

This isn’t a black or white situation. Amazing physical abilities are pretty general. I’m leaving bodybuilding out because that is mostly something that is focused only on aesthetics. However, when you talk about incredible athletes in sports such as football, basketball, American football skill positions, etc a big majority have bodies with muscle mass that would be considered aesthetically pleasing by most. However when you talk about things such as strong man, NFL lineman, and even something like Marathons, etc, many times the best have shapes that would not be considered typically pleasing to a lot of people. Then when you look at something like Girevoy Sport you definitely have a mix. Some of the best have that classic look while others do not. —Dave Carrier

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Power Calculations

Power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the International System of Units, the unit of power is the watt. Reference https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_(physics)

The hang clean versus the dead clean.

Hang clean

(m) Mass of Object — 24kg
(h) Height lifted from the earth — starts at 20cm and ends at 130cm 130-20=110cm
(t) Time to lift to the height — 1second (for simplicity)

W259

Dead clean

(m) Mass of Object — 24kg
(h) Height lifted from the earth — starts at 0cm and ends at 130cm 0-130=130cm
(t) Time to lift to the height — 1second (for simplicity)

W306

306 is more than 259 so the dead clean was more power. If the dead clean would have taken 1.5 seconds to lift then the outcome would be W204 which would be less power than the hang clean.

 

The faster versus the slower overhead press.

Faster overhead press

(m) Mass of Object — 32kg
(h) Height lifted from the earth — starts at 130cm and ends at 240cm 240-130=110cm
(t) Time to lift to the height — 1.2 seconds

W288

Slower overhead press

(m) Mass of Object — 32kg
(h) Height lifted from the earth — starts at 130cm and ends at 240cm 240-130=110cm
(t) Time to lift to the height — 2 seconds

W173

288 is more than 173 so the faster overhead press was more power.

 

Reduce the TIME and you INCREASE the POWER.

 

Kettlebell Power Exercises

Here is a list of some popular kettlebell power exercises.

  1. Dead Release Snatch
  2. Dead Snatch
  3. Dead Clean
  4. Hang Clean
  5. Hardstye Snatch
  6. Hardstyle Swing
  7. Jerk
  8. Squat Thruster
  9. Push Press

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