Power vs. Strength
You’ve undoubtedly heard two popular terms in the weight training sphere: power and strength.
For example, “Do this exercise to improve your strength and power.”
But what do the two terms mean? Are they even different? If so, which one should we focus on?
What is Strength?
Strength refers to our capacity to produce force. For example, if you could lie on a bench and press 120 kilos, that would be an example of strength, even if it takes you a long time to complete the repetition.
Powerlifting is a prominent example of a sport where raw strength is the primary thing that matters. The goal is to lift as much weight as possible, regardless of how long it takes you to do a repetition. You might need ten seconds to get up from the bottom of a squat. So long as you do that, your lift will be successful.
What is Power (And How It Differs)?
Like strength, power is a measure of force production, but it also takes speed into account. Unlike strength, power measures how quickly you can produce force to do an activity or overcome resistance. In other words, strength plus speed equals power.
For example, having a good vertical jump is one example of power. You have to produce force quickly to accelerate yourself and jump high.
In weight training, power refers to your ability to lift a weight (or your body) quickly and explosively. Power training, also known as dynamic effort training, involves lifting lighter weights for a handful of reps as explosively as you can.
Power or Strength: Which Is More Beneficial?
The short answer? Both are essential.
As discussed above, strength refers to your maximum force output detached from time. The stronger you are, the more weight you can lift and the better you can perform in sports like basketball, football, and volleyball. For example, having a strong upper body would make it easier to throw a ball farther. Strength is also beneficial for rugby players, given the sport’s need for dominance over the competition.
But despite the importance of strength, power might be even more critical. The reason is, most sports require short bursts of intense activity. Dashing, throwing or kicking a ball, and tackling an opponent are just three of the many activities involved in sports. The more power an athlete has, the better they’ll be at each of these activities. For example, accelerating depends on lower body power.
Still, none of this means strength is of lesser importance. According to research, maximum strength is heavily related to power, so developing it is essential. The idea makes sense because we can first build strength, then learn how to produce force more quickly.
The Bottom Line
Strength and power have many overlapping characteristics, and both play an important role in our overall athletic ability. Which one you choose to prioritise will depend on your goals and training style.
For example, if you’re an average person looking to get fit and lift a bit more weight, you could do so with little to no power training. In contrast, if you’re an athlete and your sport involves many bursts of intense activity, you will need to do power-specific training.