What is Power and have You got some?


This blog has been on my ‘to do list’ for a long time but having just got back from the UKSCA Conference I have been inspired to finally write it!


So if you haven’t read up much on the APA training philosophy here’s a little background.  We are all about developing complete athleticism which includes Suppleness, Skill, Speed, Strength and Stamina.


Today I want to go into a bit more detail about the Strength and Speed side of things because together these qualities lead to Powerful athletes.  Powerful athletes are hot property in professional sport- these guys can make the difference between winning and losing.   I often read articles which refer to ‘Explosiveness’ (related to Rate of Force Development (RFD) and Power) as being a desirable quality to develop in the gym with athletes.  But at the same time I feel there is a lack of understanding as to what these qualities are and how to develop them. This blog will clear it up! But before we talk about Power we need to talk about Force because your vertical jump, sprint speed, agility and explosiveness are all directly related to your ability to produce force.


What is Force?

Force is a push or pull that can cause an object with mass to accelerate. We produce force from signals developed in the brain and delivered from nerves to control muscular contractions. These signals control the magnitude and the rate of muscular contraction to act on our skeleton to produce movement. To illustrate this point let’s use an example. We have a ping pong ball and a 200 lbs stone. To lift each will require a completely different strategy. Lifting the ping pong ball is easy and does not require much force. Our past experiences tell us the approximate weight of the ping pong ball and we send an appropriate signal to various muscles to pick-up the ping pong ball.  Lifting the stone will require the integration of more muscular force from the legs, arms, core and back. The key point to appreciate is our nervous system controls our muscles. In turn our muscles contract to produce a force that can cause an object with mass to accelerate. Note, even if there is no movement, muscular contractions are still producing forces.


Why is it important?


Newton’s second law F=ma


In order to accelerate an object (assuming its mass stays constant) then we need to apply force.


Now obviously we know that weight training in the gym is the best way for our body to develop a greater ability to produce force but there is a point of diminishing returns as otherwise if this weren’t true the strongest athletes would be always be the fastest athletes. We would simply have a group of athletes get under a squat bar, and whoever squatted the most, would also be able to jump the highest.  But there is more to jumping than just strength alone.


So this is where Power comes in.


What is Power?


In order to understand Power we need to understand Force-Time Curves.

Below we have a force and time curve. Memorize this graph, because it is one of the most important graphs for an athlete to understand. Notice force is plotted on the y axis and the time is plotted on the x axis. The Dashed Line  is the force required to move a given object. Forces below this amount will not cause the object to move.


Let’s say the object is a barbell weighing 100kg and we want to deadlift this weight. Note a deadlift is taking a stationary weight from the ground and lifting it to a standing position. When we examine the force time curve we can identify unique strength qualities.


I’ve already covered a full explanation of the curve in a previous Blog but it’s worth going over it again.



”Starting Strength”– refers to the ability to produce force rapidly at the beginning of a muscular contraction prior to external movement.  In our example, the weight will not move until sufficient force has been developed. This takes time and it reflects a very important quality.  It is always produced under conditions of isometric muscle action. This fact alone has important consequences for strength training, because it dispels the opinion that the once-popular method of isometric training should be completely abandoned in modern training.


Athletes with a quick first step from a stationary position possess this ability. People often describe this quality as an explosive start. To train this quality the weight must be stationary and the athlete develops force to overcome its resting position. This quality is very different than acceleration strength.  This quality is associated with getting yourself or an object moving which is at rest, so this is extremely important in sports like sprinting and American football/rugby who initiate the scrum from a stationary position.


It’s also extremely closely linked to deceleration strength, where you have to bring yourself to a complete stop and then immediately redirect the force for another sprint (often in a different direction).


For ease of discussion we can say there are two types of strength which are associated with high rates of force development during the actual movement of the bar:


”Acceleration Strength’‘- describes the ability to quickly achieve maximal external muscle force once dynamic movement has been initiated.  Some athletes have tremendous abilities to develop force once moving, but have trouble developing power at the start.


“Explosive Strength” characterizes the ability to produce maximal force in a minimal time and is associated with peak Rates of Force Development. These are the forces we are observing when the bar is in motion.  It is most commonly displayed in the fastest athletic movements when the contraction of the working muscles in the fundamental phases of the exercise is preceded by mechanical stretching (such as any plyometric, throwing, kicking, striking or rebounding action in many sports).


For me the exercises (such as Olympic weight lifting) that develop acceleration strength will also be the same ones we use to develop explosive strength, which we will describe shortly.


All of these qualities are associated with speed of movement and power but differ based on the load used.  We might refer to exercises which work on the acceleration part of the Force-Time curve as  strength-speed and exercises which work on the explosive part of the Force-Time curve as speed-strength- although I commonly see the strength speed exercises referred to as ‘explosive strength. For speed-strength there is very little load applied to the body, 0 – 40% of an athletes’ maximal strength. In strength speed the load represents 40 – 60% of one’s maximal strength respectively. All of these qualities are important and elicit very different training effects. Current best practices emphasize a full spectrum approach, where an athlete is exposed to all ranges in a sequenced periodized approach. Research also reveals the method of loading to produce the best training effect and power output is exercises specific.


Olympic weightlifting is very popular as a tool to promote these qualities.  Why is this so? Because Elite level Olympic weightlifters are capable of snatching over 150kg and can clean and jerk over 200kg. It is impossible to perform Olympic weightlifting movements at a slow speed.  So you get a great combination of strength and speed.  You get the same amount of power generated as with a plyometric bodyweight jump, but you also get strong at the same time!


The most powerful of all movements is the Olympic weightlifting action of the second pull of a Clean, peaking at 55.8 Watts/kilogram (Garhammer, J. J. Strength and Cond.Res. 7(2): 76-89. 1993)- more on this later!!


In all these instances, the switch from stretching to active contraction uses the elastic energy of the stretch to increase the power of the subsequent contraction.


Rate of Force Development


As indicated above, all the most powerful movements in sport are associated with rapid production of force.


Rate of Force Development is the term which refers to how rapidly force is produced. It includes the period prior to external movement and throughout the movement. Mathematically, it is given by the maximum value of the slope of the force-time curve (where this slope is called the Rate of Force Development, RFD). It is very important to distinguish maximal strength from rate of force development. Maximum strength is force produced irrespective of time, whereas rate of force development is a quality that refers to how rapidly force is produced. In sport we are much more concerned with rate of force development.


What constitutes a high RFD?


Based on the physiological properties of our skeletal muscles it takes roughly 500msec to reach maximal voluntary contraction. This is very important because in an explosive sport movement we do not have this amount of time to produce force. We have approximately .08 to .2 second to produce force. We call this window of time the explosive response period.  


Simply described, explosiveness is the ability to create force quickly. This is the type of  “explosiveness” a powerlifter would need to do a squat, or a bench press or a Deadlift.  This type of explosiveness is associated more with starting strength and acceleration strength where the movement speed of the bar is low and muscle contractions are slow.


But in classical physics, power is defined as force times velocity, or rate of work performed.  To have true power we must create movement quickly.


Therefore, we are most concerned with activities where the peak force is achieved in the explosive response period in under 200 ms.  For me a simple description of Power might be:


A measure of the rate of doing work within the explosive response period associated with fast movement.


Examples of Power in Sport


Time is a key component.  That’s why Power level is greater when a relatively light shot is put then when a heavy barbell is lifted explosively


  • Power output in 7.25kg shot: 5,075 W
  • Power output in 150kg Snatch: 3,163 W (33 W/kg)
  • Power output in CMJ 2,997 W and 3,109 W in SJ
  • Power output Bench press 300 W (4 W/kg), Squat and Deadlift 1100W (12 W/kg)


  • Peak force in 7.25kg shot: 513 N
  • Peak force in Squat and Deadlift 1,400 N
  • Peak force in 150kg Snatch: 2,000 N
  • Peak force in CMJ: 2,000 N


Though the exerted force is less in shot put the power is greater because of much higher speed of movement. However, remember that the second pull of the snatch and clean (which is part of the full lift) produces power of up to 55.8 W/kg!!!!!


What’s the difference between Power and RFD?


Explosive movements are associated with high levels of ‘power’ and/or ‘RFD.’   It is possible for a movement to be explosive without being externally fast- as in the case of a slowly moving barbell in a maximum attempt, for example.


In its simplest form the way I look at it is, tasks where you generate maximum power always result in a movement happening very fast. So powerful movements have to be performed FAST


Activities requiring you to generate maximum rate of force development  may or may not result in a movement happening very fast.  It is task dependant.


Movements performed slow (but with high RFD) can still be considered ‘explosive.’  Usually, however those athletes who are capable of producing the highest RFD are the same ones who are most powerful.


Have you got some?


Have a look at these athletic feats and see how you compare!!!!


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Powerlifting: Deadlift


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Olympic Weight lifting- Clean & Jerk


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Plyometrics: Counter Movement Jump




Fast movements are always explosive, but explosive movements are not always fast.


Hope that helps!!
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  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
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Do you need to WIN to build confidence?

As frequent readers of the Blog will know Athletic Performance Academy (APA) have the great pleasure of delivering S&C services to Gosling Tennis Academy.  In a flash Wimbledon has been and gone so I thought it would be a pity not to do some sort of Wimbledon themed blog.


Wimbledon 2014



First of all I would like to congratulate all the APA athletes based at Gosling for their successes in making it to the Wimbledon Championships!  I’d like to thank all the APA team who have supported the player’s Wimbledon preparation especially Fab Garguilo for his work with Josh, Ed and Dave and Martin Skinner, who is the S&C coach of Aljaz Bedene.


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Dan Cox: Main Draw Gentleman’s Singles, Career high singles ranking 214

dan cox

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Josh Sapwell: Boys Singles Quarter Finals, Career high Junior ITF ranking 94

josh sapwell


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Ed Corrie: Main Draw Doubles , Career High Singles Ranking 296

ed corrie


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Dave Rice: Qualifying Draw Doubles , Career High Singles Ranking 283

david rice


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Aljaz Bedene:  Main Draw Gentleman’s Singles Career high singles ranking 71 

alijaz bedene


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Emily Arbuthnott (Batchwood HPC): Main Draw Girls Singles Career high Junior ITF Ranking 84

emily arbuthnott


I look forward to working with all these players and Gosling Tennis Academy in 2014-2015 to build on this successful grass court campaign!


And on to the BLOG!!…………….


Well I guess I missed the opportunity to comment on all the usual S&C ‘hot topics’ during Wimbledon and talk about the unbelievable agility and explosive of the top athletes with Novac Djokovic leading the way.




So I thought I would talk about a topic relevant to Andy Murray’s performances over the last two championships.  I want to talk about the importance of having confidence and looking at how people get it.  You need it to do something you have never done before (like winning Wimbledon in the case of Andy last year) and you need it to bounce back from a surprise defeat like Andy and Rafa Nadal suffered this year.


andy murray




Andy lost in the quarter final this year (see full report HERE)  but rewind a year ago and imagine how it must have felt to have the confidence to go into Wimbledon feeling like you could win without ever having won it.  So how do players build confidence?


Most players will use their results as a way of reinforcing success and to feel good about their performances (self-efficacy). Results tell the player/athlete that what they are doing is working and therefore are seen as contributing to a sense of achievement and increasing competence (e.g. time splits in swimming or running that are better – that’s what PB’s are about). In and of itself there is nothing wrong with this. The question is what happens when the performance results are not as good as they want?
It is how players/athletes handle this perceived under-performance that is the most important challenge. If they turn their results (lack of them) against themselves they will undermine their confidence. If on the other hand they see the lack of results as impermanent, temporary and not entirely down to them (because there are always external factors), whilst also taking personal responsibility for continuous improvements in their results, it is possible for confidence to remain higher than it would otherwise.
So to use the example of Wimbledon this year, Djokovic going into Wimbledon playing well and feeling good about his performance (based on his results going into the final) who has a few rounds that he just about scrapes through and clearly under performs, but who then attributes those results to a blip in their otherwise great run, can turn the next match around if they remain positive and confident in their ability. Accomplished performers (at the top of their game) are more likely to achieve this.  That’s why coaches don’t often worry if their player has to ‘win ugly’ in the early rounds as long as they remain positive they can take their game up a notch in the later rounds.
The majority will struggle with a poor performance when doubt takes them over, you would be more likely to see this in younger players, less experienced players and also where the player is not used to struggling – such as when Federer hit that point in his career where others were very competitive with him – even he was affected until he got his head around what he was about. I think you would normally be less likely to see issues with Nadal, because he is so focused in the moment and doesn’t build things up in quite the same way as most, so it was a big surprise to see him exit without a fight against Nick Kyrgios in four sets!  Perhaps you could say Murray used to be very easily thrown by this way of thinking – hence he lost matches where he would have been more competitive if the result hadn’t meant quite so much to him.
Where confidence is based purely on winning outcomes the player had better be winning lots otherwise they will consistently under-perform and subsequently lack confidence.
They will either then potentially become perfectionist oriented (keep working harder to achieve perfection – which doesn’t work) or they may well give up the sport, after which they may also play really well!
Hope that helps!!
  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

Supplements for Athletes, Getting it Right!

This week’s post comes from APA coach Fabrizio Gargiulo, who gives us an absolutely excellent review of the latest advice on supplement use in sport.


Sport nutrition

The sports supplement industry is worth millions of pounds globally with a seemingly endless amount of products being offered to help boost performance in the gym and on the field of play. There are many claims to make you stronger, faster and be able to go for longer however it is important to know which ones really will improve your performance, which might and which just hold a false claim to fame. As an athlete however it is also vitally important to know which supplements you can legally take and do not contain banned substances.

Firstly as the name suggests, supplements are designed to compliment or ‘supplement’ if you will a good healthy, nutritious diet that works for you individually, this includes; meats, fish, eggs, fruit, vegetables, other starchy carbohydrates and simple sugars, good fats and of course plenty of water. Supplements are not designed to replace your meals and should not be used as such, however the modern athlete is always looking for an edge in performance or recovery from training, this is where supplements can have a role and they can also be of benefit to the health of athlete, helping to prevent fatigue, reduce stress and possible illness.

In this section I shall address the basic issues of improving sporting performance and list some suitable supplements you may wish to try to facilitate any improvement. The basic package of supplements I would initially recommend include; a pre-workout stimulant, a post-workout recovery supplement containing both carbohydrates and protein and finally both fish oils and a multi-vitamin for longer term recovery. Let me also state that you most definitely can obtain all of the nutrients needed through eating foods, it is however, likely to cost more, result in a large quantity of food needing to be eaten and it can be difficult to get the quality of the products easily.


Pre-workout supplements:

As an athlete it is important to look upon this category differently to that of the gym bound body builder looking to create a great ‘pump’. The pre-workout should aim to provide the necessary fuel and micronutrients needed during the exercise, provided the exercise is of an intensity that will create a stressful environment for the body. This could be anything from a heavy weight training session in the gym to an 8-hour cycle or time trial swim. Different activities will require different types of supplementation and not all athletes will respond to, or like taking on supplements pre-exercise. Here are some examples of suitable pre-workout supplements that can be used for different training or competing sessions:

Caffeine: – acts as a stimulant for high intensity exercise lasting up to 90 minutes, dosage should be 3-6mg/kg – this is very important to remember as overdosing caffeine can be dangerous to your health, an 80kg male should therefore take 240-480mg per day which equates to 0.24-0.48g/day of caffeine or approximately 1 double espresso prior to training and 1-2 cups of tea or coffee during the day. Timing is also important; 30-45mins prior to the start of exercise is ideal.

Creatine: – an amino acid derivative synthesised from arginine, glycine and methionine, many studies have shown increased muscular size, strength and power as well as reduced muscle protein breakdown during exercise. Creatine can either be taken as a loading phase of 20g for 5 days followed by 0.3g/kg per day for up to 8 weeks or more recent research suggests that simply taking 3-5g/day is sufficient to fill creatine stores within the body over the same period. Combining creatine with carbohydrate or protein simultaneously will also aid in absorption.

Citrulline Malate: primarily used to produce energy and build muscle mass by increasing growth hormone secretion and nitric oxide production. This creates the ‘pump’ associated with arginine and nitric oxide supplementation but is useful for gaining extra energy and preventing fatigue by removing ammonia and increasing the reabsorbtion of lactate for increased ATP synthesis when in strength training sessions. Dosage is 3-6g/day, ideally taken 30-45 mins before training.

Beta-alanine: functions to synthesise carnosine, which is used as a pH buffer, helping to prevent fatigue. Carnosine also acts as an antioxidant, protecting the muscle proteins from oxidation and glycation from free radicals as well as increasing cellular sensitivity to calcium. Dosage is 3-6g/day, ideally taken 30-45 mins before training.

Although you may wish to take each of these supplements individually or make a home-made blend, thankfully there are several pre-workout options available on the market, the key being to choose one that is free from any banned substances and combines an appropriate dosage of each of the above.


Post-workout recovery supplements:


The key to post-exercise recovery is to replace what has been used during the training session. This should include the water and electrolytes lost through sweating, restoring glycogen stores in the liver and muscles through simple carbohydrates and providing a protein source to help rebuild the muscle cells damaged by exercise. Here are some examples of supplements that can be used post-exercise to assist in recovery.

Whey Protein:

Protein is used as the building blocks for repair and growth of the body, athletes will need protein to provide the muscles with the amino acids they need to recover from exercise. Dietary recommendations vary between 0.8-2.0g/kg of protein per day however during the post-exercise ‘window of recovery’ – the first 2 hours – you should aim to consume 20-40g in combination with carbohydrates and electrolytes. Protein yields 4Kcals/g there are however several different molecular structures dependent upon the size of the amino acid chain. During the initial phase of recovery, the first 30 minutes, the body is better suited to taking on smaller amino acid complex or proteins that have already undergone a form of hydrolysis such as whey isolate a more complex molecular structure will take a lot longer to release this energy, therefore not making the most efficient recovery for muscle protein resynthesis.


Needed to restore depleted glycogen stores in the liver and muscle cells, carbohydrate is often lesser thought of as a supplement and not prioritised ahead of protein in many strength training athletes, it is however vital to restoring energy and hormonal balance which assists in protein synthesis, so should be prioritised during the initial phase of recovery. Carbohydrates exist either as mono-saccharides, di-saccharides or poly-saccharides dependent on the number of saccharide molecules (1,2 or many). They are often termed as either simple or complex carbohydrates determined by the glycemic index (GI) they possess, a higher GI value equates to a faster release of energy and this is useful when you want to replenish stores quickly. Common examples used in supplements include, dextrose, maltodextrin and sucrose all with high GI values, whereby fructose is also often used as it has a lower GI value and is absorbed via a different pathway in the gastrointestinal tract.  Fructose however is not considered a useful source of energy for the strength training athlete as it impairs insulin function and sensitivity, causing an increase in triglycerides and adipose fat stores and its place in the daily diet has been discouraged as it exists as sugar, corn-syrup, fruit juices and candies.

The ratio of carbohydrate to protein needed post-exercise is dependent upon the type of exercise; endurance training typically would require a ratio close to 4:1(g) in favour of carbohydrates, whereas strength training would be closer to 2:1(g). Either way carbohydrate is necessary post-exercise and in combination with protein shows greater absorption and subsequent protein synthesis.

Addition of electrolytes is also an important consideration, sodium, potassium, zinc and magnesium are all micro-nutrients that should look to be restored. Often ready to drink supplements will contain ample amounts of these and can be a simple and effective way to contribute to fluid rehydration and balance.


Health supplements:

Fish Oils:

There are several types available but the key to choosing the right one is to look at the label. It should be of pharmaceutical grade and definitely meet international standards for heavy metals, PCBs and be free from contaminants. Fish oils provide a great source of omega-3, a fatty acid that helps act against the inflammatory processes in the body, is abundant in EPA and DHA (these produce prostaglandins and leukotrienes to protect the body) and helps prevent cardiac disease and osteoarthritis in the joints. Often in a western European diet there is an imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 often with high ratios in favour of omega-6, as much as 20:1 has been reported with an ideal ratio being as close to 1:1 as possible. Omega-6 acts as a pro-inflammatory and although it is useful to the body high quantities above omega-3 levels do not assist the body in recovery from exercise, stress or in fat loss. When a better ratio (1:1) is achieved you will see improvements in all 3 of those areas. A high fish diet could be used, however the fish needs to be a good oily source such as salmon or mackerel and come from an organic source, both of which are expensive and undesirable.


I believe in fruit and vegetables as the best source of these dietary components, however obtaining these at the quality needed to ensure good levels of micronutrients is proving more and more expensive – basically you need to be buying organic, free range and clean of any pesticides to hope that the fruit or vegetable has adequate nutrients and even then you are not guaranteed because of any number of climate or environmental factors. So to make sure you are achieving optimal levels for health – to stave of disease, reduce stress and improve performance – mental, physical and even sexual, why not add a multi-vitamin. Again ensure it is a high quality product and meets all the international standards needed. Make sure you still are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables from clean sources if you can and use the supplement to top up the levels of micronutrients.

There are many other products available, however when making changes to dietary inventory and being a competing athlete it is important to trial any new regimes out of competition time and in a period of relatively low training stress to enable adaptation. Often small changes can make big differences especially when you are already a high level competing athlete, so don’t try everything new at once.

Fabrizio Gargiulo