How to Increase Speed and Power

Learn how to optimize power and speed so that you can move like a cat, sprint like a cheetah, and spring like a tiger.

Ben Greenfield,
May 22, 2017
Episode #338

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Ever try to move fast?

No. I mean F-A-S-T.

When was the last time you were at a gym or doing a workout and you tried to hoist a barbell overhead as explosively and quickly as possible? Or when was the last time your were running on a treadmill or riding a bicycle and moved your feet and legs so fast that your brain hurt trying to keep up?

The fact is that when it comes to optimizing the performance of your nervous system and cementing the connection between your brain and the rest of your body, it doesn’t really matter that much the heavy stuff you lift or how much muscle you build. Sure, strength and muscle-building are fantastic tools for aesthetics, for symmetry, for musculoskeletal development and even for anti-aging.

But when it comes to optimizing your brain and nervous system, recruiting muscle fibers, enhancing nerve firing speed, and optimizing brain-body coordination, it is far more important to instead focus on fast, explosive movements—whether you’re a weekend warrior or a professional athlete. I was first exposed to this concept when I interviewed a well-known sports performance coach named Nick Curson. Nick, who is the creator of a training system called “Speed Of Sport” and who trains some of the top UFC and NFL competitors on the face of the planet. Rather than giving the men and women he trains extremely heavy weights, he instead has them move light weights and their own body weight as freakin’ fast as they possibly can.

Why? Because there are two important attributes that go hand-in-hand with strength (and are often mistaken for strength): power and speed - and in this episode, you’ll learn how to optimize power and speed so that you can move like a cat, sprint like a cheetah and spring like a tiger.

How to Increase Power

Let’s start with power.

Power is the ability to generate lots of force in a short period of time. While strength refers to how much force your muscles can exert, power refers to how quickly that force can be exerted. If your muscles can’t generate high amounts of force in short periods, then you’re low on power and unable to use the muscle you do have to its full potential. If you’re performing a strength-oriented task, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to complete it, whether it’s lifting a weight, moving a couch, or climbing a flight of stairs. All that matters is that the task gets done; doing it slowly doesn’t take away from the “success” of completing it.

But when your goal is to develop pure power, speed counts. The speed with which you lift that weight, move that couch, or climb that flight of stairs dictates how successful you were at quickly recruiting your muscle. When you train for power, your brain, spinal cord and entire central nervous system learn to control your muscles in a far more efficient way, creating enhanced muscle utilization without the negative effects of too much muscle bulk.

As a matter of fact, when you train for power and use strategies such as keeping the number of repetitions low, lifting light weights fast, and moving quickly, power training will even increase your ability to maximally utilize muscle without bulking you up (or tearing muscle fiber and subsequently making you sore). The advantage of being able to more effectively recruit the muscle you already have, without necessarily increasing muscle mass, is that you’ll need to recruit fewer muscle fibers for any given intensity. So power is like putting a faster engine in your car without increasing the size of the car or the weight of the engine itself. This results in lower energy costs, less muscular fatigue, and ultimately better performance in any movement.

There are three primary strategies for increasing power as fast as possible: plyometrics, speed-strength sets, and complex sets. Each of these strategies, along with tips for developing potent power no matter whether you’re in the gym, backyard, basement, park or hotel room, can be pursued using training tools for increasing power, including power racks, agility ladders, medicine balls, kettlebells, sandbags, adjustable plyometric boxes, weighted vests, training sleds and power cables.

As highlighted earlier, to fully optimize brain-body coordination, power training should be accompanied by speed training. So what’s the difference between the two?


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