A lot of things come to mind when you hear the word, power. Since we are discussing fitness, I would like to use this word, power, to mean the ability to hold a position in space. What exactly do I mean by this? Read on for some specific examples.
Q: How does this relate to the muscles and joints?
A: A simple example is the concept of balance. If you are balanced on both feet and have a good positioning muscles/joints, it is harder to knock you down as you are able to generate a good amount of counter-force. Think about those athletes who are in a power position: the defensive lineman, the receiving tennis player, the wrestler. The feet have a wide base of support, the hips are slightly bent as are the knees, the spine is straight, the arms are slightly outstretched, the weight is slightly forward on the feet. These athletes are poised for receiving and counteracting a strong force.
Q: What about other athletes like baseball pitchers or basketball players? How does this concept of power work?
A: Think about how much force you can generate in throwing a baseball when you are unwinding from a balanced position versus from an unbalanced position. Or how much force can you create when shooting a basketball when your feet are planted solidly on the ground versus when it is sliding out of position? You can even get an idea of an unstable surface with running in the sand: it is much harder to propel yourself forward when running in the sand versus running on pavement which is much more solid and gives you a stable base from which to run.
Q: How about for the non-athlete; what advice can you give?
A: Think about how stable your spine must be to pick up a child. How much force can you generate if your spine moves as you pick up something?
Q: How could one test the person’s ability to generate power?
A: A simple test would be to see how stable one’s balance was during a particular move. I saw recently a great way to test a golf swing: at the top of the backswing, see if you can lift the left foot up and still keep your balance; then, at the end of the follow-through, see if you can lift the right foot up and still keep your balance.
Q: What can one do to increase power in movement?
A: There are components to movement that can all be addressed: flexibility; stability of the spine, shoulder girdle and pelvic girdle; strength; coordination; balance. Some of these components may hinder a person more than others and the emphasis and sequencing of training may vary. Equipment may also be utilized to improve power as well as nutrition to provide adequate energy for force production. Much can contribute to the production of force, but the key ingredient to power is the ability to hold a position in space.