How to Build Muscle Power

Muscular man doing bench press

Making your muscles more powerful can help them grow bigger and increase your athletic performance. Power is a combination of speed and strength, notes strength coach David Sandler. The perfect example of this is an Olympic lift like the snatch, there the lifter moves a heavy load incredibly quickly. Building power requires a specialized approach to training.

Base your program around compound movements, such as squats, overhead presses, deadlifts and bench presses. These moves recruit more muscle fibers than single-joint isolation moves. Isolation moves can actually make you less powerful, as they're non-functional and can have a negative impact on your overall strength, writes coach Robert dos Remedios in "Power Training."

Perform total-body sessions. Your body is more powerful as a whole unit than it is when you try to separate it into different parts. Train three times per week -- one session on a Monday or Tuesday, the second in the middle of the week and the final one at the weekend.

Lift explosively. To develop power you don't need massively heavy weights, according to trainer Jon-Erik Kawamoto, who advises that you use around 60 percent of your single-repetition maximum on each exercise. Perform five to six sets of two to three reps.

Add in heavier training once you're comfortable lifting at speed. To build maximum power, lift at around 85 percent of your one-rep max, recommends Sandler. Perform four to five sets of six reps.

Alternate your weights every week. Complete one week using the 60 percent weight guidelines and really work on speed, then go to 85 percent the next week to build strength.

Add bands and chains into your training. Exercises such as chain bench presses, where you loop a heavy chain over either end of the barbell when bench pressing, or banded deadlifts, performed by tying a band over the bar, standing on the ends and deadlifting can boost power. A word of warning from London-based strength coach Nick Mitchell, however -- these methods should only be used by advanced trainers who've been training for a minimum of 12 months, and only use them for three weeks at a time.

Supplement your routine with plyometric exercises. These include tuck jumps, broad jumps, clap pushups and medicine ball slams. Pick two per workout and do them at the end of your warm-up, completing five sets of three to five reps.


Check with your doctor before starting a routine and consult a qualified trainer or strength coach before performing more complex exercises.