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Which combination of training methods is best for improving power?

Developing strength and muscle mass are key for athletic development. However, muscular power is often proposed to be even more important. Consequently, various training methods have been investigated for improving muscular power. But is a combination of methods superior to single methods alone?

What is the background?

What is muscular power?

For an in-depth discussion of muscular power, see my earlier blog post about gains in muscular power following conventional resistance-training. For a discussion of the evidence regarding how each individual training modality can be structured in order to maximize gains in muscular power, see my individual blog posts on developing power in conventional resistance-trainingballistic resistance-trainingplyometrics, and Olympic weightlifting.

What were the selection criteria?

The following studies assessed the effects of combined-modality versus single-modality programs of conventional (heavy-load) resistance-training, ballistic resistance-training, plyometrics, and Olympic weightlifting training modalities on gains in muscular power in long-term experimental trials. The main criteria used to select the studies were:

The outcome measure of the study had to be a measured or muscular power that was expressed in Watts and was not a proxy (e.g. vertical jump height).

The study had to compare the effects of at least one combined-modality program with at least one single-modality program with training modalities from the following categories: conventional resistance-training, ballistic resistance-training, plyometrics, and Olympic weightlifting.

Obviously, these criteria generate quite a lot of possible combinations. Assuming only 2 modalities are combined compared to a single alternative, there are 24 comparisons to explore, as shown in the matrix below:

Matrix combined power methods

However, since in reality potential comparisons could involve up to 4 modalities on both sides, the number of possibilities is actually far, far greater.

***

Ballistic training + resistance-training vs. ballistic-training only

The following study compared ballistic-only resistance-training with a combined program of ballistic training + conventional (heavy-load) resistance-training:

Mangine (2008) compared ballistic-only resistance-training with a combined program of ballistic training + conventional (heavy-load) resistance-training in 17 resistance-trained male subjects who were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: a combined group or a resistance-training-only group for an 8-week periodized training program, training 3 days per week, using 6 – 8 exercises per workout for 3 – 8 repetitions. The researchers reported that for peak power in the jump squat the combined group displayed a significantly greater increase than the resistance-training-only group (5.4% vs. -3.2%) while the difference for peak plyometric push-up were similar but non-significant (8.5% vs. 3.4%).

The very limited evidence suggests that a combined program of both ballistic + heavy-load resistance-training may be superior to a program of heavy-load resistance-training only for improving power output.

***

Plyometrics + resistance-training vs. resistance-training only

The following studies have compared conventional (heavy-load) resistance-training with a combined program of plyometrics + conventional (heavy-load) resistance-training:

Ronnestad (2008) compare the effects of combined heavy-load resistance-training and plyometrics with heavy-load resistance-training alone on power output in 14 professional soccer players over a 7-week intervention. The subjects were randomly divided into 2 groups. One group performed heavy-load resistance-training twice a week as well as 6 – 8 soccer sessions per week. The second group also performed a plyometrics program. A control group just performed 6 – 8 soccer sessions per week. The researchers measured peak power in the half squat with 20, 35, and 50kg before and after the intervention. The researchers found no significant differences between the two training groups. Indeed, the improvements in both groups in respect of peak power output during jump squats with the 20, 35, and 50kg loads were very similar for the combined and strength-training only groups (9.9 and 9.9%, 8.0 and 7.4%, and 9.5 and 11.1%, respectively).=

Fatouros (2000) compared the effects of plyometrics, heavy-load resistance-training, and their combination in 41 men over a 12-week intervention. The subjects trained 3 days per week. The researchers found that peak power during vertical jumps increased in all groups following training. The combined group displayed significantly greater peak power than the individual plyometrics and heavy-load resistance-training groups (39.3% vs. 25.6% vs. 24.7%, respectively).

Kraemer (1993) compared combined heavy-load resistance-training and plyometrics with heavy-load resistance-training alone on power output in 24 female rowers who were also performing aerobic rowing training. The subjects completed 3 strength-training or combined strength and plyometrics sessions per week while also performing rowing ergometer training 4 times per week for 9 weeks. Isokinetic knee extensor peak and average power were measured pre- and post-training. However, no significant differences were observed between groups. For the strength and the combined groups, the increases in peak power (4.2% vs. 5.2%) and average power (4.7% vs. 5.3%) were very similar.

Whether a combined program of both plyometrics + heavy-load resistance-training is superior to a program of heavy-load resistance-training only for improving power output is difficult to assess. Two studies reported no significant (or even non-significant) differences between a heavy-load resistance-training only program and a combined plyometrics + heavy-load resistance-training program but a final study found that a combined program was superior.

***

Plyometrics + resistance-training vs. plyometrics only

The following studies have compared plyometrics-only with a combined program comprising heavy-load resistance-training and plyometrics:

Cormie (2007) compared the effects of plyometrics using the vertical jump with a combined program of heavy-load resistance-training using the conventional back squat and plyometrics using the vertical jump. The researchers recruited 26 recreationally-trained male subjects and randomly allocated them to either a plyometrics-only group, a strength-plyometrics group, or a control group. The plyometrics-only group performed 7 sets of 6 jumps, while the strength-plyometrics group performed 5 sets of 6 jumps and 3 sets of 3 conventional back squats with 90% of 1RM. The researchers measured peak power in the jump squat at no-load and with 20, 40, 60, and 80kg of additional load. The researchers found that the plyometrics-only group significantly increased peak power at no-load and at 20kg but the strength-plyometrics group significantly increased peak power in all loading conditions.

Toumi (2004) compared the effects of plyometrics using the vertical jump with a combined program of heavy-load resistance-training using the conventional back squat and plyometrics using the vertical jump. The researchers recruited 22 young, male handball players and randomly allocated them to either a plyometrics-only group, a strength-plyometrics group, or a control group. Before and after the training intervention, the researchers measured improvements in power output during jump tests and during a dynamic leg press test with 40%, 50%, and 60% of 1RM. The researchers found that both training groups displayed a significant increase in power output during the leg press and squat jump tests but there were no significant differences between groups. Exact numbers for the percentage increase in power output in the leg press test were only reported graphically and there was a clear but non-significant trend for the combined group to display superior results.

Fatouros (2000) compared the effects of plyometrics, heavy-load resistance-training, and their combination in 41 men over a 12-week intervention. The subjects trained 3 days per week. The researchers found that peak power during vertical jumps increased in all groups following training. The combined group displayed significantly greater peak power than the individual plyometrics and heavy-load resistance-training groups (39.3% vs. 25.6% vs. 24.7%, respectively).

The limited evidence suggests that a combined program of both plyometrics + resistance-training may be superior to a program of plyometrics-only for improving power output. Two studies reported significantly better results for a combined group in comparison to a plyometrics-only group and the third study reported a non-significant trend in the same direction.

***

Plyometrics + Olympic weightlifting vs. plyometrics only

The following studies have compared plyometrics-only with a combined program comprising Olympic weightlifting and plyometrics:

Arabatzi (2010) compared the effects of plyometrics, Olympic weightlifting and combined plyometrics and Olympic weightlifting programs on power output during the vertical jump in 36 untrained male subjects, who they randomly allocated to 1 of 4 groups: a plyometrics group, an Olympic weightlifting group, a combined plyometrics and Olympic weightlifting group, and a non-training control group. The training groups trained 3 days per week over an 8-week period. Only the Olympic weightlifting group improved power output significantly.

The very limited evidence suggests that a combined program of both plyometrics + Olympic weightlifting may be inferior to a program of Olympic weightlifting only for improving power output.

***

Multiple combinations vs. single modalities

The following studies have various different combinations of training modalities:

De Villarreal (2012) compared the effects of a combined-modality program involving several methods with single modalities on power production after a 7-week intervention in 65 (47 male and 18 female) physical education students. The students were randomly allocated into (A) combined, (B) heavy-resistance training, (C) ballistic resistance-training, (D) ballistic resistance-training with loaded jump, (E) and plyometrics. The researchers found significantly greater increases in power output in groups A (10 – 13%) and D (8 – 12%) compared to the other groups. However, it is noted that the test of power was performed using loaded jumps and there may have been a learning effect or a velocity-specific improvement in these two groups.

The very limited evidence suggests that a combined program of all modalities may be superior to programs of single modalities where these modalities are heavy-load resistance-training or plyometrics. However, a combined program does not appear to be superior to a single modality-program where this comprises ballistic resistance-training. Whether Olympic weightlifting would have been similarly effective as ballistic resistance-training is unclear.

***

How can we summarize these findings?

How can we analyze these results?

Although it is very clear that the literature is limited, we can discern some trends by looking at the conclusions from each section. When comparing a combined program of both ballistic + heavy-load resistance-training to a program of heavy-load resistance-training only, we can see that a combined program is probably superior. When comparing a combined program of both plyometrics + heavy-load resistance-training to a program of heavy-load resistance-training only, the picture is slightly conflicting and there is little evidence to support adding in plyometrics. On the other hand, there is good evidence to add in heavy-load resistance-training to a program of plyometrics. Moreover, a combined program of both plyometrics + Olympic weightlifting may in fact be inferior to a program of Olympic weightlifting only. Finally, we can see that a combined program of all modalities may be superior to programs of single modalities only where these single modalities are heavy-load resistance-training or plyometrics. A combined program does not appear to be superior to a single modality-program where the single program is ballistic resistance-training. Overall, there is a general and unambiguous trend towards ballistic resistance-training or Olympic weightlifting (which is very similar) being superior to other methods for power production.

***

How can we compare these results with those comparing single modalities?

The results of this analysis agree very well with the results of the analysis of single-training modalities. There, we found that high-velocity movements are very likely more effective when combined with loading for improving power outputs: both Olympic weightlifting and ballistic resistance-training consistently outperformed plyometrics for improving power outputs. Similarly, in the analysis of single-training modalities, we saw hints that ballistic resistance-training was superior to heavy-load resistance-training. In this comparison of multiple modalities, we can also see support for the idea that high-velocity, loaded modalities are probably better than heavy-load resistance-training.

***

What are the practical implications?

Where increased power outputs are specifically required (rather than jumping performance), combined training programs including ballistic resistance-training or the Olympic lifts and their variations may be superior those including either plyometrics or heavy-load resistance-training.

Which training method is best for improving power?

Developing strength and muscle mass are key for athletic development. However, muscular power may be even more important. Consequently, various training methods have been investigated for improving muscular power, including conventional resistance-training, ballistic resistance-training, plyometrics, and Olympic weightlifting. But which of these methods are best?

What is the background?

What is muscular power?

For an in-depth discussion of muscular power, see my earlier blog post about gains in muscular power following conventional resistance-training. For a discussion of the evidence regarding how each individual training modality can be structured in order to maximize gains in muscular power, see my individual blog posts on developing power in conventional resistance-training, ballistic resistance-training, plyometrics, and Olympic weightlifting.

What were the selection criteria?

The following studies assessed the effects of different training modalities on gains in muscular power during long-term experimental trials. The main criteria used to select the studies were that:

The outcome measure of the study had to be a measured or muscular power that was expressed in Watts and was not a proxy (e.g. vertical jump height).

The study had to compare the effects of >2 different training modalities from one of the following categories: conventional resistance-training, ballistic resistance-training, plyometrics, and Olympic weightlifting.

Essentially, if we had a large enough pool of literature, we should have 6 sections comparing the following combinations as set out in the matrix below:

Matrix of power training

With those two criteria being the requirements for inclusion in the review, and using this matrix as a framework, let’s take a look at the literature.

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#1: Ballistic vs. heavy-load resistance-training

The following studies have compared ballistic resistance-training with heavy-load, conventional (non-ballistic) resistance-training, most commonly by reference to conventional back squats and jump squats:

Cormie (2010) compared the effects of ballistic and heavy-load resistance training in 24 relatively weak males, who trained for 3 sessions per week for 10 weeks using either back squats with 75 – 90% 1RM or jump squats with 0 – 30% of 1RM. The researchers found that both the ballistic and heavy-load groups displayed significant improvements in peak power during the vertical jump with no significant differences between groups (17.6 ± 4.5% vs. 17.7% ± 9.3%).

De Villarreal (2012) compared the effects of ballistic and heavy-load resistance training in 65 physical education students (47 males and 18 females). The heavy-load resistance training group trained using the full-squat exercise with 56 – 85% of 1RM for 3 – 6 repetitions and the ballistic group trained using loaded countermovement jumps with 70 – 100% of the load that maximizes power output for 2 – 5 repetitions. The researchers found significantly greater increases in power output during a test of loaded countermovement jumps were observed in the loaded countermovement jump group than in the heavy-load resistance-training group.

Wilson (1993) compared the effects of heavy-load resistance-training and ballistic resistance-training at the load that maximized mechanical power output in 64 previously trained subjects, training twice per week for 10 weeks. Both groups performed 3 sets of 6 – 10 reps with different loads (either heavy or light). Changes in power output were measured using a 6-second cycle ergometer test. Power output improved significantly and similarly in both the heavy-load resistance-training and ballistic resistance-training groups (4.8% vs. 6.9%) but the improvement in the ballistic group was slightly (non-significantly) greater.

In summary, while the literature regarding the differences between ballistic and heavy-load resistance-training for improving power output is conflicting, there are hints that ballistic resistance-training may be superior. One study found that ballistic resistance-training was superior, another found a non-significant trend in the same direction, and a third study found no differences between the two modalities.

***

#2. Plyometrics vs. heavy-load resistance-training

The following studies have compared plyometrics with conventional (heavy-load) resistance-training, most commonly by reference to vertical jumps and conventional back squats:

Vissing (2008) compared the effects of conventional (heavy-load) resistance-training with plyometrics of equal time and effort in 15 young, untrained males over a 12-week period. The researchers found that plyometrics led to significant increases in power output during the countermovement jump (9%) and ballistic leg press (17%) while the conventional (heavy-load) resistance-training only significantly increased ballistic leg press (4%) power output.

Chaouachi (2014) compared the effectiveness of plyometrics and conventional (heavy-load) resistance-training programs in 63 children (aged 10 – 12 years) over a 12-week training period. Before and after training, isokinetic power was measured at both 60 and 300 degrees/s. The researchers found that plyometrics were superior to conventional (heavy-load) resistance-training for isokinetic power at 300 degrees/s while conventional (heavy-load) resistance-training was superior to plyometrics for isokinetic power at 60 degrees/s.

MacDonald (2013) compared the effectiveness of plyometrics and conventional (heavy-load) resistance-training programs in 34 recreationally-trained, college-aged males by reference to counter-movement jump peak power output. The researchers did not detect any effect of the training programs on counter-movement jump peak power, nor did they find any differences between groups.

De Villarreal (2012) compared the effects of plyometrics and heavy-load resistance training in 65 physical education students (47 males and 18 females). The heavy-load resistance training group trained using the full-squat exercise with 56 – 85% of 1RM for 3 – 6 repetitions and the plyometrics group performed jumping. There was no significant difference in power output during loaded jumps between the two groups.

Fatouros (2000) compared the effects plyometrics, heavy-load resistance-training, and their combination in 41 men over a 12-week intervention. The subjects trained 3 days per week. The researchers found that peak power increased significantly following training but there were no significant differences between groups.

Holcomb (1996) compared the effects of heavy-load resistance-training with three different programs of plyometrics in 51 college-age men who performed either a conventional depth jump program (plyometrics), a modified depth jump program (plyometrics), a countermovement jump program (plyometric), or a resistance-training program. The subjects trained 3 days a week for 8 weeks. The researchers found that only the conventional depth jump program (plyometrics) group significantly improved peak power output in the countermovement jump (but not in the squat jump). The other groups improved peak power output in the countermovement jump non-significantly. All groups improved power output in the squat jump non-significantly.

Wilson (1993) compared the effects of heavy-load resistance-training and plyometrics in 64 previously trained subjects, training twice per week for 10 weeks. The heavy-load resistance-training group performed 3 sets of 6 – 10 reps with a heavy load. The plyometrics group performed a progressive program of depth jumps starting with 20cm drops and finishing with 80cm drops at the end of the 10-week period. Changes in power output were measured using a 6-second cycle ergometer test. Power output improved significantly only in the heavy-load resistance-training group (4.8%) but not in the plyometrics group (0.6%).

In summary, the literature regarding the differences between plyometrics and heavy-load resistance-training for improving power output is conflicting. Two studies found that plyometrics was superior, 3 studies found no differences between the two modalities, 1 study found benefits in power output that were velocity-specific, albeit using isokinetic testing, and 1 study found that heavy-load resistance-training was superior, albeit using a cycle test of power output.

***

#3. Olympic weightlifting vs. heavy-load resistance-training

The following studies have compared Olympic weightlifting with heavy-load (non-ballistic) resistance-training, most commonly by reference to conventional back squats and jump squats:

Arabatzi (2012) compared the effects of Olympic weightlifting and conventional heavy-load resistance-training on various parameters measured during squat jump tests in 26 male subjects. The researchers randomly allocated the subjects to 1 of 3 groups: Olympic weightlifting, conventional heavy-load resistance-training, and a control group. The training groups trained 3 days per week for 8 weeks. The researchers found that the Olympic weightlifting group displayed significant improvements in countermovement jump power output but the other groups did not.

Chaouachi (2014) compared the effectiveness of Olympic-style weightlifting and conventional heavy-load resistance-training programs in 63 children (aged 10 – 12 years) over a 12-week training period. Before and after training, isokinetic power was measured at both 60 and 300 degrees/s. The researchers found that Olympic weightlifting was very likely superior to conventional resistance-training for improving isokinetic power at 300 degrees/s.

Hoffman (2004) compared the effects of Olympic weightlifting and conventional heavy-load resistance-training on various parameters measured during squat jump tests in 20 male members of an National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III collegiate football team. The subjects were allocated groups performing either training modality and both groups trained 4 days per week for 25 weeks. Before and after the training period, the researchers tested power output during the vertical jump. However, the researchers did not detect any significant changes in vertical jump power output in either group. There was a trend towards a greater increase in vertical jump power output in the conventional heavy-load resistance-training group in comparison with the Olympic weightlifting group (16.3% vs. 8.2%) but this difference was not significant.

In summary, the literature regarding the differences between Olympic weightlifting and conventional heavy-load resistance-training for improving power output is conflicting. One study found that Olympic weightlifting was superior while another study found no differences between the two modalities (and in fact reported a non-significant trend in favor of conventional heavy-load resistance-training).

***

#4. Plyometrics vs. ballistic resistance-training

The following studies have compared plyometrics with ballistic resistance-training in respect of their effects on the gains in muscular power output:

De Villarreal (2012) compared the effects of plyometrics and ballistic resistance training in 65 physical education students (47 males and 18 females). The ballistic group trained using loaded countermovement jumps with 70 – 100% of the load that maximizes power output for 2 – 5 repetitions and the plyometrics group performed jumping. The researchers found significantly greater increases in power output during loaded jumps were observed than in the plyometrics group.

Marcovic (2013) compared the effects of vertical jump training and weighted vertical jump training on muscular power output during the squat and countermovement jumps in physically active but untrained males over an 8-week period. The weighted vertical jump condition used a weighted vest equal to 30% of body weight. The researchers found that the training period led to similar increases in power in the squat jump (7.4 – 11.5 %) but there were differences between groups in respect of the countermovement jump (0.5 vs. 9.5%), whereby the weighted vest group displayed superior results in power output.

Wilson (1993) compared the effects of ballistic resistance-training and plyometrics in 64 previously trained subjects, training twice per week for 10 weeks. The ballistic resistance-training group performed 3 sets of 6 – 10 reps with a load that maximized power output. The plyometrics group performed a progressive program of depth jumps starting with 20cm drops and finishing with 80cm drops at the end of the 10-week period. Changes in power output were measured using a 6-second cycle ergometer test. Power output improved significantly only in the ballistic resistance-training group (6.9%) but not in the plyometrics group (0.6%).

In summary, the literature regarding the differences between plyometrics and ballistic resistance-training for improving power output is consistent albeit limited. The studies found that ballistic resistance-training was superior for improving power outputs to plyometrics.

***

#6. Plyometrics vs. Olympic weightlifting

The following studies have compared plyometrics with Olympic weightlifting in respect of their effects on the gains in muscular power output:

Arabatzi (2010) compared the effects of plyometrics, Olympic weightlifting and combined plyometrics and Olympic weightlifting programs on power output during the vertical jump in 36 untrained male subjects, who they randomly allocated to 1 of 4 groups: a plyometrics group, an Olympic weightlifting group, a combined plyometrics and Olympic weightlifting group, and a non-training control group. The training groups trained 3 days per week over an 8-week period. Only the Olympic weightlifting group improved power output significantly.

Chaouachi (2014) compared the effectiveness of Olympic-style weightlifting and plyometrics in 63 children (aged 10 – 12 years) over a 12-week training period. Before and after training, isokinetic power was measured at both 60 and 300 degrees/s. The researchers found that Olympic weightlifting displayed a non-significant trend towards improving isokinetic power at both 60 and 300 degrees/s.

In summary, the literature regarding the differences between plyometrics and ballistic resistance-training for improving power output is very limited. The only available study found that Olympic weightlifting was superior for improving power outputs in comparison with plyometrics.

***

How can we summarize these findings?

The literature describing how different training variables affect gains in muscular power is clearly limited. However, we can draw some tentative conclusions from the long-term training literature, by updating our matrix as follows:

Comparing power training

The only clear trend is that high-velocity movements seem to be more effective when combined with loading for improving power outputs. This can be seen as ballistic resistance-training is superior to plyometrics and the Olympic lifts are superior to plyometrics. Additionally, loaded movements may be superior where they are performed quickly rather than slowly.

***

What are the practical implications?

Where increased power outputs are specifically required (rather than jumping performance), ballistic resistance-training or the Olympic lifts and their variations may be superior to other modalities.

Can Olympic weightlifting improve power?

Olympic weightlifting is commonly used for increasing lower-body muscular power. Most people are aware that power outputs measured acutely during the performance of the Olympic lifts are very high. However, long-term trials measuring the effects of the Olympic lifts on power output are very thin on the ground. Let’s take a look at the literature and find out what we know…

What is the background?

What is muscular power?

For general background to muscular power, see my previous blog post about gains in muscular power after heavy-load resistance-training. How different training modalities stack up against one another will be covered in a future blog post.

What is Olympic weightlifting?

Olympic weightlifting is an individual sport in which two lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk, are contested in weight classes. The snatch involves the barbell being lifted from the floor to overhead in a single motion. The clean and jerk involves the barbell being lifted from the floor to the shoulders and then from the shoulders to overhead in two separate motions. In some respects, the sport of Olympic weightlifting as very similar to powerlifting, in that the maximal load lifted is the goal. Indeed, strength is very strongly correlated with Olympic weightlifting performance. Stone (2005) found that 1RM squat explaining 94 – 95% of the variance in Olympic snatch and clean performance while Beckham (2013) reported that maximum force during the isometric mid-thigh pull explained 83 – 84% of the variance in Olympic snatch and clean performance. In other respects, the sport is more similar to the throwing events in track and field, albeit with much greater loads.

Why is Olympic weightlifting considered useful for developing muscular power?

Olympic weightlifting is commonly used for increasing lower-body muscular power even though there are few long-term studies to support its use for this purpose. When asked to justify their inclusion in a strength and conditioning program, most coaches will refer to the high acute power outputs observed. However, we have seen in previous blog posts that the size of an acute power output is not a good predictor of long-term adaptations following programs of either conventional resistance-training or ballistic resistance-training. This therefore seems like a fragile assumption.

What do we know about muscular power outputs during the Olympic lifts?

Twenty years ago, Garhammer (1993) produced an influential review in which he compared the acute power outputs during the Olympic lifts and the powerlifts. Using a series of calculations, it was suggested that acute power outputs in an elite-level Olympic clean for a heavyweight lifter would be around 4,200W while a deadlift performed by a similar calibre power-lifter in a comparable weight class would be around 1,300W. However, later studies found that when submaximal loads were used, power outputs during deadlifts were much higher than Garhammer suggested. Indeed, Swinton (2011) measured power outputs during deadlifts performed by power-lifters with 10 – 30% of 1RM at around the same value (4,200W) as calculated by Garhammer for the Olympic clean. In fact, it seems that bar speed is more important than the type of exercise when it comes to the acute power output produced during resistance-training.

What do we know about the Olympic lifts and strength gains?

Long-term trials indicate that using the Olympic lifts does lead to increases in muscular strength. Moreover, a small number of studies have been performed assessing the effects of altering certain training variables within an Olympic weightlifting program on strength gains. Hartmann (2007) found that a greater training frequency in a program involving the Olympic lifts led to superior increases in isometric knee extension strength. González-Badillo (2006) and González-Badillo (2005) both found that a moderate volume of training was superior for strength gains than a low volume. However, they also found that where volumes were pushed too high (to the point where trainees were unable to complete the required numbers of repetitions), this led to inferior strength gains in comparison with a moderate protocol.

What were the selection criteria?

The following studies assessed the effects of Olympic weightlifting on improvements in muscular power during long-term experimental trials, where Olympic weightlifting was the only type of activity performed and the outcome measure of the study was a measurement of power in Watts. Differences in training variables were not assessed because so few trials have been performed in this regard.

***

Does Olympic weightlifting training improve power outputs?

The following trials have assessed the effects of Olympic weightlifting training on measures of muscular power and are summarized in the table below:

Olympic weightlifting power

Arabatzi (2012) assessed the effects of Olympic weightlifting on various parameters measured during squat jump tests in 26 recreationally trained male subjects who could squat >2 times bodyweight. The subjects trained 3 days per week for 8 weeks. The researchers found that the Olympic weightlifting group displayed significant improvements in countermovement jump power output, in addition to an increase in leg stiffness during the push-off phase of both squat and countermovement jumps.

Chaouachi (2014) assessed the effectiveness of Olympic-style weightlifting in 63 children (aged 10 – 12 years) over a 12-week training period. Before and after training, isokinetic power was measured at both 60 and 300 degrees/s. The researchers found that Olympic weightlifting improved isokinetic power at 300 degrees/s.

Hoffman (2004) assessed the effects of Olympic weightlifting on various parameters measured during squat jump tests in 20 male members of an National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III collegiate football team. The subjects trained 4 days per week for 25 weeks. Before and after the training period, the researchers tested power output during the vertical jump. However, the researchers did not detect any significant changes in vertical jump power output. There was only a non-significant trend towards an increase in vertical jump power output (8.2%).

Hartmann (2007) performed a 3-week investigation into the effects of twice- and once-daily training sessions with similar training volumes in 10 nationally competitive male weightlifters on vertical-jump peak power and weightlifting performance. The researchers found that counter-movement jump peak power increased only slightly (0.4 – 2.3%) and the effect sizes associated with these increases were very small (0.03 – 0.12). It appears that these increases were non-significant.

Häkkinen (1985) investigated the adaptations to a 2-year period of training in 9 elite weight lifters. They reported a non-significant increase in the average concentric power index (4.1%) but a significant increase in total weight-lifting result (2.8%).

***

How can we summarize these studies?

In summary, despite widespread use of the Olympic lifts for developing muscular power, the evidence for their use in this respect in all athletic populations is strong but not overwhelming. Of five studies, only two found a significant effect on muscular power of Olympic weightlifting, although the other three found non-significant trends in the same direction.

Unfortunately, few studies have compared different training variables during programs involving Olympic weightlifting. Only Hartmann (2007) explored different volume-matched training frequencies and found a non-significant trend in favour of higher training frequency for improving muscular power.

Other studies have assessed the effects of altering training variables during Olympic weightlifting training on lift performance, strength, or jumping ability. In respect of strength, González-Badillo (2006) and González-Badillo (2005) investigated the effects of volume and found superior increases in both lift performance and strength with a moderate volume of training compared to low or high volumes of training. However, power gains were not measured in this study. Siahkouhian (2010) assessed the effects of altering training frequency in order to increase volume and found that a doubled training volume led to a non-significant reduction in lift performance. Again, power gains were not measured.

***

What are the practical implications?

Evidence from long-term trials supports the use of Olympic weightlifting for improving muscular power.

Apart from possibly a higher volume-matched training frequency and more tenuously a moderate training volume, recommendations for how to structure a training program to best effect are hard to make.

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