How can I increase my leg power?

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Lets start by understanding exactly what power is. According to the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning textbook, power is defined as: the time rate of doing work, where work is the product of the force exerted on an object and the distance the object moves in the direction in which the force is exerted.

So to simplify things, power can be thought of as exerting maximum force in minimal time. Therefore, the best way increase leg power is perform explosive exercises such as plyometrics. Performing plyometics matches the definition of power perfectly. When you jump, you are exerting maximal force in minimal time.

Since power is the product of maximal force, you should also focus on improving your ability to produce maximal force by increasing absolute leg strength. The best ways to do this is to perform different variations of squats and deadlifts. I prefer these exercises over leg press because the biomechanics of a leg press are restricted to the predetermined path of the machine. Additionally, when using a leg press you are not utilizing your stabilizer muscles or relying on your bodies proprioceptive abilities to perform the exercise correctly.

When performing your squats and deadlifts, make it a point to focus on your bar speed. Essentially, perform the lifts as fast as possible while maintaining proper form and posture. NEVER sacrifice form and posture for heavier weight or more speed. This will only teach your body improper mechanics and will result in injury.

Lastly, performing a variation of weighted sprints will help increase leg power. Personally, I prefer to perform sled drags and prowler pushes for this. Essentially, you are moving the weight as fast as you can for a predetermined distance or time frame. Again, make sure you are not sacrificing your sprint mechanics during the exercise.

In order to improve and maximize your leg power, you must have a combination of good lower-body stability and strength.  Stability is the ability to keep the joints in the lower extremities (ankles, knees, hips) in proper alignment, and strength is the ability to maintain that alignment while moving through full and complete ranges of motion.  Before embarking on a program to improve leg power, it is wise to perform at least 4 weeks of stabilization training and 4 weeks of strength training to maximize the results from your power program.  Assuming your stability and strength are at adequate levels, one of the most effective ways to improve leg power is to perform a superset that combines a traditional strength exercise followed immediately by an explosive exercise that challenges the same muscles and/or movement pattern.  An example for the legs consists of performing a set of 1-5 heavy barbell squats followed immediately by a set of 8-10 squat jumps.  Take 2 minutes to recover and repeat this sequence up to four times. The rationale behind this type of superset is that because the resistance in the first exercise is heavy, it will create greater activation of the muscles involved in the movement.  Then, by following the first exercise with a more explosive exercise that works the same muscles, you will not only teach your body how to activate more muscle, but how to activate that muscle or groups of muscle more quickly, resulting in improved power. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.