Training for Power: What I’ve Learnt From Josh Bryant

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Strong man displaying his power

Josh Bryant is one of the most successful powerlifting coaches ever. He is also the youngest person in history to bench press 600 lbs. Josh’s success can be attributed to his strong work ethic and dedication to his craft. He is always looking for ways to improve his athletes’ performances, and this has led to him becoming one of the most sought-after coaches in the world. Josh’s knowledge of the human body and how it works has allowed him to develop unique training methods that have helped his athletes achieve amazing results. Continue reading to find out what he taught me about training for power.

A brief introduction to explosive strength training

Strength and conditioning training for dynamic strength and power is a type of physical training that focuses on developing an individual’s ability to generate explosive strength and power in dynamic movements. Dynamic strength and power are essential for athletes who participate in high-intensity sports such as football, basketball, and sprinting.

Dynamic strength refers to an individual’s ability to generate force rapidly and explosively during movements that require quick changes in direction or speed. This type of strength is essential for athletes who need to accelerate quickly, change direction rapidly, and perform explosive movements such as jumping, throwing, and sprinting.

Power, on the other hand, is a combination of strength and speed. It refers to an individual’s ability to generate force quickly and explosively, often in movements that involve the whole body. Power is essential for athletes who need to jump, sprint, or perform explosive movements with high velocity.

Strength and conditioning training for dynamic strength and power typically includes exercises that target the major muscle groups of the body, such as the legs, back, chest, and arms. These exercises may include squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, and also Olympic moves such as power cleans, snatch, or clean and jerk.

To develop dynamic strength and power, athletes may also perform plyometric exercises such as box jumps, depth jumps, and medicine ball throws. These exercises focus on explosive movements that require rapid changes in direction or speed.

In addition to strength and plyometric exercises, athletes may also perform speed and agility drills such as shuttle runs, cone drills, and ladder drills. These drills help athletes develop the quickness and agility needed to perform explosive movements with precision and control.

Overall, strength and conditioning training for dynamic strength and power is a crucial component of athletic performance. By developing the explosive strength and power needed for high-intensity sports, athletes can improve their performance, reduce the risk of injury, and achieve their full potential on the field or court.

How to train for power?

Power development and dynamic effort work are greatly misunderstood by a large number of novice and even intermediate lifters. Most people either carelessly drop down and try to bounce back up while minimising force production or speed lift 50% of their 1rm hoping that it’s going to increase their strength.

The point about power development is that it’s intended to decrease the time necessary for the development of maximum force, not increase strength per see, however, if applied correctly, there can be some decent transfer to the strength parameter but that requires adequate resistance. Well said but how do you precisely define “adequate”? Is there some sort of threshold and what is the minimum weight that can allow for meaningful strength transfer? I’ll cover all of these questions in the following article.

Power = strength?

Not directly, however, the ability to produce maximum force faster will allow you to lift more weight because you will not have to spend as much time under tension as you would have to if you were developing maximum force in a slower manner. The trick here is to combine power work with strength work in a way that allows you to develop both parameters simultaneously.

If you follow the strongest lifters and their methods, some of them say that they do not include dynamic effort separately in their training at all but rather try to execute every single repetition with maximum speed. This helps to build both strength and power, assuming the weight is heavy enough to cause meaningful strength adaptations. What they are doing is they are hitting 2 birds with 1 stone as it’s not the bar speed but the intent that matters. It simply forces your CNS (Central Nervous System) to increase the motor neuron firing rate which results in stronger muscular contraction.

But how heavy is heavy enough?

Upon trying out many different methods and working with numerous coaches, I must say that nothing has developed my strength, power and speed as much as Josh Bryant’s protocol. The man is a wonderful coach, a great athlete himself and also a very helpful person. Don’t get me wrong there, the advice I got from other coaches was very useful and allowed me to produce very strong athletes but Josh’s system just took me to a completely new dimension of strength and conditioning training.

Josh’s speed protocols that he was programming for me were always preceded by a top set (unless they were just activation sets) and I was usually using around 80% of the top set (and the top sets were always heavy).

Hanging around 80% of my 1rm (which could include ~75% for triples or ~85% for singles) has allowed me to build the most strength, power and speed. Since I met Josh, I now always make sure that I do use enough weight when I’m programming speed work. The point is that it’s not just speed work anymore as the sole speed is not what I’m after here, it’s the intent of pushing a heavy weight as fast as I can. It’s called CAT (Compensatory Acceleration Training) and has been preached for decades by famous R.I.P. Fred “Dr Squat” Hatfield who was Josh’s mentor and also the first person on the planet to squat 1 000 lbs.

Build muscle with speed?

Another important thing about heavy CAT sets is that they can help you build more muscle if you perform enough work during the session. Roughly speaking 5 to 8 sets of triples is enough to already elicit some morphological adaptations and cause your body to adapt by growing muscles. That’s one of the reasons why I aim for triples in the CAT sets more often than for singles or doubles. I want to ensure that I accumulate enough volume so I don’t have to play around later with light weights and do too much isolation volume work.

If you count precisely the repetitions executed, 5 sets of 3 reps give you 15 reps total. It’s exactly the same amount of reps as if you went for 3 sets of 5 reps. Do 3 sets of 5 reps in a compound movement build muscle mass? Fuck yeah! What about 8 triples then? 24 repetitions, almost as many as 5 sets of 5 reps, huh? If you add additional 3 sets of 8 reps of isolation work, you will accumulate plenty of volume and that allows you to develop not only strength but also muscle mass.

Take a look at this sample bench protocol that utilises CAT work to increase strength, power, speed and muscle mass simultaneously:

  • Bench Press 1×1@RPE 9
  • CAT Bench 5×3@80% of the top set
  • CAT Close Grip Bench 3×3@70% of the top set with the addition of medium bands
  • Incline DB Bench Press, neutral grip 3×5@RPE 8, focus on explosiveness
  • Chest + Triceps + Biceps isolation work, 3 sets of 8 reps

The takeaway

If speed work is performed in the lower intensity zones, it will only build speed. The heavier the weight is, the more transfer to the strength parameter will be experienced and if you can find a golden mean between heavy and light weight and allow yourself to blast out enough volume with medium weights, you can also grow muscle using the CAT sets.

P.S. Check out these articles to find out what I learnt from Ryan Kennelly and Scot Mendelson.

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