Because of the increasing use of the term Power Training in recent years, the word "power" has acquired a completely different meaning than the one usually accepted in athletics, leading to much confusion in athletic and bodybuilding training.
In sports, power has commonly been known as explosiveness, a combination of speed and strength. The athlete overcomes the maximum weight possible in the shortest amount of time. To illustrate, let's examine the definition and formula for power.
Power is the amount of work done in a certain period of time. Written in formula form, it is
P = FxD
P = power
F = force
D = distance
t = time
Thus, if an athlete lifts a 200 pound weight two feet in one second, power would be equal to 400 joules. However, if he lifts the same amount of weight but executes it in half a second then he would exhibit 800 joules of power!
It is obvious that as important as strength is, if there is a decrease in time (faster execution) then significantly more power is developed. In the above formula, an increase in strength of 100 pounds (which would take a long time and be very difficult to increase greatly over even over a long period of time) would only increase power to 600 joules. Because of this, in most sports power is synonymous with explosiveness.
Keep in mind that slow movements also generate power.
For our purposes. Olympic weightlifters are the best example of athletes involved in a power or speed-strength type sport. They must lift the maximal amount of weight as quickly as possible in order to execute the necessary movements. These lifters are some of the fastest athletes in the world. In other words, they execute their movements faster than any other athlete in any other sport.
Their explosiveness is not limited only to one bodypart. They are explosive in their leg, trunk, and arm movements.
For example, many world class weightlifters can accelerate faster than world class sprinters for the first 5-10 meters. In addition, Vasily Alekseyev, the great Soviet superheavy, ran the 100 meters in 11.5 seconds. David Rigert, who is considered to be the one of the most amazing lifters ever, ran the 100 meters in 10.4 seconds!
In the sport of powerlifting the object is to lift the maximum weight possible regardless of speed of execution. The major criteria are that the athlete go through the prescribed range of motion and that he keep the weight moving at all times.
Because of the maximal weights that are lifted, the movements are very slow. In many cases powerlifters' speed of movement approaches what is sometimes called dynamic isometric movement; the movement is so slow it can almost be compared to a static contraction.
Because the sport is called powerlifting, slow lifting has come to be called "power lifting." Obviously, such power lifting is in direct opposition to the definition of power used in most sports, i.e., an explosive movement done in the shortest amount of time. Because of this, the term "power training" in the sport of powerlifting can be misleading when compared to training for explosiveness.
It is still a legitimate term since powerlifters do create great power because of the high level of strength involved; albeit at the expense of speed. In reality, powerlifting is a true example of absolute strength; i.e., the maximum weight a person can overcome for one repetition, regardless of speed.
In both weightlifting (an explosive sport) and powerlifting (an absolute strength sport) maximal weights are used. In weightlifting it is not the maximal weight that the lifter can lift in a single movement.
For example, in snatch pulls (pulling the bar from about knee level to hip-joint level) the athlete can usually lift 110-120% of the maximum amount he can lift for the total (full) snatch event. Therefore, the maximal weights in the full lifts are not the maximum for portions of the lifts or what they can lift in individual exercises. In powerlifting the athletes use the maximal weight possible for a single, relatively simple movement, as opposed to highly complex, integrated movements as seen in weightlifting.
In training for power, weightlifters use both maximal and near-maximal weights (the percentage is based on preserving speed and technique) for development of strength. They use lighter weights (30-75% of maximum) to develop speed. The exact amount of weight depends upon the level of physical fitness, the stage of preparation, and the level of sports mastery. Heavier weights are used most often as long as speed of execution remains the same. If speed drops (movement is slower), the weights are decreased accordingly. That is done to preserve effective technique of execution and the explosive (quick) nature of the lifts.
In training for power as done by some "misguided" powerlifters, only maximal weights are usually used (90-100% of maximum). With such heavy weights, speed of execution can only be slow, making it a pure strength movement, not an explosive power movement. A more appropriate name for the sport would be strengthlifting.
Since the name of powerlifting for this sport has stuck, lifting maximal weights very slowly has come to be accepted as a "power" movement [especially true in the bodybuilding world]. This is very misleading because in other sports it has always meant the opposite! What can be done to correct this misconception?
At this early stage of the game, very little! The term powerlifting, the increasing number of powerlifters and the increased use of "power training" (maximum weight, slow movement) by lifters is making it almost impossible to change this term.
However, a distinction must be made to alleviate additional confusion. Authors writing about "power training" should be very specific, to let the reader know whether they are referring to explosive power training (as seen in the sport of weightlifting) or if it is slow, high intensity (i.e., maximum weight) movements as seen in the sport of powerlifting.
Note: There's the source of a lot of bodybuilding confusion that came about when considering whether or not to include training for "power" in bodybuilding routines. It may also be time for us to stop using the term "power" and instead substitute "speed-strength." The term speed-strength conveys the meaning of fast or explosive movements much more clearly.
The erroneous use of the term power training based on slow strength movements could be overlooked if not for the very different RESULTS of such training.
When doing slow maximum lifts the end result is slow movement. The lifter does not require any speed of movement and actually loses speed of movement with continued high-resistance, slow-movement workouts.
For pure bodybuilders concerned with development of muscle tissue appropriate to an aesthetic appearance, the use of slow, maximum weight exercise can be seen as unnecessary, and in some views damaging to that aesthetic.