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Six Ways To Increase Power Without Training More

Power is different from strength and gives you the explosive energy for cruxes. Understanding the difference is crucial to improving your power game.

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Crux got you down on your un-sent project? You may need more power. Power is different than strength—it’s “the ability to generate a large amount of force in a short period of time,” (The Rock Climbers’ Training Manual, 2015). Power is speed plus strength in one precise move such as jumping and landing a dyno, sprinting, or performing an explosive lift.

Power depends on genetics, training, and diet. Genetics dictate types and amounts of muscle fibers. While you can’t dictate genetics, you can have an effective power training program that includes strength, anaerobic training, and aerobic capacity. You can also eat foods that will increase your power.

To understand how diet plays a role, first we need a mini-lesson in physiology. Your body uses different energy systems for different types of movements. You use creatine phosphagen (CP) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy systems for short bursts of intense work lasting less than 10 seconds (hi power!).

Glucose is the cell’s preferred source of fuel for bursts of power. Eat carbohydrates, which your body converts to glucose. Carbs include bread, pasta, oatmeal, fruits, legumes, starchy vegetables, milk and yogurt. For especially intense sessions, fuel up with a quickly-digesting carb that can get into your working muscles fast. Sour Patch Kids or Swedish Fish right before a burn can be the secret sauce to the send.

Research from other sports show that athletes who eat appropriate carbs for their workload can perform at more intense efforts with a lower rate of perceived exertion than athletes eating low-carb diets. Aim for about four to seven grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day. You may need more than this depending on your training.

Eating enough overall calories is also crucial for power. Your body cannot adapt to an intense training load without adequate energy. You know if you are getting enough calories if you feel energized, are able to see progression in your workouts, and can see strength and power improvement. Signs you are not getting enough calories are:

  • You may feel fatigued or demotivated to work out
  • You get sick or injured easily, or have a hard time recovering from injury
  • You are not gaining muscle or strength, plateau, or even decrease in muscle and strength
  • For females, your period becomes irregular or stops altogether

Staying hydrated during a training session will help you feel more energized, less fatigued, and help you have sharp mind to concentrate on these explosive moves. Dehydration decreases performance and power. Start the training session well-hydrated by drinking about eight ounces 60 minutes prior to your session. During the session, sip water or a sports drink as needed. If you don’t get thirsty during the session, you still need to drink to stay hydrated, especially if the session is more than 90 minutes long. Add in electrolytes for longer or intense sessions.

Consider supplementing with creatine, especially during a power-training phase. Creatine is part of the creatine phosphagen energy system in your body we discussed earlier. Creatine can help:

  • Increase time to exhaustion
  • Make strength moves feel easier
  • Possibly serve as an anti-inflammatory
  • Possibly open up blood vessels to allow for more blood flow

You can take three to five grams of creatine a day. Creatine is often accompanied by temporary water weight gain, which isn’t harmful. Vegans and vegetarians don’t get any creatine in their diet (since the dietary source is animal flesh), so a creatine supplement is especially useful for these people. Creatine is safe and not harmful to the kidneys, but if you have existing kidney disease, check with your doctor (as with all supplements) before taking it.

The supplement beta alanine can help fight pump and burn during intense or cruxy moves. It buffers hydrogen ions that build up during intense efforts. Try four to six grams daily for four weeks. Beta alanine may cause a harmless tingling sensation. Again, check with your doctor before adding a supplement.

Finally, don’t underestimate the impact of a good night’s sleep. Feeling tired, sluggish, or under-recovered will lead to loss of power. Consistent and adequate sleep is your ticket to good training adaptations.