5 Programming Strategies For Developing Athlete's Power In the Weight Room

No matter the sport, the ability to express power is the great separator. Connor McDavid is the greatest hockey player we have ever witnessed. Justin Verlander is arguably the greatest pitcher of his generation. Rory McIlroy is arguably the greatest golfer of his generation. Mike Trout is the greatest hitter.

All four have incredible skill. McDavid’s ability to make plays at top speed is unparalleled. Verlander has great off-speed stuff and command. Rory is excellent at all facets of the game of golf.

However, all four of these guys combine being exceptional at the finesse areas of their craft, with being extremely powerful. The combination of the two is what allows them to be generational.

As a Strength & Conditioning Coach, our job is to give our athlete’s the best potential to excel at their particular sport. We can get them stronger, help them move more efficiently, and give them as big of an engine, and as much horsepower as possible.

This post is to talk about five specific methods you can help your athlete’s improve their power output.

Editor’s Note: Notice the title states, ‘In The Weight Room’, so we aren’t going to cover sprinting and plyometric training (which are obviously great ways to get faster and more explosive)

  1. Get Strong First! Perform Your Strength Work With Intent

I know you’re probably saying, “you gave this whole prelude about POWER and now you’re going to start this off by talking about strength.”

You cannot put the cart before the horse.

You can be really strong, and not be powerful, but you’re not going to be powerful without first being strong.

Of course we want the car to go fast, but you have to build the V-10 first!!

Athletes need to spend their first years of training building a foundation of strength and stability. It may not be sexy, but it’s what works. It’s also important for them to build up the necessary technical proficiency so that when they get to a point where you start implement more advanced means (that will be extremely taxing) they can handle it and not get hurt in training.

2. Velocity-Based Training (VBT)

VBT is simply performing any of the lifts with lighter loads (I generally use anywhere from 50-80%) and focusing on moving the bar FAST!

You can have your athletes perform VBT with or without measuring bar speed. Obviously using a Tendo Unit or something similar is going to be more precise, but use your eyes. If it doesn’t look fast, the athlete either needs to increase their intent, take some weight off the bar, or both!

As was touched on above, athletes need to earn the right to employ VBT training. It’s silly to load the bar with moderate loads and focus on speed if they aren’t strong yet. However, once they’ve built their force capacity it’s a great, simple method to build power.

3. Contrast Training

This method is simply performing a superset of a maximal or near max. lift followed by a drop set in the 50-70% range. You will want to have the athletes take 2-3 minutes in between each exercise, AND in between each set.


A1) Trap Bar Deadlift 3×2 @ 90 %

A2) Trap Bar Deadlift 3×3 @ 65 %

The athlete should focus on moving the A2 deadlift FAST!

4. Complex Training

The complex method is similar to the contrast method, but your second exercise is going to be a plyometric jump. Said jump must mimic the same motor pattern. You are going to only rest briefly (10-30 seconds) following your heavy lift before doing your plyometric. However, you need to ensure adequate rest (2-4 minutes) is taken before doing the next set because this is a very stressful training protocol.

Example A:

A1) Anterior Loaded Reverse Lunge: 3×4/side

A2) Scissor Jumps: 3×6/side

Example B:

A1) Bb Bench Press: 4×3

A2) Hip Extension MB Chest Pass: 3×3

Example C:

A1) Bb Back Squat: 4×4

A2) Box Jump: 4×4

Example D:

A1) Heavy 10 yd Sled Push

A2) 10 yd Sprint from Push Up

5. French Contrast Training

This method essentially combines the complex and contrast methods, and in my opinion, is the bets method for developing explosive power in the weight room. With that said, it’s an advanced method and only advanced athletes should be exposed to it.

French Contrast Training is four exercises in this order:

A1) Heavy Compound Exercise (80-90%)

A2) Plyometric Jump

A3) Drop Set or Weighted Jump (30%)

A4) Plyometric or Accelerated Jump

You can get creative with the movement patterns you utilize in order to be specific to the athlete’s sport.

Example A:

A1) Bb Back Box Squat: 4×3 @ 85 % — No Rest

A2) Hurdle Hop: 3×5 — 15s Rest

A3) Box Jump w/Weighted Vest: 3×3 — 15s Rest

A4) Band-Assisted Vertical Jump: 3×5

— 4-5 Minutes Rest before the next set

Example B:

A1) Anterior Loaded Bulgarian Split Squats: 4×3/side — No Rest

A2) Step Up Cycle Jumps: 3×5/side — 15s Rest

A3) Weighted Vest Bulgarian Cycle Jumps: 3×4/side — 15s Rest

A4) Band-Assisted Split Jumps: 3×6/side

— 4-5 Minutes Rest before the next set

This is a ton of stress. Only advanced athletes who’s CNS can handle this amount of intensity should be prescribed this method. Communicating with your athletes is also extremely important to ensure they’re recovering properly. This is Plan A, but you always need to have a Plan B and Plan C depending on the day and situation.