Heavy resistance training is a key element in developing the necessary strength and eliciting both morphological and neural adaptations that will enable a player to generate high levels of muscular power. Players therefore require optimal levels of strength, developed via appropriate heavy resistance strength training, as a precursor to engaging in training to specifically develop power.The specific approach that may be taken to strength training has been covered in a previous chapter. There does, however, remain a need for specific speed strength training to follow this initial strength development in order to optimize players’ ability to express explosive muscular power. Accordingly, the addition of speed-strength training has been shown to produce gains beyond those elicited by heavy resistance training alone (Newton et al., 1999; Baker, 1996;Delecluse et al., 1995).In the case of gross muscle actions, speed-strength exercises have been identified as the optimal means to target the elements of explosive power production described.
As implied by their title, speed-strength exercises combine both high force (the product of mass and acceleration) and high velocity(Hydock, 2001). Speed-strength exercises are characterized by maximal rates of force development (Hedrick, 1993) throughout the movement range of motion(Stone, 1993). These power development oriented exercises have thus been termed ‘full acceleration’ exercises by some authors (Baker, 2003).Potential adaptations to speed-strength training include improvements in contractile elements – such as increased maximum shortening velocity and power output of muscle fibres (Malisoux et al., 2006). Speed-strength training is also associated with preferential hypertrophy of high-threshold Type II muscle fibres (Stone, 1993).
Intent is key to the neural adaptations associated with speed-strength training (Behm and Sale, 1993). Due to their explosive nature, speed-strength exercises are more suited to evoke explosive intent. In the case of conventional strength training lifts such as the bench press, aside from mechanical considerations, athletes also must be coached to make a conscious effort to lift with explosive intent to optimize training responses on explosive power scores (Jones et al., 1999). Velocity gains training are reportedly reduced by half when subjects are left to self-select lifting speed (Jones et al., 1999).