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How to Use Power Training to Build Muscle and Confidence, One Move at a Time

This training style isn’t just for athletes: find out how it can benefit you.

By Pam MooreApril 3, 2024

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If you’re ready to uplevel your fitness but you don’t have additional hours to spend working out,  power training might be just what you need. Unlike your typical ride, run, or strength workout, “the primary focus lies in refining speed, agility, and overall athletic performance,” says Peloton instructor Assal Arian—which means doing some big movements (think heavy lifts and explosive jumping) for short periods of time. Learn more about how power training can benefit you, and exactly what you can do to get started.

What Is Power Training?

If you’re wondering exactly what power training is—and how it differs from other types of training, we’ve got you covered. In short, “Power training is a specialized fitness approach designed to enhance the rapid generation of force through explosive and dynamic movements,” Peloton instructor Assal Arian tells The Output

Is Power Training The Same As Strength Training?

While power training and strength training certainly have some overlap, they’re not exactly the same. General strength training can help you meet a variety of objectives, including injury prevention, bone density optimization, body composition goals, to boost performance in another sport, or to add variety to your workout routine.

While power training can help you meet all the goals mentioned above, by emphasizing quick, explosive movements, it’s designed to enhance your neuromuscular coordination and to improve your force production, says Assal. 

And while power training can involve lifting weights (think compound movements using heavy weights), it can also include some spicy cardio moves. 

Strength Training vs. Power Training: The Main Differences

To understand the primary difference between strength training and power training, let’s start with the basics—working definitions of terms “strength” and “power.” (If you hated physics class in high school, bear with us.)

Strength refers to your body’s ability to resist force, which is measured in Newtons. The formula for force is as follows: Force equals mass (m), which is measured in kilograms, multiplied by acceleration (a), which is measured in meters per second squared (m/s2). 

Power, measured in Watts (w), is the rate at which you can produce energy, or how quickly you can generate strength, and it’s calculated via the following formula: Power = force multiplied by velocity. If you’ve ever noticed your wattage increase during a Peloton ride, that’s because you increased your resistance (force), your cadence (velocity), or both. 

Ever wondered why you felt comfortable running ten miles at a conversational pace—but the bootcamp class that had you doing 30-second sprints left you feeling completely spent? The issue was that you might have had plenty of strength and endurance, but not enough power. 

Is power training superior to strength training? The complicated truth is, it depends. There are many factors to consider, including your athletic goals, training history, current fitness level, and your injury history. Even if power training looks like the right option for you on paper, you also have to consider how much you enjoy it—because the best workouts are the ones you consistently complete.

The Benefits of Power Training

Power training is an excellent, time-efficient way to improve your athletic performance, enhance your overall fitness, and more.

Improved Endurance Sports Performance

Endurance athletes including cyclists, runners, and triathletes might be surprised by the impact of power training on their performance. The extra strength and efficiency you build from heavy lifting and other explosive exercises translates into greater power output during intense efforts in your sport, whether that’s charging up a hill, going with an attack, or outsprinting a competitor in the home stretch. 

One study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance compared competitive cyclists who performed endurance training only versus those who did as well as a heavy lifting program. Over just 20 weeks, those who did heavy lifting (a form of power training) showed marked improvements in their explosive strength and VO2 max on the bike. 

Improved Agility

Power training, including heavy lifting, sprint training, and plyometric exercises, is a great way to work on your agility and coordination, which are essential for sports like tennis, soccer, and pickleball, just to name a few. 

A Journal of Medical Pharmaceutical and Allied Sciences study tested a group of badminton players’ agility before and after engaging in a plyometric training program. After just five weeks, subjects showed significant improvements in measures of agility, including a plank test and a vertical jump test. The researchers concluded that “plyometric training not only improves the agility or anaerobic power but also strengthens the core, which is the power-generator of the body.”

Improved Connective Tissue Quality

When you think about health, fitness, and the long-term sustainability of your exercise program, you might not be thinking about your connective tissues—but you should be. Because if your tendons and ligaments can’t do their job of supporting and protecting your muscles, your muscles can’t do theirs, either. 

Power training is one way to optimize the integrity of your connective tissue, which reduces your risk of injury. A 2022 Sports Medicine meta-analysis reviewed more than 30 studies found that plyometrics were an effective means of improving lower body tendon stiffness.

Power Training Moves to Try 

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Many power training exercises don’t require a gym or even equipment. After a solid warm-up, try including some of the following moves in your next workout. 

1. Box Jump 

Box jumps build explosive power that translates to endurance sports, including cycling, running, or rowing. 

  1. Start by planting your feet on the floor about shoulder-width apart, facing your box. Start with a height of 12 to 24 inches, depending on your height, fitness level, and athletic background.

  2. Hinge forward from your hips, and in one explosive movement, jump up and forward with your knees slightly bent. 

  3. Land on the box with both feet simultaneously, about hip-width apart, with your knees and ankles flexed and a slight bend at your hips. 

  4. Stand up straight, then step off the box.

2. Broad Jump 

A simple bodyweight move you can do just about anywhere, broad jumps engage your upper body, legs, and core to help you develop explosive power.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees bent, and your arms extended behind your trunk. 

  2. Shift your weight to your heels and get into a partial squat. 

  3. Transfer your weight to the balls of your feet and jump up and forward, reaching your arms forward and overhead. 

  4. Land in a squat position while bringing your arms back down to your sides. 

3. Burpee

If you’re looking for an equipment-free, full-body cardio exercise to get your heart rate up in a hurry while boosting your dynamic power output, the burpee is your move.

  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. 

  2. Squat and rest your palms on the floor.

  3. With your weight resting on your hands, kick your legs back in one explosive motion.

  4. Plant the balls of your feet on the floor so that you’re in a high plank position.

  5. Bending your elbows, lower your torso down to the floor.

  6. Extending your elbows as if you were doing a pushup, rise back to a high plank position.

  7. From a high plank, jump your feet forward so that your toes are just behind your hands.

  8. Stand up. 

  9. Jump straight up with your feet about hip-width apart while raising your arms overhead. 

4. Explosive Sprint 

Short, very fast sprints, whether on the bike, running, rowing, or doing any other type of aerobic activity, activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers to help you generate quick bursts of speed more efficiently. 

  1. Gently warm up at an easy pace for at least five to ten minutes. 

  2. Sprint for 30 seconds at nine out of 10 rate of perceived exertion (RPE). 

  3. Continue at an easy pace for 90 seconds. 

  4. Repeat 4 to 12 times, depending on your fitness level. 

  5. Cool down at an easy pace for at least five minutes.

5. Squat Jump 

This high-intensity move requires no equipment but gets your heart rate up quickly and engages your core and lower body to develop the dynamic strength and power you need to elevate your performance in just about any sport. 

  1. Stand with your feet planted about hip-width apart. 

  2. Hinge at your hips and bend your knees while keeping your core engaged and your chest upright to get into a squat. 

  3. In one explosive movement, jump straight up, extending your knees and hips. 

  4. Land on the balls of both feet simultaneously with a soft bend in your knees. 

6. Weightlifting for Power 

When you lift weights for power, you’re forcing your body to recruit more muscle fibers than you would if you were lifting for muscular endurance (lower weights and a rep range of 12 to 20) or hypertrophy (moderate weights and sets of 8 to 15). And that recruitment means more of your muscle fibers are trained to engage at the same time, making it easier to put in a surge when it’s time to attack your next hill or sprint on the bike. 

If you choose this type of workout, make sure you’re ready to do it safely by first spending weeks (if not months) lifting lighter weights in higher rep ranges with excellent form.

  1. Choose a compound lift such as a squat, deadlift, chest press, or overhead press. 

  2. After a few warm-up sets, select a weight that you could safely lift three to six times. You should feel as if you could do no more than two more reps with good form. 

  3. Lift that weight three to six times. This is one set. 

  4. Perform two to six sets, depending on your fitness level and training goals.

  5. Rest for two to four minutes between sets.

How To Incorporate Power Exercises Into Your Workouts

If you’re including power training in your workouts, following a few general guidelines will help you minimize your risk of injury and get the most out of your workouts. 

Start with a Warmup

These moves are quick but they demand a lot from your body, which means you need to warm up with at least five to ten minutes of gentle aerobic activity in order to do them safely. A gentle warmup that increases your body temperature, boosts your circulation, and activates your muscles is a non-negotiable. 

Don’t Skimp on Rest Intervals

Unlike an endurance workout, where your goal is to maintain a relatively steady pace throughout, the goal of a power workout is to generate as much force as quickly as you can for a very short period of time—and in order to do that, you need adequate rest between intervals. Rather than rushing to get in an extra set, prioritize quality over quantity and make sure you’re fully recovered in between sets.

Don’t Do Power Training Every Day

These workouts might not leave you feeling beat up at the end of a session, but they aren’t designed to be done on consecutive days. Otherwise, you risk injury, burnout, and performance declines. Make sure to put at least 48 hours between power sessions. 

Consider Dedicating One Workout to Power Training Each Week

While there’s nothing wrong with adding a few power training exercises to your workout, dedicating an entire workout to power training can be a fun and effective way to elevate your fitness. “This targeted focus challenges the body's ability to generate force rapidly, promoting optimal development of both power and strength,” says Assal.

Peloton Workouts to Try 

Many Peloton stregnth and HIIT cardio classes incorporate elements of power training into their programming. Looking to get started? These are just a few classes you'll find on the Peloton App.

The Takeaway

No matter what your fitness goals are or what stage you’re in on your fitness journey, power training can help you keep your workouts fresh and reach your finish line faster. As Assal shares, “Power training is great for individuals seeking to augment their athletic prowess, agility, and overall power output. It's also beneficial if you want to enhance functional strength and speed.”

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