What is Power?
One fairly complex notion that arises in fitness conversations is that of power. What is it, and how does it relate to our everyday fitness goals?
To understand power, we should actually begin with the concept of force. We apply force to objects in order to change their motion. In other words, the force we generate can move objects, or stop them from moving. Likewise, we can apply force to the ground in order to make ourselves move, or, again, to stop our own motion.
When we apply force over a certain distance, then we’re doing work.
[Work = Force x Distance]
The greater the distance over which we apply the force, or the more force we apply over a fixed distance, the more work we do.
So where does power come in?
Well, power is the rate of doing work. It’s a measure of how quickly we apply force over a given distance. The shorter the time interval, the greater the power application.
One can, for instance, apply force to a leg press in order to move one’s body over a fixed distance… Or, generate a lot of power on the leg press, and accelerate over that distance. Maybe even cover a greater distance in a shorter period of time.
Power enables us to do things like jumping… And when we do explosive strength exercises, we can transfer that power to activities like throwing, shooting, or swinging a bat or golf club.
But power isn’t only useful in athletic activities; even basic movements, such as walking and running, require some degree of power. In these, power is needed to push off the ground to move the body forward. In fact, improving the power of the calf muscles can be really helpful in maintaining even normal movement capacity.
It may seem unusual, but even getting out of a chair is facilitated by the application of power.
A great device on which to develop power is the CYBEX Arc Trainer. The Arc Trainer displays power in watts, which is a combination of resistance and stride rate, as the foot plates move over a fixed distance.
By increasing your resistance at a fixed speed, or increasing your speed at a fixed resistance, you increase your power output, at anywhere between 50 and an astounding 900 watts.
Pushing yourself on the Arc Trainer is a lot easier than you think, and it can help you to become much more powerful.
Why not test drive the Arc Trainer, and see what (watt) your power level is?
Paul M. Juris, Ed.D.
Executive Director, CYBEX Institute for Exercise Science
Dr. Juris earned his Doctorate in Motor Learning from Columbia University in 1993, followed by a variety of positions in higher education, rehabilitative medicine, professional sports, and fitness. Paul Juris, Ed.D. was named Executive Director of the CYBEX Institute for Exercise Science in January of 2007