Circuits That Draw More Power

By Diane Vives, M.S., C.S.C.S. – May 1, 2014
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons

Whether you are looking to be faster or increase your work capacity, you must make your movements more powerful. 

Although the Specificity Principle is often misunderstood, I want to look at it in terms of human movements that transfer to specific performance skills. Sometimes we get confused and try to make our physical training movements “mimic” sport movements for desired results. Really the goal should be to build a broader, more refined, movement ability. The body can then draw upon that skill when learning, perfecting, and increasing physical capacity. 

This principle hinges on range of motion and stability through the movement patterns before moving on to loading for higher levels of strength and power. Initial focus should always be on general conditioning and basic strength. 

Now, let’s take a look at a circuit strategy that allows us to take it up a notch.

Although scientists don’t completely agree on the mechanisms that contribute to strength and power gains from complex training, there is evidence that the body can respond very well to the neuromuscular challenge. A complex training set is defined as using a strength movement followed by a similar, related, and explosive plyometric movement. 

This is a high intensity set that needs proper recovery time. We’ve added an active-recovery movement to the set that allows rest while still getting some productive strength and stability work in a different movement pattern.

 Lower Body Strength: Rear-Elevated Split Squat

Purpose: The ability to emphasize strength in the single-leg stance and movement increases the application to stepping and striding mechanics that positively influence speed and quickness.  

• Start with one foot elevated behind you on a step or box. The box is used to maintain position and balance while shifting as much of body weight on the forward foot as possible. 

• The box height should allow for the torso to remain in an upright posture and not force an excessive forward angle.

• Hold the dumbbells at hip level, and make sure the ground-based foot is aligned forward.  

• Use flexion of the ankle, knee, and hip (triple flexion) to lower the body into a single-leg squat position. If looking from the side view, the mechanics should look the same as the two-legged squat version. 

• Maintain a neutral posture with a long spine while descending slow and controlled.

• Push through the floor with the ground-based foot to perform triple extension to return to start.

 Tweak Down: Perform a two-legged traditional dumbbell squat.  

 Tweak Up: Perform a single-leg squat with no assistance from box or step.

Lower Body Power: Single-Leg Hurdle Hop

Purpose: Focus on the explosive takeoff and power of a single leg and land on the same leg. This high-intensity hop should have a quiet and controlled landing.

• Start by standing tall in a single-leg stance with a hurdle in front of you that allows for a smooth takeoff and landing, usually just below knee height.

• Perform a quick counter movement by using partial triple flexion to load the power position.

• Without holding at the bottom of the movement, perform an explosive hop over the hurdle for a quiet, controlled landing.

• Walk around hurdle to reset and repeat the hop.

Tweak down: Perform a two-legged vertical jump onto a box that is below knee height. Landing on the box takes some of the impact out of the landing.

Tweak Up: Perform three consecutive hops together over three hurdles, spending the least amount of time possible on the ground in between the hurdles.

Active Recovery: Dive Bomber Push-Up

Purpose: This movement is also known as the Down Dog Push-Up, an easy modification of the popular yoga pose. Although this is not “easy,” it allows the lower body to recover while working on upper body and core strength, thus creating active recovery.

• Start in a four-point stance, with the hips at a 90-degree angle and a flat, neutral spine.

• Flex the arms and shoulders to bring the forehead toward the ground in between the hands.

• Next, pull the head and chest forward just above the ground. Finish by extending the arms.

• To return to start, push away from the floor, and reverse the movement until the hips are back to the top at 90 degrees of flexion and a neutral, long spine is secured.

Tweak Down: Perform a push-up; elevate hands on a box if needed.

Tweak Up: Reduce the base of support by using a single leg to create a three-point stance for the Dive Bomber Push-Up.

Because the intensity of this set is so high, it is important to decrease volume through the number of repetitions (three to five repetitions per exercise within the set) and allow proper recovery time in between the circuit sets. Proper form and technique accompanied by the proper recovery will reduce the risk of injury. Seek out certified fitness professionals in your area to build your foundation first or to assist in executing proper technique if needed.

Train smart while you train hard.


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