Power is often confused with strength. This means whenever someone demonstrates how heavy they can lift, they are then deemed powerful. However, that is not power at all and a brief physics lesson can easily explain it. The physics definition of power is the rate (energy amount per time) at which work is done or energy converted. In exercise, this means how fast can we exert force. Being strong isn’t always enough. For example, if you can squat 800lbs but it takes you 10 second to move the weight you won’t be much help in quick reaction situation.
In most sports performances, you need to be able to exert a decent amount of force very rapidly. This ensures that you can accomplish the task at hand in a timely manner. In the strength and conditioning world, much emphasis is given to improving power through explosive lifts and movements. Often supersets (combination of two exercises consecutively performed) are utilized to prime the body and then demand another stimulus in succession. This is call potentiation. The muscle fibers to lift a moderate/heavy load are recruited, then the demand of a power/explosive movement help adapt the body to need the amount of muscle recruitment when summoning the explosive movements like jumping or sprinting.
So, we see how combining a strength movement followed by an explosive movement can aid performance, but there’s the aspect of how cognitive performance can come into play. In sports, the environment is always changing, and you must be able to carry out the physical demands while making quick decisions and reacting to unforeseen events. Since the demands of the sport require this, it only makes sense that the training does too. We know that potentiation training is beneficial so a drill that combines the demands of power while simultaneously processing information can add the mental aspect needed while still getting in your reps.
The purpose of this drill is to have the athlete sprint explosively but then use working memory and proprioception to know where to line up after each rep. When you must remember which FITLIGHT™ was extinguished and then recall where the cone that matches is, you increase cognitive load. The more your brain must attend to, the more challenging the task becomes. By simulating this added stress and pressure the athlete can acclimate and be less likely to unfold at the seams during actual play. Proprioception is the awareness of your body’s position based on the information relayed to the brain. When you sprint to the FITLIGHT™ and backpedal to the appropriate cone you must have a good feel for where you are and where you need to be.
This drill is designed to be implemented within your workout and can be done on its own or accompanied with a compound lift such as squats or deadlifts. Since the goal is power the reps should be fast so three to five reps max should be done. There are three FITLIGHT™ stands set up 6-8 feet apart from each other and four colored cones (red, yellow, green, blue) set up in front. The distance from the cones to lights should be between 3-5 yards. The goal is to be able to quickly react to the light and extinguish it, then immediately return to the cone which color corresponds to the color light that was previously extinguished.
Protocol: The settings should be on random training with five FITLIGHT™ (red, yellow, green or blue)
Timeout: Between 2-4 seconds dependent on the athlete’s level.
Delay: Between 2-4 seconds dependent on the athlete’s level
Deactivation: Sensor 20cm
- FITLIGHT™ is activated
- Sprint and use hand to deactivate the light
- Reverse to the cone of the color of the previous light and await next FITLIGHT.
Repeat process for the prescribed amount of repetitions.
Progressions to this drill can be added to make the working memory load or proprioceptive actors more difficult.
- Denominating– This means you attribute a certain action to each color light. For example, you can assign left-hand deactivation to the red and blue lights and right hand for the green and yellow lights. You can add more physical demand to the working memory load by having the color also mean to do a cone hop (or another exercise) if the light is also red.
- Staggered Cones– Lining the cones in different positions instead of the straight line will make it a little more difficult for memory and body awareness.
- Stress Exposure: If the athlete plays a ball sport, have them catch a ball in some point of their transition during the drill. This can have them get the sports specificity needed.
So, try implementing power cognitive conditioning into your routine. It can make sessions more interesting, fun and give the mental edge every athlete needs. Not to mention you can save time by integrating it into your strength work! However, you decide to get your mind right just make sure you SEE THE LIGHT!