Maximizing Your Power Output (Without Power Cleans)

A professional photo of Dickie White punching a heavy bag with a right cross. He is wearing MMA gloves.

Your ability to generate power is a huge component of your success in wrestling.

By definition, power is the rate at which work is performed.

So the more power you generate, the faster you can get work done. In this case, by work I mean basically any situation where you need to move explosively in a match.

For instance, have you ever seen a slow takedown scored?

What about slow mat returns?

Or stand ups?

Being able to quickly perform these activities with lots of force is a huge determinant of success.

Anyway, if you look at the situations above, you’ll quickly realize that they are all performed by your legs and hips.

So, following a lifting program for wrestlers that maximizes the power your legs and hips can produce is of the utmost importance.

…You probably already knew this, but hey, I needed a convincing intro to get this post started.

But do you know how do you go about it?

No?

Well, you’re in luck. Today I would like to present a few research studies that will directly impact your weight selection. When put to use, this research will help you to maximize your power output.

Don’t think that’s valuable?

Check out this quote by some researchers (from study 1):

“…training with a load that maximizes power output (the optimal load) was shown to result in the greatest increases in muscle power. Therefore, identifying the optimal load in lifts commonly used for power training is critical.”

After reading that, it really became clear to me that there’s more to power training than my original belief which was “throwing heavy ass shit around.”

Then I read this quote…

“Because the optimal load varies according to the nature of a movement, it is imperative that the load-power relationship of various lifts be examined to establish effective, exercise-specific training recommendations.”

And it got me thinking even more.

So what do some of the research papers I looked at have me thinking now?

And how can you use the info to improve your power output for wrestling?

Study 1

Essentially the first study examined a few lifts. The researchers measured various power outputs at different percentages of the lifter’s max.

However, I was concerned with maximal power output during the Power Clean trials.

Here’s what was found:

“The present study identified the optimal load in the Power Clean to occur at 80% of 1RM.”

Peak power at this load was, on average, 4786 Watts. However, peak power was within 486 Watts of each output between 50-90%. This means that there wasn’t a whole lot of variation in power outputs.

Additionally, another study cited in the paper found similar percentages to maximize power output:

“Kawamori and associates established that peak power in the hang clean was optimized at 70% of 1RM but was not significantly different from peak power at 50, 60 80, and 90% 1RM.”

So, between the 2 studies, power output was shown to be maximized at 70% and 80%. It is worth noting the Power Clean vs. Hang Clean difference. This may have played a role.

But regardless, here is my conclusion:

If you’re looking to maximize your power using a movement that is inherently explosive, use 70-80% of your 1 rep max.

**Please keep in mind that in the above conclusion I include Snatch variations and explosive DB lifts. These were not included in the research. However, based on the similarities between the lifts, I feel they will produce similar power outputs as the Clean variations.

Study 2

This study investigated the force and power outputs of a Straight Bar Deadlift and a Trap Bar Deadlift.

Maximum peak power values averaged 4872 Watts. These values were obtained from the Trap Bar Deadlift at 40%. The researchers found little variance between 30 and 40%, though.

Ok, let’s do a quick power output comparison.

Trap Bar Deadlift (40%)- 4872 Watts.

Power Clean (80%)- 4786 Watts.

As you can see, the power output for deadlifts is actually higher than the power output of the Power Clean.

Still think you need to use Power Cleans to develop lower body and hip power?

Anyway, one suggestion from this paper really caught my attention:

“Some researchers have asserted that performing traditional resistance exercises with submaximal loads is an ineffective method for developing muscular power. This position is based on previous studies reporting extended periods of deceleration and reduced force production to slow the barbell velocity to zero at the end of the movement.”

Here’s what that quote means:

As you can see in this video, even though I move the weight explosively, in order to prevent myself from leaving the ground, I need to slow down at the top.

Because of this natural deceleration, I’m reducing my force production. Obviously, this is the exact opposite of what I’m looking to accomplish.

So, I got to thinking and here’s what I came up with:

No deceleration at the top, right?

And, I’m guessing, a much higher power output.

And here’s one with a straight bar, for those who don’t have access to a Trap Bar.

It’s pretty much a Jump Shrug, right? This is one of the introductory exercises in an Olympic lifting progression.

Here is my conclusion:

If you’re looking to maximize your power with a movement that is traditionally labeled as a strength exercise (Squat, Bench, Deadlift) use 30-40% of your max.

By the way, I’ve looked at a few studies on various Jump Squats. Unfortunately, the power outputs are not nearly as high as the Cleans or Jump Deadlifts.

Don’t get me wrong, Jump Squats can be used to increase the explosive capacity of your legs and hips. However, I’d stick to either 70-80% of explosive movements (Power, Hang Cleans) or 30-40% of your Trap Bar Deadlift performed with a jump.

Study Summary

Here’s a good summary from Study 2 (citing Study 1). It explains why 30-40% has been shown to maximize power outputs in traditional strength exercises. It also explains why 70-80% has been shown to do the same with power outputs in explosive movements like the Olympic lifts:

“Cormie et al. proposed that the difference in optimum load was because of the distinct nature of the movements involved. With Olympic weightlifting exercises the ballistic component of the movement enables large velocities to be produced with near-maximum loads. As a result, power is maximized with relatively heavy resistances. In contrast, traditional resistance exercises produce low velocities with heavy loads and subsequently lighter resistances are required to maximize the product of force and velocity.”

…these guys are smarter than me. That’s why I like to quote them.

To summarize- explosive lifts (Cleans) are already fast. So you can use a higher percentage to maximize power output. Strength lifts are slower.

Compare the speed of the 2 videos below. That’s why the percentages have to be so much less.

Studies Referenced

Cormie, P., G. McCaulley, T. Triplett, J. McBride. Optimal loading for maximal power ooutput during lower-body resistance exercises. Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise. 0195-9131/07/3902-0340/0, 340-349. 2007.

Swinton, P., A. Stewart, I. Agouris, J. Keogh, R. Lloyd. A biomechanical analysis of straight and hexagonal barbell deadlifts using submaximal loads. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 25(7), 2000-2009. 2011.

Now What??

Alright, we’ve established the percentages of your max that maximize your power output. But how do you work these exercises into your program?

I’d suggest using Prilepin’s Table/Chart:

A picture of Prilepins Chart/Table. It shows low, ideal, and heavy volumes at various percentages of a lifter’s max. It was designed by A.S. Prilepin for the Olympic lifters he trained.

Here’s a pretty good video explaining how to use it:

If you were using a Hang or Power Clean, this is what you should do:

1. Notice the 70-80% row in the chart (which has been shown to maximize your power output).

2. The total reps per set (Reps/set) are between 3-6. That is your rep range.

3. The optimal number of total reps is 18. The range is 12-24.

This means that the total number of reps you should do at 70-80% should be between 12 and 24. This total number should be achieved by using sets of 3-6 reps.

Based on that, here are some suggested set/rep schemes:

Low day (if you’re feeling banged up or have an upcoming match)- 4×3

Medium day (if you’re feeling pretty good, but want to stay fresh for practice)- 6×3

High day (if you feel great and don’t have a match for a few days)- 8×3, 6×4

Obviously the % of your max that you choose factors in to the total stress of the workout. Make sure that you keep that in mind.

Based on my experiences, I typically prefer to do more sets with the lower number of reps. However, you can mix and match as you see fit.

Whichever set/rep scheme you choose, make sure to pull the plug (or take longer breaks) if you feel your quality of effort starts to go down.

Remember- you’re trying to maximize your power output. Forcing yourself to grind through sets where you don’t have the “pop” you need takes the focus off of what you’re trying to accomplish.

As far as the Jumping Trap Bar/Straight Bar Deadlift goes- stick to the same set/rep scheme above. Just be sure to use between 30-40% of your max.

Again, make sure that your quality of effort remains high throughout the sets.

Conclusion

While I try not to over-complicate training, I thought this research was worth bringing to your attention.

Hopefully this post helped you to get a better idea on how to maximize your power development.

A picture of Kyle Dake and Dickie White.
Hi, I’m Dickie (the author of this blog). Here I am with my good buddy, Kyle Dake. While he doesn't have a nice coat like me, he is pretty good at wrestling. Here's what he said about my training system:

Before I began lifting using Dickie's system my wrestling skills were getting slightly better. I've now been lifting under his guidance for more than 5 months and I have begun to dominating ALL of my competition. At first I had little faith in Dickie and his program, but now I would run into a wall if he told me I would get stronger! I know it sounds insane, but I would. The bottom line is Dickie is an expert and knows what he is talking about. If you want to defeat those kids whom you've always lost to and reach a level you never thought possible, I suggest you start lifting using Dickie's system immediately.

-Kyle Dake, 4X NCAA Division 1 National Champion
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Want to see what other wrestlers are saying about my training system? Check out my Success Stories page.

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Want to learn more about Dickie? Check out my About page.

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Want to get started on a program today? Read this post and download your free program- 12 Week Training Program For Wrestlers.

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7 Comments. Leave new

Charles Maguire
June 2, 2013 3:29 pm

Dickie, really loved this article. I understand the percentages for power and hang cleans and reasons but bit bewildered on 30% – 40% of 1RM for deadliest, squats, bench etc. The 30-40% seems low for young wrestlers trying to increase strength and power, article and studies prove me wrong but hard to believe, intuitively wise.

So what is best way to work this into the 16 week Cornell Summer Program my son is starting? Is this program based on Prilepins Table or should I adjust percentages and reps as we go through? Also, on poewr cleans for example, should we do all sets at 70-80% or only do last set at that amount?

Thank you very much for your info.

Chuck

Reply

    Hey Chuck thanks for the feedback and the great questions.

    As far as implementing the above strategies into the program, there are a couple of ways you can do this.

    1. If you want to use power cleans (and want to adjust the existing percentages), I’d do this:

    Perform warm-up sets to get to the 70-80% range.

    From there perform the workload you’ve selected (12-24 total reps, preferably in sets of 3).

    2. If you want to switch to try one of the Jump Deadlifts, do this:

    Same warm-up sets until you get to 30-40%

    From there perform 12-24 reps in sets of 3.

    Regardless of which you choose, you’ll want to do somewhere between 12-24 reps at the weight, not just one set at the end. Doing more sets will help to get to what Prilepin identified as the volume that produces the best results. He found, in the case of 70-80%, that doing under 12 total reps wouldn’t produce a good enough stimulus to promote progress and going over 24 reps resulted in technique breakdown, burnout, etc.

    This stuff can get a little confusing, so let me know if I helped at all and if not, what I can help clear up. Thanks again man, talk to you soon.

    Reply

Hey Dickie, have you messed with hip thrusts or barbell glute bridges? They helped me a lot with sprawling and mat returns the most.

Reply

    Yeah Nick, I have the guys use those along with horizontal back extensions to improve their strength and power in those two areas. Glad they had such a positive impact on your performance man!

    Reply

      Oh cool and Thanks man!! Yeah I’m just curious. You we’re talking about horizontal ground force production helping shot speed. Have you ever done any studies or tests to see if working the glutes with hip thrusts and glute bridges among with other glute exercises helps increase shot speed? Cause I know the glutes are hugely responsible for sprinting and almost everything horizontal along with the hamstrings. I just have a feeling it would help a lot. Especially if you use bands on the hip thrusts. But I’m just speculating.

      Reply

        I haven’t looked into things as far as that goes. I think the best way to go about that would be to get an EMG machine and measure the electrical activity in the lower body when taking a shot to see what muscles contribute most to shooting. I’ve given it some thought, but EMG machines are far from cheap, lol. Maybe sometime in the future though. I’ll do some digging this week to see what’s out there as far as EMG when lunging, sprinting, or other similar activities that may give us some insight on what possibly goes on at a muscular level when shooting. Thanks for the great idea man.

        Reply

Yeah man no problem!! I hope it helps in the future!

Reply

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