Power Training and Hypertrophy

A couple of the free plans you created to promote the rerelease of Surge last year involve a Power Day. It might include, say, Box Jumps supersetted with sets of light, but explosive squats.

Since none of these are “effective reps” due to the light weight, does that mean this style of training won’t stimulate any hypertrophy? Would there be any reason to eat more than maintenance level calories on Power days?

Yes, that is what it means.

In fact, in my seminars I address this specific issue.

For a long time, coached believed that power work (plyometrics, explosive lifting, throws, etc.) could be a good hypertrophy stimulus due to a high recruitment of fast-twitch fibers.

It’s true that FT fibers are recruited during high velocity exercises, which is the first condition for making a rep “effective” at stimulating muscle growth.

However, the tension imposed on the recruited fibers is low when the speed of movement is high (because of the momentum created and the rapid cycling of the actin-myosin bridges). Making explosive work very far from optimal to stimulate growth.

Extremely sedentary individuals can gain some size from explosive work because their trainability is so high that they don’t require a strong stimulus to grow. But besides that, you really won’t put on a lot of muscle from explosive work.

But that’s not the purpose of such work anyway.

Should you eat more than maintenance on power days? That’s a very restrictive view of things.

Nutrition isn’t just important for growth and it doesn’t only affect the workout of the day. For example, after a proper hypertrophy workout, protein synthesis in the trained muscle(s) remains elevated for up to 36 hours. This indicate that your body is in “muscle-building mode” for 36h after a workout is completed.

As such, nutrition for maximum growth isn’t only important on the day you are training for hypertrophy but for 1.5 day after the workout is done.

For example, if you lift (for hypertrophy) Monday at noon, your body is in enhanced growth mode until midnight on Tuesday, making your nutrition key during both Monday and Tuesday.

Furthermore, power training might not stimulate much muscle growth but it does:

  1. Have a fairly high energy expenditure
  2. Increases muscle insulin sensitivity

That second point is very interesting as the power session could be seen as a stimulus to increase glycogen storage for future workouts. So by increasing carbs intake on that day you could “carb load” with less risk of fat storage which could be beneficial for the next workout(s).

But in the grand scheme of things, it depends on your ultimate goal. If you want to add a significant amount of muscle, it’s best to stay in a caloric surplus on most days. Certainly on all training days (you can have control days to limit fat gain, but these lower calorie days should be on off day(s)).

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Just to be precise, it’s not because the weight is light that it is not effective for growth.

Light weight sets can absolutely be effective for growth, provided that the set is taken t failure or close to it.

Power work is ineffective for growth because the high velocity reduces muscle tension.


I’ve definitely noticed #1 and point #2 is definitely interesting, something I hadn’t considered.

Lately, I’ve read a number of coaches advocate calorie cycling during maintenance periods, matching intake to output. I wasn’t sure where power style training fit. I’ll try keeping cals a bit higher on these days.

Thank you for the reply.

But if set is taken to failure shouldnt it stimulate hypertrophy, especially if it’s in hypertrophy range (5-30)

These sets aren’t taken to failure.

The exercises are things like box jumps, jump squats with 20-percent of max, med ball slams, etc. for sets of 3-6 reps to develop power.

“Failure” in the hypertrophy sense means that you reach a point where you can no longer move the weight (you fail to complete a repetition).

Explosive exercise like those mentioned in this post cannot be trained that way… because they stop being explosive WAY before you hit failure and thus become ineffective for the purpose they are designed for (for building explosiveness).

Let’s take a loaded trap bar jump for example. “Failure” is not when you can not longer jump with the load, it’s when you can no longer move the weight up. Which would likely occur 20-30 reps after you can no longer jump.

So it would not really be loaded jump squats to failure, but rather something like 10 jump squats followed by 30 half squats to failure.

In that sense the failure would indeed stimulate growth, but it’s not because you hit “failure” on the jumps, but rather because at some point, the jumps become a regular squat and hitting failure on squats will stimulate hypertrophy.

Explosive training is designed to improve power, speed and motor units recruitment.

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Thank you