When it comes to movement and expression, power is the top of the pyramid.
To express power you must have a solid, injury-free movement base of strength and athleticism. You simply cannot be powerful if you don’t train it specifically on a regular basis, remember the old “use it or lose it” phrase? I have discussed this in depth in my first two articles on power training. (You can read them here)
As far as power is concerned, I would argue that many misunderstand the value of training this amazing human ability and generally miss the mark with how to train it safely and effectively. But let’s imagine that you are training to express power.
How do you know if you are actually building power with your training routine?
You can’t. Unless you test it.
I think testing for power is quite possibly the most important test(s) you could perform and often overlooked for gauging athletic performance and even physical health. But most people don’t test for power.
It’s quite common for people test their One Rep Max or “1RM” or even their 10 RM (this can be effectively converted using an app or easy formula to convert to a reasonable estimate of 1RM) on traditional gym exercises like a bench press, deadlift, or maybe even a kettlebell press for example – these are maximal strength tests and they are relatively poor indicators of your body’s ability to express power. Maximal strength tests (especially on a barbell or machine) are also lacking in that they don’t measure athletic performance or real life.
On the other side of the continuum, many people also test for endurance with tests like a timed 5K run, the 5-minute kettlebell snatch test, or a quick and painful timed 500-meter row. These tests can be great for gauging endurance, but they are a poor predictor of someone’s ability to generate pure power.
Yes, the 500-meter row and the snatch test are good tests for power endurance, but they don’t really help us gauge pure power. For example, someone may be quite good at the kettlebell snatch test, but still be unable to jump, throw, or sprint well.
The point here really is that it’s helpful and meaningful to have standards for strength, endurance AND power. Essentially, we want to know we can access our ‘turbo button” on demand, at any given moment, for sports performance, just for fun or if we ever need it in an emergency situation that requires swift action/reaction.
Have you ever thought about whether you truly have the ability to react in a life threatening situation?
What if you had to run out in the street to shave a young child or pull someone from a raging river?
I sure don’t want to ever test this, but knowing that I possess this ability gives me a warm, rich sense of empowerment that I get to carry with me at all times.
When I was a kid we used to get tested for power with the shuttle run, long jump, and sometimes other sprints and jumps. We had bronze, silver, and gold standards. Many years later when I was a high school strength coach, we made sure to test these qualities as well. They were fun and they sparked healthy competition among the students. Fast-forward to today in a world of participation trophies and it seems these tests have become less commonplace. It’s no wonder that most adults don’t think to test for power or even know how to test for power.
But that’s the point of this article. We are going to learn how to test for power and we are going to have fun doing it!
Gadgets, Tools, and New ‘Big 3’
Before we get started, you should know we have some amazing technological tools to measure power in this day and age. You’ve probably seen some type of Velocity Based Training Device or an Accelerometer being used to measure power. You may also have seen some athletes jumping on a force plate or jumping up to slap something that looks like a series of weather vanes to measure their vertical jump.
While neat, these devices can get costly and complicated. They can also be quite time consuming when trying to obtain meaningful results, so I generally don’t use them in my own training or with clients I coach.
Instead, I’ve come up with some of my own tests to measure power. They are akin to my high school strength coach days in that they are fun and they may spark a little healthy competition (even if that competition is just with yourself).
These tests are simple, short (under 10 seconds), and safe. They test for true power or what I like to call your “SuperPOWERed” ability. Basically, they measure your explosive ability to generate force quickly.
My requirements for these tests to have value for adults is that they must be as safe as possible, easy to administer, reliable, and they must effectively transfer to real world activities.
For example, I think doing a full, all-out 50-100 meter sprint would be a bad idea for most adults because it is not necessarily safe, even though it would be a great test for power. The same would be true for the long jump – without a great way to land really softly in sand, this test can be dangerous too.
So here are my “Big 3 Tests” for power that will test you in a few different ways that you have probably never seen or thought about doing, and thats a big part of beauty of it all.
For each test below I have created a guideline for you to see if you have your base ESSENTIAL POWER for a healthy adult. This means you likely have your foundation built and can now have something to shoot for to truly become SUPERPOWERED if you want to really become your best powerful self and be able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound (kidding, kind of).
Try these 'Big 3' Tests
- 10lb med ball (women) or 20lb med ball (men)
- At least 25 ft tape measure
- Good shoes with solid grip for the surface you are using (light cleats are ideal for grass)
- A sturdy tree or wall for the “Pop Up and Go Test”
- Safe solid surface that isn’t too slick or unstable (outdoors on nice grassy area is best)
The Viking Toss
This is adapted from the Norwegian Special Forces Fitness TEST. This tests your pushing power through your anterior chain (front half) and puts more emphasis on upper body strength. Someone who does well on this test is likely very strong on push-ups, able to throw a solid punch, and able to push a heavy sled without any trouble.
Men: 20lb med ball
Women: 10lb ball
ESSENTIAL POWER: over 13ft
SUPERPOWERED: over 17ft
Scoop Toss, AKA Granny Shot
This test correlates highly with a standing long jump. If you squint, it looks very similar to the setup before launch except here we are launching the ball instead of our bodies to make things safer. We can also add a few twists here to test for posterior chain/hip dominant power (back half of body).
Someone who does well here is able to jump and sprint well. They are also likely to have a very strong, healthy lower body for carrying and picking up heavy things.
Men: 20lb med ball
Women: 10lb ball
ESSENTIAL POWER: over 20ft
SUPERPOWERED: over 25ft
Pop up and Go Test
This is a unique test that is completely my own creation with some added flair from Original Strength founder and friend Tim Anderson. Here we are testing our ability to “pop up” off the ground, push off a wall or tree, then change directions, sprint to a cone, and return quickly back to the wall/tree and back pedal briefly before laying back down quickly and controlled.
Measure 3 ft out from an immovable object like a tree or wall, place a cone or obvious visual starting/ending marker down. Now measure a full 10 yards (30ft ) from the tree or wall and place another cone or marker. Make sure to have a buddy time you or you can potentially use a cell phone on video mode to get a good range of your time to see if you fall within the standards.
ESSENTIAL POWER: under 11 seconds
SUPERPOWERED: under 9 seconds
So you did the tests, now what?
How did you do?
Were you surprised by the results?
Are you a little confused where to go from here?
Well hopefully this article has given you an idea of where you currently stand on your own ability. Maybe more importantly, I hope this article has created some interest and awareness of the value of being a capable, powerful human at any age (remember to go back through Parts 1 and 2 if you haven’t already to get some added clarity on the HOW and WHY to become powerful).
Actually, if you haven’t already, submit your SuperPowered Big 3 Test Results here to see where you’re at on the SuperPowered Leaderboard!
Whether you are 8 or 88, doing safe, appropriate “superpowered” based exercises in your training will no doubt help you live your best life period.
Once you develop and hone this in, you will find it relatively EASY to maintain. I know I plan to jump, throw, and sprint for a lifetime!
If you are ready to take on a dynamic, fresh new challenge and really go all in to fast track your SuperPowered abilities I have an exciting new program right here that I’d recommend you check out.
If you had some trouble meeting the Essential Power standard I highly recommend you start with my Crash Proof program HERE.