Applied Principles of Optimal Power Development is the first offering of Max Schmarzo and Matt Van Dyke of Strong By Science. I happened upon the SBS social media channels a few months back, connected with Max, and found that we shared many ideas in common with regard to training. Since then I have been extremely impressed with his knowledge and more importantly real world application of science to the development of strength and power. As such, I was delighted to purchase his ebook on the subject and write this short review….
The book is broken down into the following sections:
- Achieving maximal intent in power training (effort)
- Maximal readiness (potentiation)
- Optimal load dosage (adaptation)
- Maintaining velocity (quality of stimulus)
- Minimising fatigue (management of training)
Each is covered in detail. The scientific concepts underpinning the topic are introduced, with supporting studies cited, and real world examples given on how the concepts can be implemented in the training process. There are also frequent examples of exercise variations and programme templates scattered throughout the book.
What did I like?
Strength is easy. Building strength is like falling out of a boat and hitting water. Just add more food to your plate and more weight to the bar. Power is a lot more complicated, and far more confusing to a majority of coaches. The myth that optimal power development is as simple as doing Olympic lifting or some box jumps every now and then still persists, and Max and Matt do a great job of illustrating why that is a dumb approach. More importantly though, they tell you what to do about it, how to trim the fat from your programme, and be as precise as possible in the stimulus that you deliver to your athletes.
Likewise, the practical advice on how to maximise the quality of each rep is worth the price of the book in itself in my opinion. Utilising the methods they suggest- real time feedback, clustered sets, velocity drop offs and optimised volume based on performance- will show you just how wide of the mark typical training prescriptions can be for some athletes. Using these tools will help you come closer to ideal goal of “right training, right time, right amount” in every session you do.
What I didn’t like?
There is a heavy bias in the book towards the use of velocity measurement tools in the training process like Gym Aware, Tendo unit or Pushband. This should not be a surprise given the collegiate background of Max and Matt, where budgets allow for such tools. Outside of the USA, or in other environments, such pieces of equipment may be too expensive to purchase- amateur clubs or high schools for example. In this situation it may be hard to implement much of the contents of book to any high degree of accuracy.
With regard to the above criticism I have a few thoughts:
- If you’re reading this book, you’re probably not working at the amateur or high school level anyway! And if you are, you probably don’t need such a sophisticated approach.
- The principles can probably be applied with a little creativity on the part of the coach e.g. use My Jump App to calculate jump height with a given load, then derive release velocity from flight time as a surrogate for peak velocity.
- A lot the velocity metrics serve to confirm what a well experienced coach already knows from using his or her eyes.
Second and only issue with the book: there could be a little more information on how to conduct needs analysis, schedule and progress the power training in an athlete’s programme. How should I know if my athlete should focus more on strength or higher velocity qualities? How long should each mesocycle last? Do I progress up in velocity or down as the season approaches? Questions like these aren’t really answered in the book, presumably because the answers are specific to the athlete’s sport, and would massively increase the word count.
Who should pick up this book?
If you’re just starting out and dipping a toe as a coach or athlete, wait before you buy this book, because it is not going to spoon feed you. It assumes you already have all of the fundamental parts of power training in your programme, and you have half an idea what you’re doing. If you’re still new to this, my advice would be to pick up something simpler. Maybe something like the Westside Barbell book on jump training.
If however you’re an experienced coach or athlete, you make a living doing this, and you’re looking to get every last drop of performance and injury reduction out of your programmes, this book is an excellent resource. It will help to fine tune what you already have in place. Personally, I have already made several small tweaks to how I train my athletes based on the information contained within the book and I found it well worth the price of purchase. If you’d like to pick up the ebook click right here (no affiliate links).