8 Low-Impact Moves to Boost Power & Strength
Last Updated: Jan 11, 2017
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Whether you want to be the next Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson or just want to perform better on the field or in the gym, building power is key. The problem is that traditional power-building exercises are usually also high-impact, which can put real stress on your muscles and joints. And even if you can handle high-impact moves, it’s still a good idea to take a break from them to promote recovery and decrease your risk of injury. The following eight exercises are low-impact moves or variations of traditional ones that will help you build power without all the stress.
TRADITIONAL POWER EXERCISES
Traditional exercises like sprints, jumps and Olympic lifts are phenomenal at boosting your power, but they can also be very stressful on your muscles and joints. For example, when you’re sprinting, the ground reaction force can be up to five times your body weight. This means that a 200-pound person is exerting about 1,000 pounds of force into the ground — and that’s a significant burden for your body. The same goes when landing from a jump: Depending on the height of the jump, the impact on your body can exceed four times your body weight.
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MEDICINE-BALL CHEST PASS
For this move, sit or stand facing a wall, holding a medicine ball at chest height and close to your body. Keep your abs engaged, hips back and low back from arching. HOW TO DO IT: Explosively throw the ball to the wall without allowing your hips to rotate or move. Catch the ball at chest height. If the ball drops below your chest before you catch it, you may need to move closer to the wall or throw the ball harder. Remember to make every throw as hard as possible. Start with three to five sets of six throws for true power work, or do 15 to 20 throws for power endurance.
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MEDICINE-BALL LATERAL SCOOPS
For this version, sit sideways to a wall holding a medicine ball. Keep your abs engaged, hips back and low back from arching. HOW TO DO IT: With the medicine ball at waist level, bring the ball to the outside of the hip furthest from the wall. Don’t let your hips rotate. Throw the ball explosively against the wall in a scooping motion. Catch the ball and reset before going into the next throw. The key is to keep your hips from rotating. Your upper back can rotate as you throw the ball as long as the hips and low back stay facing forward. Perform three to five sets of five to six reps per side (facing each way) for power, or do 15 to 20 reps per side for power endurance.
There are few better exercises for targeting full-body power than the medicine-ball slam. Stand with your feet just slightly wider than hip-width apart. Keep your abs engaged, hips back and keep your low back from arching. HOW TO DO IT: Quickly bring the ball overhead. Explosively reverse directions, slamming the ball to the ground and catching it on the bounce. You should focus on keeping your abs engaged throughout the entire exercise and not allowing your low back to arch or your upper back to round. Complete three to five sets of five to six slams for power, or try 15 to 20 reps for power endurance.
The kettlebell swing mimics the movement of jumping, but without the ankle extension and the impact of landing. To start, stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Hold the kettlebell low in both hands in front of you. Keep your abs engaged and the back neutral. HOW TO DO IT: Push (or hinge) your hips back, not down. Once your chest is about parallel to the floor, explosively push your hips forward, squeeze the glutes and swing the kettlebell forward and up toward the ceiling to about shoulder height. Try not to use your arms to lift the kettlebell to the top position — it’s all about gravity. You should feel the work taking place in your hamstrings and glutes. Let the kettlebell swing back down as you reverse the motion into your next rep. Perform three to five sets of five to six explosive reps for power, or do 10 to 20 reps for power endurance.
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POWER PUSH-UP TO ELEVATION
This move helps improve explosive upper-body pushing power while decreasing the stress on your shoulder joints. HOW TO DO IT: Assume a push-up position with your hands just beneath your shoulders. Place hands either on the inside of two steps/pads about three to six inches tall, or on a weight bench or box. Engage your abs to prevent the low back from sagging or arching. Lower yourself down, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body. Explosively push off so that your hands leave the surface that you’re on. Catch yourself softly. The elevated landing helps reduce the impact forces on your shoulder and elbow joints. Perform three to five sets of three to five reps.
SINGLE-ARM DUMBBELL PUSH PRESS
Olympic lifts are a staple in many training programs designed for power development, and for good reason: They work! The problem with these moves is they require the lifter to receive a heavy load quickly, resulting in a high amount of compressive force. You can get the same benefits of these moves without the stress with the single-arm dumbbell push press. HOW TO DO IT: Start with one dumbbell at shoulder height. Keep the core engaged as you push your hips back, not down. Explosively reverse directions and as you approach standing position, push the dumbbell toward the ceiling, using the momentum from the leg drive. Hold the top position for one second, then lower the weight back down to shoulder height with control. Switch hands and repeat on the other side. Perform three to five sets of three to six reps.
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Like sprints, there are few exercises better for lower/full-body power than jumping. But like sprints, the impact forces from jumping (more specifically, landing) can aggravate your joints. To reduce the landing impact, you can modify by jumping up to a box. This move takes some practice, so start with a low box and only jump high enough to clear the box and land softly on the top. Once you’ve mastered that, you switch to a higher box. HOW TO DO IT: Stand in front of the box and swing your arms behind you, moving your hips back. Explosively jump up and swing your arms toward the ceiling to create momentum. Land as softly as possible on top of the box. Push your hips back and keep your knees from caving in toward each other. Step down from the box; do not jump backward off the box! Perform three to five sets of three to six jumps.
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Like the box jump, this move is a fantastic way to express power without the high-impact forces of jumping. HOW TO DO IT: Start with one foot on a box (your thigh should be roughly parallel to the floor). Imagine driving your foot through the box as you explosively push yourself up, simultaneously bringing the other leg up and forward as if you were trying to drive your knee through the ceiling. Follow the jump up all the way through so that your foot leaves the box briefly, before softly absorbing yourself back into the starting position. Perform three to five sets of three to six reps per side.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What are some other low-impact moves that produce power? How do you modify traditional power exercises to protect your joints? Are any of these moves part of your current workout? If not, try them and let us know how they work for you in the comments below!
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