ACFT PREP: Why you should be power cleaning
I'm not surprised; I'm actually just interested in the fact that the standing power throw is proving to be quite difficult for some soldiers. It makes sense, really. Service members haven't ever been asked to be explosive before.
The U.S. military used to want members that rivaled its speed and ability to move and make change...But a new day has dawned, and with it, a new type of hero is being called on. The kind of hero that doesn't slip a disc every time they get up too fast from their office chair.
Explosive power is important, especially for combat-ready troops. Let's see how the standing power throw is doing at measuring power and how you should actually train for it.
What is the standing power throw and why is it useful?
The SPT measures how much explosive power you have.
The new ACFT is designed to test 6 different aspects of fitness:
- Strength- Deadlift
- Power- Power Throw
- Anaerobic conditioning- Sprint Drag Carry
- Upper Body Muscular Endurance- Hand Release Push-ups
- Core Control- Leg Tucks (For my caveat on the effectiveness of this choice, check this out.)
- Aerobic conditioning- 2-mile run
Power is a legitimate fitness variable that should be tested, especially considering that there's a ton of actions that Soldiers perform that take quick, explosive bursts of strength... like shoulder throwing an E-2 to the ground for bad mouthin' the ACFT.
I'll even double down on power training being important since the majority of back, hip, and neck injuries I saw while on active duty almost always included a crusty 35+ service member doing some dumb quick twisting jerking maneuver. You know who you are.
How to train for the standing power throw
Add a full combat load to the ACFT then you'll get a real eyeopening experience.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew J. Marcellus)
Train for power.
Training for power roughly translates to: incrementally loading an explosive movement in order to translate strength gains into power.
The key above is the incremental loading part. You can't develop more power by using submaximal loads. ESPECIALLY when you only have two attempts at the standing power throw. Power Jumps and Tuck Jumps can only be effective at making you more powerful if you are some way able to increase your first two jumps. After that point, especially for purposes of the test, you're training your muscular power endurance (if that's even a thing...I think that's just cardio).
The same is true of a long HIIT workout. A HIIT workout by definition requires you to be putting out at greater than 90% of your Heart Rate Max. If you're no longer putting out at that level of intensity, you're essentially just doing Medium Intensity Steady State (MISS) with weights. A REAL HIIT workout lasts 20 minutes, maybe 30 minutes if you're an elite athlete.
In order to throw further, you need to do three things.
- Get stronger
- Translate that strength to power
- Perfect your form
Lucky for you, I have an exercise that will help you with two of these, and in conjunction with training for the deadlift, you'll have all three covered.
The power clean
The power clean is the superior clean variation for the purposes of the ACFT. I'll even make the argument that it beats out the snatch because there is a minimum drop of the hips in the power clean. All the Olympic lifts and their clean variations involve 'getting under' the weight so that you don't have to pull the weight off the ground as high.
The power clean, on the other hand, has you only dropping the hips to roughly the quarter squat position. It has the longest pull, from the floor to the collarbone, of the lifts. That's why it's named the power clean. It requires the most amount of power to get the weight up.
For all his faults, I think Mark Rippetoe correctly categorized the power clean in his book Starting Strength when he said this of the power clean:
"The power clean by training the athlete's ability to move heavy weight quickly, is the glue that cements the strength training program to sports performance"
It’ll help your form too
The form of the standing power throw has a very striking similarity to the pull used in the power clean. They both make use of 'triple extension,' which, if performed efficiently, will allow you to transfer the most amount of your power through the ball and barbell to allow you to exhibit the most power possible.
Triple extension is when the ankles, knees, and hips are completely extended. It's a complete transfer of all your power into the implement in hand.
It's a skill. It's not something that you'll be able to do perfectly the first time, especially if you have a significant amount of weight on the barbell or if your nerves are really tweakin' during the test.
The power clean trains nearly the entire movement for the standing power throw. The only part it misses is extending your arms overhead and releasing the ball. Lucky for you, that's the easy part, the arms will follow the chain of kinetic energy traveling upward that started at your feet.
You still need to train actually throwing the ball, though.
For more on the power clean check out Starting Strength.
For more on form and training for power exercises and the Olympic lifts, check out Zack Telander's Youtube channel (above).
For more on the various events of the ACFT, check out my author page.
For training plans on the ACFT, have a look here.
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