Power and Skill: Twin Training Methodologies - PROGRAMMING: THEORY AND TACTICS - Explosive Calisthenics, Superhuman Power, Maximum Speed and Agility, Plus Combat-Ready Reflexes--Using Bodyweight-Only Methodsp (2015)

Explosive Calisthenics, Superhuman Power, Maximum Speed and Agility, Plus Combat-Ready Reflexes--Using Bodyweight-Only Methods (2015)




I advise two different training approaches for the chains in this book:

· Power training, and;

· Skill training.

Which one you use depends on which chain you are working on.


A huge amount of articles and books have been written about different training approaches, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. Broadly speaking, there are two different types of exercise in this book; exercises that mostly build basic power (strength x speed) and exercises which also require sophisticated movement skills. (There is overlap, but these broad categories are valid.)

The vertical leap is an example of a basic power move—it doesn’t take a huge amount of skill to perform. You just drill it over and over again to build power, strengthen the joints, and generally improve your explosive performance. The back flip is an example of a skill-based movement. Sure, it still requires a lot of power, but it also requires that your nervous system has actually learned the movement. It’s not just about “physical” conditioning—there are definitely a lot of athletes who have the physical equipment (power, speed, joint strength) to pull off a back flip, but they can’t actually do it—they don’t have the skill.

Jumps are fairly simple and can be used to build power. More sophisticated techniques like flips also build agility and can be seen as skill movements. You should try and train each category differently.




✵ Simple (typically up-and-down)

✵ Complex (typically involve rotation, partial rotation, or multiple movement angles)


✵ Speed-strength

✵ Linear performance

✵ Joint integrity

✵ Coordination

✵ Equilibrium

✵ Timing


✵ Muscles

✵ Muscle-nerve connection

✵ Joints

✵ Nervous system

✵ Brain

✵ Mind

There is overlap between power and skill exercises—leaping between buildings requires both!

Another way to look at the distinction is to use an analogy with computing. Basic power drills involve work on the muscles, soft tissues, nerves and even bones. They build better hardware. Skill movements are also conditioning the nervous system, brain and mind. They upgrade the software. For the best system you can get, you need both, right? You begin by building a great hardware unit—adding to it and improving over time—and you can then start uploading superior software.


The six major movement types in this manual are not interchangeable. You should view jumps and power pushups as your basic power exercises. Kip-ups, and front and back flips should be viewed as skill exercises. Muscle-ups are a more balanced blend of skill and power, but I would tend to train them as a skill exercise if you want maximum explosiveness. (The dip progressions included as an ancillary exercise to muscle-ups are neither strictly power nor skill. Train them as you would any regular strength movement—low to moderate reps with low sets).

The explosives hierarchy.


Over the next couple chapters I’ll spell out the practical differences between training for power, and skill work. For now, I’ll just outline the fundamental ideas. The basic principle is that when predominantly training the muscles and the joints (power training), you are working with aspects of your anatomy which take time to adapt to that stimulus—if you train for power, you’ll find that after a day or more of rest, you can come back stronger. When you are working for skill—as long as your body is conditioned to it—you are really training the brain and nervous system. Up to a point, these areas adapt almost instantly.

Playing the violin is near the extreme end of the skill vs power spectrum. It’s a pure skill so lots of practice required (hours per day), with not much rest needed. Compare it to pushing huge weights, at the other end of the spectrum—you’d need to practice less, and rest much more, right?

To use extreme ends of the spectrum as an example, imagine performing heavy Olympic barbell training with huge weights (power), compared with playing the piano (skill). The more you tried to lift through the day, the worse your performance becomes as the muscles and joints tire. But the more you practice the piano through the day, the better you get, right? (Up to a point—burnout.) That’s because the nervous system and brain adapt much, much faster than the muscles and joints.

Ultimately, this means that you should make your power training hard and brief, then rest until your next session, a day or two later. Do what you need to do, then stop. Skill training is different. Do as much as you can! The more you practice your back flip, for example, the better it gets. So get in as many reps as possible. Train it as often as you can—and provided you don’t push your muscles and joints too hard during your training, you can actually perform skill work more often than you might think.

By now you will have firmly grasped the fact that, despite some overlap, power-based exercises and skill-based techniques are essentially different animals. They also need to be approached in diverse ways. I’ve done my best to summarize the two methods in the table below:




Try to get more powerful with every repetition.

Try to make each rep more technically perfect.


For maximum power, use 1-3 reps per set.

For maximum skill, only one rep per set.


Varies, but under 20 sets is probably a good upper limit.

Perform as many sets as possible without “burnout”.


Perform a session of power moves once every few days.

You can perform a session of skill moves every day, or even several times per day.


Understanding the ins-and-outs of different training methodologies can be complex—but the take-home message of this chapter is real simple. The backbone of your power training should be jumps and power-based pushups. They are simple to perform, condition the body, and build oodles of strength-speed in the upper-and-lower body. On top of these basics, you need to add skill-based movements, which allow you to express your power in a more sophisticated (typically more agile) manner. You need to train both categories (power and skill) of technique differently.

How do you do this? The next chapter will teach you my method for building power. The chapter after that, chapter thirteen, will teach you the best way to train to develop the skill movements.