Developing lower-limb strength and then power helps improve speed, acceleration and jumping. This in turn helps improve many track and field events, as well as field sports, gymnastics, weightlifting and martial arts.
Developing maximal strength in the lower body is an essential prerequisite of developing power. I still think the barbell squat is the king of all strength exercises. That’s because the squat exercise uses most of the major muscle groups in the lower body, overlapping with those used in running and jumping, so it is very suited to most sports.
At the very least, you should keep bodyweight squats in as one of your core exercises. I always say that we should be able to do our age in bodyweight squats. For my advanced clients I recommend that you have a minimum strength base of squatting one rep maximum (1RM) of the equivalent to your own bodyweight.
Strength training develops the muscles’ ability to exert force, for example pushing a heavy object. Power training develops the ability to exert this force in less time – ie to make the movement quicker, for example throwing a ball. Sprinters can generate forces of up to three and half times their bodyweight when racing, so having sufficient leg strength to generate this force without injury is necessary. This explains the commonly quoted guideline that a power athlete needs to be able to squat a weight equivalent to twice their body weight – eg an 80kg male rugby player should be able to squat 160kg.