High velocity athletes must train to be very forceful- there’s no doubt about that. Increasing force production can come about from many means- maximal effort weight training, overcoming isometric training, and overload (supramaximal) eccentric training just to name a few. The key here is to have a maximal effort movement that is greatly loaded enough to utilize very high threshold motor units. This style of training helps:
- Preventing injury– Improving tendon stiffness and stability in the structures surrounding joints
- Improves Titin content-This will improve the ability to handle forces displayed during the deceleration portion of the movements involved
- Increase voluntary activation– This is an increase in force production of the muscles via increased motor unit recruitment threshold
However, heavy strength training is not the end-all. We have to remember that the high velocity athletes must express that force at very high velocities. So we must train with more explosive modes of training such as jumps, sprints and medicine ball throws. These movements will help:
- Increase neural drive to the movement
- Improve rate coding or motor unit firing rate
- Increase coordination within that high velocity movement
- Improve muscle architecture with increased fascicle length and type 2X fiber content, which can help display greater levels of force at very high speeds
So as you can see, coaches and athletes alike can often be torn between which method will be most impactful for their sport. Whenever an athlete trains, they put in tons of effort in hopes that they will see great results for their sport. Nobody wants to waste time and energy with methods that won’t work very well! So how can we best determine which method of training is best, and how much value of each style would be needed to see the best results.
If you missed my series on this subject, I highly recommend checking it out. That series dives more deeply into the tests, means of measurement, protocols and research behind all the methods that can be tested.
Regardless, here are some simple steps that you can do to get a quality force-velocity profile:
- Select an exercise that would best indicate our production and planes of motion used in your sport
- Load the exercise with three evenly distributed weights- one being very light or non-loaded, one being medium loaded and the other being relatively heavy loaded. These will each indicate performance levels at different parts of the force – velocity spectrum.
- Perform the exercise 3-10 times (so long as you ensure fatigue is not present) and mark down the peak and average performance for each level of resistance
- Gauge the difference between performance levels at each level of resistance. So for example, if you threw the heavy medicine ball 25 mph, the medium load medicine ball 29 mph and the light medicine ball 36 mph, then that indicates you perform relatively well with the light load, not as well with the heavy loads. This would indicate a Force-deficient profile, pointing towards more heavily loaded training.
- Lastly, reassess the profile every 2-3 weeks to see what adaptations are coming about from training.
What to do if a Force-Velocity profile method like above is not an option:
- Create a high velocity means of testing. Lightweight medicine ball throwing for velocity or distance works very well with baseball and javelin athletes. Sprinting and jumping tests work well too. What you will do here is log your training and label certain methods as high velocity training and maximal force production training. Monitor the volume of each as you train for 2 to 3 weeks. Then, under a non-fatigued condition, re-test to see how well you perform. If that high velocity measure is not improving, then you will likely have to shift the volume of training towards more force production or more velocity production
- You can also also use a simple means of comparison. As I laid out in a previous video, there a certain range is a performance that would be labeled as elite for high velocity athletes. If you can determine where you are elite, that can point you in the right direction of where you may be lacking the most. So for example, if you are elite in means of heavy strength training, but you are not very good at displaying that force at high velocities, then obviously that should point your training towards more explosive training.
- Measure power output in a more sport specific means. For baseball, throwing velocity and batting exit velocity our main metrics that we use. Obviously, if you do not have access to a radar gun, you can simply throw or hit balls as far as possible and gauge the distance. Make sure to test this every 2 to 3 weeks to see if it is improving as a result of your strength training program. If it is not improving, then obviously you need to make adjustments to the program as listed above.