force-velocity-curve

Stronger, faster, more powerful. All athletes desire for their training to elicit these 3 things. But can you train to be stronger, faster, and more powerful all at the same time?

The answer is, “it’s complicated”. First, it depends on your training age (not your biological age, but how long you’ve been training). An untrained athlete or one with a young training age will see greater improvements in all three areas more rapidly because of neural factors and intrinsic muscle properties other than strength and power. Secondly, we must understand the force velocity curve (see graph above) and how it applies to proper periodization of training, muscle and neural adaptation, and overall performance.

If we interpret the graph above, we see that at slower velocities (distance/time), there is a higher rate of force (work done) development. And the inverse, at higher velocities, there is a lower rate of force development.  In between maximal strength and maximal speed we find optimal power (force x velocity) production.

So if we want to get stronger that’s all the way at one end of the curve, speed is all the way at the other end of the curve and power is in the middle. So how do I train for all of three to come together?

First, periodization or the systematic planning of athletic or physical training allows us to plan for the best possible performance in the most important competition(s) of the year. It involves progressive cycling of various aspects (strength, power, speed) of a training program during a specific time period. A strength coach will organize a training plan in such a way to maximize the strength and velocity response at vital times of the competition season.

There is a velocity specific training response such that slow training elicits improvements at all velocities except the fastest ones and causes a leveling off of the force-velocity curve at a lower level (1). High velocity training results in improvements at higher velocities. The leveling-off phenomenon and its response to training suggests that muscle recruitment capacity is influenced by training (1). Because of the velocity specific response to training, we most often focus on maximal force production (strength) during the off-season because speed is not as vital at this time. This allows us to maximize muscle cross sectional area and muscle architecture, which in turn will maximize power and speed gains for in-season performance. As we move towards, the pre-season and in-season, we move to the right on the curve and focus on power and speed. We do this by including more dynamic efforts at a lower percentage of max and higher speed.  While we move to the right on the curve during the pre-season and in-season, we will still maintain strength because with speed of the movement, we will maximally recruit muscle fibers (it takes a lot to gain muscle but it doesn’t take as much to maintain it).

To bring this all together, if you want to get stronger, faster, and more powerful it is going to take time. Dedicated training, under the supervision and expertise of a strength coach, for 6 months to a year will allow you to see results in all 3 areas.

 

By: Lauren Higgins, M.S., CSCS, FMS-level 1

Sports Performance Coordinator

 

References

  1. Gardiner, P.F. Muscle property changes in strength training. In: Gardiner, P.F. Advanced neuromuscular exercise physiology, Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2011; 161-187.