The alternative method for optimising performance over a long season; which I spoke briefly about in my previous blog, is a much more individualised concept. It is a new idea which has been developed from the theory that every athlete has their own unique and individual force-velocity balance (makes sense really because of genetics, nutrition and how everyone responds differently to exercise and training etc).
What do I mean by everyone has their own force-velocity balance?
Everybody’s muscles have the ability to produce both force and velocity; force is required to move loads, whether it is climbing up a stairs (lifting your body weight) or it is bench-pressing 120kg; both require certain
amounts of force.
Velocity is the speed in which these movements can be accomplished. Obviously not everyone can bench-press 120kg but if you can imagine someone lifting a very heavy weight, the movement is usually a slow struggle; so the force-velocity curve for this movement would see a big imbalance in favour of force and a deficit in velocity. Likewise, a light person sprinting up a stairs will be moving a low load at high velocity so his curve would see a major deficiency in force and greater focus on velocity.
Example of a force-velocity curve: when force is high, velocity is low and when velocity is high, force is low. Peak power is generated somewhere in between.
So the theory is a relatively simple one. It is hypothesized that everyone has an optimal force-velocity relationship/profile, where force and velocity are balanced and this is when peak power will be greatest. This optimal profile therefore, is obviously where athletes will realise optimal performance and optimal results. By obtaining the athlete’s optimal force-velocity relationship and comparing it to the athlete’s actual force-velocity relationship we will be able to see the force-velocity imbalance which will determine what exactly the athlete needs to work on. The optimal force velocity relationship is calculated from the actual profile; taking into account things like height and distance of exercise movement along with peak power, velocity and force generated. Once an imbalance is detected, it is advised to alter the athletes training program to focus on their weakness. It is advised to test athletes and measure their force-velocity relationship every 2 weeks to prevent over compensation of one aspect and neglect of the other. The actual relationship can be gotten as a percentage of the optimal relationship so it is easy to see improvements or lack of improvements over the weeks (and see if the changes made in the training program are the correct ones).
What do I do when the imbalance has been corrected?
Once the athlete’s deficit has been reduced, the training should contain a mixture of force and velocity training or power training. The relationship is balanced so the aim is to increase both force and velocity at the same time, and in doing so increasing power. A good way to do this is with explosive power training (which was discussed in the previous blog). Over compensating the imbalance will also lead to a decrease in power so it is important to test athlete frequently.
Bearing in mind that explosive power is the most important characteristic in producing optimal performance, an athlete’s power production will not be as high as it could be if an athlete has an imbalance in force or velocity. The reason being is Power=Force x Velocity. By correcting an imbalance, (and increasing force or velocity) power can be increased. Then once the imbalance is corrected, increasing both force and velocity can increase power furthermore.
Why this technique instead of the conventional/traditional one?
Firstly, this technique involves measuring an athlete’s force-velocity balance at the beginning of a season and then every 2 weeks for the remainder of the season. Generally with the traditional technique for obtaining optimal performance, a range of tests are also carried out at the beginning of a season, however these tests focus on either force or velocity (not the balance or relationship between them), and often testing force in one part of the body and velocity in another (which doesn’t really make sense). Also, with this new method it is possible to monitor your athlete’s progress throughout the season because testing is so frequent. Keeping track of his/her progress and training schedule is also a good tool to use in future years when an imbalance reoccurs.
Furthermore this technique does not require the training period to be broken into 3 strict mesocycles. All athletes are different and some will not require 6 weeks of maximum strength training, while some may need more. So the beauty of this technique is that you are monitoring your athlete so frequently that you will clearly be able to see when your athlete has adequate force and can begin improving his/her overall force-velocity relationship; and weeks are not wasted doing hypertrophy or maximum strength training when they are not required.
This protocol is possibly the best technique to maintain high level performances throughout a long season
Andy Kavanagh MSC, NSCA-CSCS