February 16, 2012

    Speed or Strength?

    Every sport and each movement has a very specific, yet optimal strategy. This quest has existed since the dawn of time, as early man had to plot routes of efficiency to obtain food, shelter, and survival from the dangers of the wild. Now, we use the rules of a game to define our objectives. Simplified further, the objectives for athletic excellence are to put force into the ground (GRF) in the precise method required by your sport.

    As we have discussed, we all have a specific neural signature, a unique individual force output produced by synaptic connections (see Sparta Point 1/26/10). While we have been diagnosing and balancing these patterns for the past few years, a 2012 study out of the University of Savoy in France has shined further light on the subject. The authors set out to determine the influences of force and velocity on ballistic movements, in this case jumping. You might be more familiar with the term power, which is actually the product of force and velocity. ‘

    So if you’re goal is to maximize power, a key component of explosive performance (i.e. sport), then you really just have to work on force and/or velocity. But unfortunately, it is hard to develop both qualities simultaneously. So for the sake of simplicity, you have 2 major options. First, you can develop high levels of force at lower velocities, a method we call maximum strength from movements like a heavy squat (see Sparta Point 5/18/11). The second option is to train at higher velocities with lower levels of force, which is found in methods more like sprinting or plyometrics (see Sparta Point 1/5/12).

    The intriguing part of the study was that every individual has a unique Force-velocity (f-v) profile, so they either had an unfavorable balance towards force or velocity. Hence, the authors suggest to improve the lacking component. The other fascinating conclusion was that within each individual, every movement has its own profile, based off its push-off angle (see Sparta Point 6/15/11). For example, the lower the push off-angle, the more optimal F-v profile is oriented towards velocity. This finding echoes previous studies that found power is less dependent on muscular strength (force) when the exercise involves less gravity (i.e. non-vertical).

    However, we want an even deeper look into the need for more muscular strength versus high velocity movements so we use a Force Plate, specifically to analyze LOAD, EXPLODE, and DRIVE. What we usually see is that athletes with higher DRIVE values perform better on skills and plyometrics, similar to the study’s finding with athletes needing velocity. This make sense because more time on the ground allows a better angle of force application where needed.

    So, lower angles in movement (skills) = more velocity dependent = less dependent on muscular strength

    Athlete has high DRIVE = better angles (skills) = velocity dominant = need more muscular strength

    Mel Siff, a sports scientist said it best, “Sport is a problem solving activity where movements are used to produce the necessary solutions.” Know if your solution is more LOAD, EXPLODE, and DRIVE, and do not wait to develop or build up to this answer. That is procrastination, or behaving like a prey.

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