Training Force- vs. Velocity-Deficient Athletes… Giving Them What They Need

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)

Knowing the adaptation that needs to occur and knowing what adaptation will occur are powerful decision-making tools when designing a program for an athlete. You need to first decide what effect you want the body to produce and then match it with an appropriate stimulus.  This is referred to as the “SAID” principle. It stands for “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands” and is the blueprint that we build off of when programming for our athletes here at RPP.

The first question that needs to be answered is “what does the athlete need?”.  To answer that, I need to determine if I am dealing with:

    • A Force-based / Velocity-deficient Athlete, or
    • A Velocity-based / Force-deficient Athlete

To help find the answer, we perform Force-Velo testing during the initial assessment utilizing explosive jumps at different incremental weights to create a Force-Velocity profile on our athletes (see Figures 1 and 2 below).  By calculating the differences in height and velocity between jumps while incrementally increasing loads we can identify:

    • The athlete currently resides or “lives” on the Force Velocity Curve
    • The optimal balance between force and velocity to create maximum power

For more on this topic please click here, here and here for a three part article on the Foce-Velo curve.

In Figure 1 below, we have the results of a “Velocity-deficient” athlete. The blue line tells us the optimal blend of force and velocity for this specific athlete to create optimal power while the black line tells us where the athlete currently lives. As you can see, this athlete’s Force Velocity Curve relies heavily on the force side of power (left side), but it is at the expense of velocity (right side). In other words, he’s great at producing force, but he just can’t do it very quickly.

Training strength at lower intensities to allow for higher velocities as well as increasing plyometric training will help this athlete gain the ability to contract muscle faster, and store and release elastic energy in a quicker fashion while still maintaining their force-based qualities.

(Trap Bar Jumps)

(Reactive Heidens)

In other words, sacrificing a bit of strength will help shift the Force-Velo Curve down a bit towards the velocity side.  This ultimately gets them closer to the middle (blue) where maximum power lives. Simply lifting heavy will only increase force production creating more tissue thickness and slow down this athlete even more.  Remember… the premise is to give the athlete what he needs.

Below is an example of a more “Force-deficient” (Figure 2).  We can see that this athlete (the black line) lives much lower down on the force side of the equation but much higher on the velo side vs. the athlete in Figure 1.

For this athlete, we’ll build out his program training strength at slower ecc. tempos as well as isometric holds early on to increase the cross -sectional area to help build thicker, stiffer and more resilient muscle fiber. All plyos will be slower SSC focusing on strength and stability in the landing.  With this athlete we can sacrifice a bit of elasticity to help produce more force and ultimately more power.

(RFESS w/ 2-sec Iso Hold)

(Repeated Lateral Heidens)

Creating these adaptations in the frontal plane is key as pitching takes place mostly in the frontal plane.


Velocity-deficient Athlete – For this athlete we need to force the body to adapt by increasing its Rate of Force Development (RFD) with faster SSC plyometric exercises. This will train the athlete to transfer the ground reaction forces quickly by better utilizing the SSC and ideally transfer over to quicker rate of force development.

Force-deficient Athlete – For this athlete we need to increase force output by thickening the tissues to aide in force production and resiliency. This is accomplished by first getting stronger in low positions to increase tensile strength for later when heavier intensities are utilized as well as slower SSC exercises.

Remember.. Give the athlete what he needs.

See ya’ in the gym…

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