Baseball is an explosive sport where things happen fast and hard. This requires massive amounts of power and finding the best methods to get our athletes there is our number one priority. Over the next few months, I will be releasing a 5 Part series on what I believe to be a “game changer” in programming to maximize the potential in pitcher and baseball players with velocity based training (VBT).
I’ve always considered myself a life-long student of the art of exercise science, always looking to learn and add to my knowledge base. Studying the works of Dr. Brian Mann, Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky, Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky, Dr. Mel Siff, and more recently Ty Terrell and Tony Giuliano to name a few, have produced many “ah-ha” moments on a daily basis. This 5 Part article is designed to give you a brief and more importantly USEABLE means to get athletes more powerful. Hope you enjoy them.
But before I get into it, let me say this. Developing strength, speed and explosiveness in athletes is purely physics. Applying these traits to basic anatomical attributes can get a bit complicated but at the end of the day it’s all about Force, Velocity and Power. So, let’s talk some basic science and maybe even get a bit “enlightened”.
What is Force, Velocity and Power?
Force – The equation for force is mass times acceleration.
All movement is initiated and driven by force. This makes it (along with velocity) the most important quality to focus on in training for power. The good news is, along with being the most important it is also the most trainable.
Strength training, which requires the muscles to produce force against an external resistance is really the common name for force training. However, due to the fact that there is a time component (acceleration) in the force equation, the greatest amount of weight lifted may not always be the ideal intensity to use due to the fact that heavier weight will obviously take longer to move.
Finding the sweet spot between intensity and time to completion is where using a device such as a GymAware or Tendo unit that measures acceleration and force output helps take a lot out of the guesswork. It helps by telling us if an athlete is using the optimum weight in order to maximize the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) and produce the greatest peak force, so programming can be adjusted accordingly. The main takeaway here is more force is achieved by getting stronger.
Velocity – The equation for velocity is distance divided by time.
Simply put, velocity is the amount of distance traveled in relation to the amount of time it took to do it. This is directly related to how much force an athlete can produce (strength), as well as how quickly they can produce it (elasticity). For example, if I throw a baseball to the plate at 50% intensity, I’m not putting much force into the ball and that is reflected in the velocity at which the ball gets to the plate. However, if I throw the ball full throttle (peak force) it will obviously travel at a much higher velocity. The main takeaway here is that the velocity at which an athlete moves his body or an implement (ball, racket etc.) is a direct product of his ability to produce force as well as his ability to use his SSC.
Many more elastic “velocity-driven” athletes rely on the SSC to create most of their power. These athletes need to maintain those elastic qualities while focusing on bringing up the force side of the equation with a good dose of strength training in order to reach their individual sweet spot to produce more power.
Power – With Force and Velocity behind us now let’s get into Power, which can be expressed as follows:
or said differently
Traditional strength training increases our ability to apply a maximum amount of force which takes care of the top half of the above equation (Force * Distance). But for power to be maximized the time component (bottom portion) must also be optimized. This is the aim of power training – to reduce the amount of time it takes to apply a set amount of force over a specific distance.
More isn’t always better. The amount of force an athlete produces can decline as the movement gets faster if the amount of weight is much lower and vice versa. Somewhere between these two extremes is an optimal point (I call it the “sweet spot”).
For power development, get this… it’s different for every athlete!! When training to specifically optimize power being skewed one way or the other from this this sweet spot can have a negative effect on results. This explains why an athlete can be exceptionally strong but lack significant power if they are unable to apply much of their strength over a short period of time and likewise why an exceptionally elastic athlete lacks power because they are not strong enough to produce an adequate amount of force.
What is the Force-Velocity Curve?
The Force-Velocity Curve is a physical representation of the relationship between force and velocity. Understanding the interaction between force and velocity and their influences on exercise selection is vital for any strength and conditioning coach seeking to optimize peak power production in their athletes.
Because Power is the product of Force multiplied by Velocity, Peak Power sits right in the between the two on the curve. This is where the real magic can happen.
Improving either of these components, force or velocity, whichever is deficient in the athlete’s profile, can lead to increased power production and therefore optimize the explosiveness of the athlete. That’s why in most cases, the primary objective of strength training is to shift the force-velocity curve to the right (see below), resulting in the athlete being able to move larger loads at higher velocities and therefore becoming more explosive. Finding which trait, force or velocity is deficient and making it the focus of your training block is the concept behind creating force-velocity profiles for any athlete.
Training programs should combine both strength and power training to improve athletic performance instead of just strength or speed training alone. By only training on one part of the force-velocity curve it is likely that the athlete will only improve their performance at that section on the curve.
For example, only training maximal strength may lead to improvements in force production, but it may also result in a reduction in muscle contractile properties (velocity) due to the thickening of the muscle fibers. We’ll talk about this a bit later but for now, just know that both force and velocity are needed to produce optimal power, the key is finding the right amounts of each as it pertains to each individual athlete.
This is where the fun begins as every athlete has a “unique” force-velocity curve, this also requires their own specific “roadmap” to shift the curve in order to be produce more power and become more explosive.
Stay tuned as we’ll start looking at how to use velocity-based training in order to tell which type of athlete we have in front of us. Up next in Part 2, VBT- what it is and how it works.
See ya’ in the gym…
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)
- Bryan Mann- “Developing Explosive Athletes”
- Mel Siff & Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky- “Supertraining”
- Science for sport- https://www.scienceforsport.com/force-velocity-curve/
- Ty Terrell and Tony Giuliano- “Force and Power- Maximizing performance with velocity -based training