Ask any reputable Strength coach what is the major factor in sports performance is and speed or acceleration will always be king.
Who wins a marathon? The fastest person right?
In the evolution of sports several thing have become apparent. Bigger isn’t always better, stronger isn’t always better but faster pretty much always is. Let me explain.
Work on the equation that as an athlete your main objective is to produce maximal force and acceleration be it in training, on a field, track or in a ring.
Lets use an example of Mass as a barbell and lets use a hypothetical scale of 1-10 for acceleration. Ten being the fastest.
Mass (100kg) x Maximum Acceleration (1) = Force (100)
Now take a lighter weight and proportionately the acceleration goes up.
Mass (10kg) x Maximum Acceleration (10) = Force (100)
So we have an option either increase Force (In this case a maximal weight) at the trade of velocity meaning that the curve moves up yet velocity moves to the left. Alternatively we increase velocity, which will pull force down, and velocity to the right. Still the same power output.
So the intention primarily with a power athlete is to tailor their strength and conditioning to move the whole curve up and to the right resulting in a higher maximal force and velocity.
If looking at function the body works in mechanical sequences and pretty much everything you ever do involves these sequences.
The hub or core of the body is the torso and everything you exert is radiated from this point. The Hips and shoulders being the strongest junctures.
Each joint has to either flex or extend and rotate to perform a movement. BUT always in sequence TOGETHER.
If the timing of a given movement is perfect their will be a maximal point of acceleration produced. This produces a strength curve showing acceleration, maximum peak point C. and the point at which momentum takes over.
If a fighter was to strike their opponent at point C they will be hitting them with the maximal force they could at present generate. Beyond that point momentum takes over and you decelerate. Point A moving to point B is the transitional phase. If you’re big, slow and strong the limit strength line is high but maximum force low. The intention with training is to keep these two lines close to each other. The steeper the angle of line D the more muscle recruitment the athlete can engage in a moment.
So we know that if we lift heavier we create better force but we sacrifice acceleration and velocity.
As you can see the transitional phase is quicker so in the same time you could strike an opponent twice. The angle on line E is steep hence more muscular recruitment per millisecond and ultimately maximal force is reached in half the time.
There are several ways in which we can train acceleration the first is simply just to try and move things faster and faster over time. The adaptation here can be seen but at some point you will not be strong enough and have enough muscular recruitment at the maximum acceleration point to progress.
The human body is pretty smart and we can cheat it to do something different in the pursuit of speed.
Imagine if when striking an opponent the closer you got to Point A on the curve the heavier your hand got. The impact is huge! Sprinters have worked on a similar principle using apparatus like parachutes to sprint against. The faster you run the more air resistance there is hence the load gets higher. This, when repeated sufficiently the body starts to remember the load and recruitment for a larger amount of mass but it isn’t there anymore.
Also fighter as they all too well know that if you can gather momentum before any type of throw or strike the end result is incredible. An opponent performing a running punch provided the timing is right will produce far more impact than someone stood toe to toe doing the same thing.
The problem that lies in the weight room is that the weight (mass) is constant throughout. 200kg is 200kg at both the start and finish. Due to joint angles and velocity at certain points the force generated will be less at certain angles hence creating a sticking point once a certain weight is reached rendering an object or person immovable as the limb trying to move it has decelerated to nil.
By utilising modern training methods, in this example resistance bands it’s possible to increase mass as the limbs extend away from the body. This can be applied to all movements but my favourite has to be the squat. Universally the squat is where most ground based power starts and is then sequentially pulsed through the body to the striking limb. Try hitting something with no hip movement and you’ll get what I mean.
The intention with squatting when it comes to any power based sport is not to lift a bar on your back but to transfer as much force through the ground and have the intention of propelling yourself vertically with as MUCH acceleration as possible.
By adding resistance bands to the bar it allows a variable in mass from the bottom (weakest point) to the top (strongest point) despite a constant load provided by the bar allowing both ends of the curve to be trained
Sample Squat Sessions for a week.
Day 1 Mass (Force) Increase
Load the bar without bands and work up to a maximum set of 3-5 repetitions, 8-10 sets increasing weight as you go.
Take 3-5 minutes in between sets.
Intention being to control the weight on the way down and accelerate out as fast as possible (The weight will dictate that this wont be fast but the intention must BE to do it as fast as possible)
Day 2 Velocity (Acceleration) Increase
Once you have your weights from day 1 calculate what your one rep max should be then take 55-65% of it.
Using Fig.3 you can workout depending upon your shoulder height what various grade bands weigh at the top and bottom of the movement. Add the band to the bar and squat rack as shown and make up the additional weight.
Fig 3. Resistance Band Tension.
Working between 1-3 reps and at maximum acceleration on the concentric. Perform 5-10 sets taking only 30 seconds between sets. Never compromising speed. If you slow down reduce the weight. Fighters working on limit or maximal strength must only do so on very rare occasions. Leave the egos at the door people.
For a bar height when upright of 152cm you can see that a set of green bands will offer 70kg of resistance. In the bottom squat position the bar is 106cm off the floor providing 39.2kg of resistance. Add to this the weight on the bar and bar itself (30kg) at the bottom position there is 69.2kg load and at the top 100kg.
The first time you use the bands get used to them being on the bar before attempting any load and put a box or bench under you as a depth marker.
This same method can be used with limitless movements and other apparatus, chains, kettlebells, ropes etc.
So get working on some acceleration is force development is your thing!!!
For more great content from Phil Learney please check www.phillearney.com