We all reach plateaus in our training. The more advanced we become, the more likely our progress will stagnate. We think endlessly about why we're stuck.
Maybe we need more rest, so we take a de-load week. Maybe we need more plyometrics, so we add in Depth Jumps. Maybe we need to get stronger, so we increase our Squat strength.
Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. The more advanced we become, the less likely general methods tend to work. At this point, we need to ask ourselves: "What does our body specifically need?"
Force-velocity profiling provides insight into this problem.
How Should You Train Power?
Jumping higher or sprinting faster comes down to maximizing power output.
Since Power = Force x Velocity, we typically train the force side by lifting heavy weights. The velocity side is less commonly trained, but it is developed by doing very fast movements (Assisted Jumps, Accelerated Sprints, etc.)
Power can also be trained directly by doing power exercises (body weight jumps and sprints, weighted jumps and sprints, etc.)
For beginner athletes, training with a general array of power, force and velocity will lead to increased power and thus, increased sprinting and jumping performance.
However, through force-velocity profiling, J B Morin and colleagues have found that many advanced athletes demonstrate a Force-Velocity (FV) imbalance. This means some athletes are great at producing force but do so at too low a velocity. On the other side, some athletes are great at high velocity movements, but produce little force.
Both cases lead to decreased power output, leaving jumping and sprinting performance to suffer. For athletes with a FV imbalance, specific means are needed to fix the imbalance and optimize power.
How to Determine a Force-Velocity Imbalance
There are two force-velocity profiling apps available for the iPhone. MyJump2 (for vertical jump) and MySprint (for sprinting) can give you your individual force-velocity profile.
Unless you have access to these apps, you can't really know for sure whether you have a F-V imbalance, but there are some clues within the research.
When testing jumping:
1. Soccer players, sprinters and elite volleyball players showed, on average, a FV imbalance toward velocity. To see improvements in their jumping performance, these athletes should train for maximum strength.
2. Rugby players showed, on average, a FV imbalance toward force. To see improvements in their power, these athletes should train at high velocities.
From these cases, we can hypothesize that higher-velocity sports that require approach-jumping (volleyball) and horizontal-sprinting (soccer and sprinting) are more likely to show a force deficit. To get stronger is what these athletes need. In the volleyball group, researchers concluded that strength training (normalizing their FV imbalance) would increase players' jump height by 10.4% on average.
Higher-force sports that have resistive forces (e.g., rugby) are more likely to show a velocity deficit. Getting maximally faster (with accelerated and assisted methods) is what these athletes need.
This could also be traced back to an individual's training history. Have you trained super heavy for the past months/years? If so, you're more likely to have a velocity deficit. Have you trained with low weights/high velocities in the past months/years? You're more likely to have a force deficit.
How to Fix a F-V Imbalance
Athletes with a force deficit should train with high-to-moderate loads at low-to-moderate velocities to get maximally stronger.
- Example: Heavy compound exercises (Squats, Deadlifts, etc.), weighted jumps (Trap Bar Jumps), and weighted sprints (Heavy Sled Drags)
Athletes with a velocity deficit should train with unweighted-to-low loads and high velocities to get maximally faster.
- Example: Accelerated Jumps (Band-Assisted Jumps), and overspeed sprints (Band-Assisted Sprints)
Avoiding F-V Imbalances
Training from the outset with a variety of forces and velocities probably helps to avoid these imbalances. Athletes should:
- Lift heavy for maximum force
- Do slightly weighted power exercises for high-force power
- Do bodyweight power exercises for high-velocity power, and
- Do assisted exercises for maximum velocity
If you're familiar with French Contrast Training, this is exactly what I just listed. For example, a heavy strength exercise (e.g., Back Squat @ 85% for 3 reps), a bodyweight plyometric (e.g., Box Jumps for 5 reps), a slightly-weighted plyometric (e.g., Trap Bar Jump for 5 reps), and an assisted plyometric (e.g., Band-Assisted Jump for 5 reps).
Use this knowledge and train at a variety of forces and velocities. If it so happens that your training hits a plateau, consider force-velocity profiling. It could be your solution to sprinting faster and jumping higher.
Samozino, P., Rejc, E., Di Prampero, P. E., Belli, A., & Morin, J. B. (2012). "Optimal force-velocity profile in ballistic movements—altius: citius or fortius?" Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 44(2), 313-22.
Jiménez-Reyes, P., Samozino, P., Brughelli, M., & Morin, J. B. (2017). "Effectiveness of an individualized training based on force-velocity profiling during jumping." Frontiers in Physiology, 7(7), doi: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00677
Morin, J. B. & Samozino, P. (2015). "Interpreting power-force-velocity profiles for individualized and specific training." International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 11(2), 267-72.
Aurélien, B. D., Delacourt, L., Samozino, P., & Morin, J. B. (2016). "Jump performance and force-velocity profiling in high-level volleyball players: a pilot study." Conference: European College of Sports Sciences, At Vienna.
Jiménez-Reyes, P., Samozino, P., Cuadrado-Peñafiel, V., Conceição, F., González-Badillo, J. J., & Morin, J. B. (2014). "Effect of countermovement on power-force-velocity profile." European Journal of Applied Physiology, 114(11), 2281-8.
Samozino, P., Eduouard, P., Sangnier, S., Brughelli, M., Gimenez, P., & Morin, J. B. (2014). "Force-velocity profile: imbalance determination and effect on lower limb ballistic performance." International Journal of Sports Medicine, 35(6), 505-10.