Force-Velocity Profile – The How, The Why, & What to do with It

Coach Travis Mash

If you read any of my articles or watch my educational videos, you have heard me talk about performing Force-Velocity Profiles. However, in this article I hope to help you understand it even more. In this article I will teach you how to perform a force-velocity profile and how to interpret the results. Most importantly, I will teach you what to do with the information. Data without action is a great waste of time. My friend and mentor, Coach Joe Kenn, taught me that. 

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Force and velocity are the parameters required to produce power. In athletic performance, power is the attribute that an athlete must possess to perform the incredible athletic achievements that leave the rest of mankind cheering in awe. When an athlete swings a club, throws a punch, or makes a devastating tackle, massive amounts of power is required. Each athlete on earth possesses certain amounts of force production and certain amounts of velocity producing abilities. Power requires an equal amount of each.

Most athletes fall into three categories: high velocity and low force, low velocity and high force, or powerful. Of course, athletes range in between all three spectrums, but the force-velocity profile helps you define the athlete. We know that velocity decreases as load/mass increases from the relationship between momentum and impulse [Σ Δt = m(v f − v i)]. In a perfect world, the velocity of a barbell should decrease in a linear fashion as load is added to the barbell. Dr. Bryan Mann has helped us understand this relationship over the last decade. Now I am going to show you how to perform a force-velocity profile.

Performance of a Force-Velocity Profile:

I suggest using movements like back squat, front squat, trap bar deadlift, bench press, or strict press. You probably noticed that I didn’t include deadlift. By all means, you can use deadlift. I don’t like it because of the friction component making it difficult to produce maximum velocity. Trap Bar Deadlifts are a bit more accurate in my experience. Now that we have the movements, let’s look at the percentages used and what the percentages represent.

At the 2005 CSCCa National Conference, the Bosco Strength Continuum was explained to all in the audience. Dr. Bryan Mann has further defined the qualities of strength for an increase in specificity. To date, most sport scientists and coaches acknowledge the following five qualities of strength:

  • Absolute Strength(under 0.5m/s)

    This is exactly what you are thinking. This is maxing out with maximal force production. Maximum force comes with the slowest ranges of velocity. Gonzales-Badillo, JJ., et al., 2003 stated that an athlete’s 1RM is reached around 0.3m/s in the back squat and 0.15m/s in the bench press. In my research, I have found these numbers to be more related to the common sport athlete versus a strength athlete. Powerlifters can grind out squats around 0.18m/s +/- .03m/s, and bench press/deadlift slower than 0.1m/s. This makes sense because both the bench press and deadlift are shorter ranges of motion, and the deadlift doesn’t have an eccentric contraction eliminating the stretch-shortening cycle. I will give you our findings in velocities to corresponding loads a little later in the article. This range will develop maximal strength and force production at the highest rate. However, this range comes with the most amount of muscle damage and risk of injury. The individual requirements and genetic attributes will determine the amount of volume an athlete can withstand.

  • Accelerative Strength(0.5m/s-0.75m/s)

    Bosco defined this as lifting a heavy load as fast as possible. A lot of coaches will prescribe a majority of their athletes’ volume  in this range for hypertrophy and neuromuscular efficiency gains without the heavy loads found in the absolute strength range to avoid injury and muscle damage. 

  • Strength-Speed(0.75m/s-1.0m/s)

    This is the quality of strength where the Olympic lifts start to come into play. It’s been defined as moving a moderately heavy weight as fast as possible. This is a quality of strength that elicits some great adaptations for power production and other adaptations important to sprint speeds, change of direction, and jumping abilities. 

  • Speed-Strength(1.0m/s-1/3m/s)

    This quality of strength is moving light to moderate loads at a very high velocity. The priority is speed with strength being secondary. If you have performed a heavy clean, then you completely understand the quality of strength. Improvement in this quality of strength will lead to higher abilities to produce power. 

  • Starting Strength (1.3m/s+)

    This quality of strength is moving light weights at extremely high velocities. Anatoliy Bondarchuk explained this quality of strength as the ability to quickly overcome inertia from a dead stop. The rate of force development and an individual’s rate coding are improved while training in this velocity zone. 

When it comes to athletic development, it’s important that athletes have the ability to perform each of these qualities of strength in a very equal and linear fashion. If an athlete has incredible ability to express absolute strength but comes up short in the speed-strength and starting strength qualities, you have a strong but slow athlete. Not many sports wouldn’t benefit by making that athlete a bit faster and more powerful. The key is defining each individual in a way that presents a clear picture of each athlete, so that the coach knows which qualities to target for maximum improvement. 

Now that you understand the different qualities of strength and how each quality relates to athletic performance, it’s time to perform a force velocity analysis. I recommend using movements like back squat, front squat, strict press, bench press, and trap bar deadlift. The reason that I don’t list the barbell deadlift is because of the friction caused by the bar dragging along the leg. This makes it a bit difficult to perform the lift at maximum velocity. However, if you want to use the barbell deadlift, by all means I love the lift personally. 

Here’s the way we normally conduct a force-velocity profile:

  1. 15% 3-4 repetitions
  2. 25% 2-3 repetitions
  3. 30% 2 repetitions
  4. 40% 2 repetitions
  5. 50% 1-2 repetitions
  6. 55% 1-2 repetitions
  7. 60% 1 repetition
  8. 65% 1 repetition
  9. 70% 1 repetition
  10. 75% 1 repetition
  11. 80% 1 repetition
  12. 85% 1 repetition
  13. 90% 1 repetition
  14. 95% 1 repetition
  15. 100% 1 repetition

Here are a few keys to ensure a proper reading:

  • A standard 10-20 minute warm up is important ensure consistent readings.
  • Maximum velocity is the key, so avoid deceleration.
  • Starting strength percentages will normally end in a jump if lower body or a throw if upper body.
  • Don’t worry if you perform some plantar flexion during the squat movements or pull movements
  • The higher repetitions are important in the lighter weights because it takes a couple of reps to feel comfortable applying maximal force at the highest possible rates. 

I’m sure that many of you have seen the following chart made famous by Dr. Bryan Mann:

Velocity zones vbt

 

Here’s a chart we designed from the data of our own athletes:


Watch the video presentation here:

 

 

Coach Travis mash

Travis Mash

Being a World Champion in powerlifting, Travis competed at a world-class level in Olympic weightlifting and has coached professional Olympic weightlifters alongside Don McCauley and Glenn Pendlay at Team MDUSA. Now Travis coaches the most successful weightlifting team in the USA.