The how, the why, & what to do with it
If you read any of my articles or watch my educational videos, you have heard me talk about performing Force-Velocity Profiles. In this article I hope to help you understand this strength test even more. 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.
- What is a force-velocity profile
- Why is force-velocity important
- Force velocity profiling: how to perform a test
- Force velocity profile results (example)
- Download: free force-velocity spreadsheet
- How to interpret the force velocity results
- Actions to take after creating the load velocity profile
- Force velocity profile video presentation
What is a force-velocity profile
A force-velocity profile shows the relationship (curve) between the strength (force) and speed (velocity) of an athlete. Since power is a combination of force and velocity, the force-velocity profile also tells you something about athletic power (Power = Force * Velocity).
Force-velocity profile vs Load-velocity profile
A force velocity profile is not exactly the same as a load velocity profile. A force velocity profile looks at the relationship between force and velocity on a muscular (sarcomere) level. This curve or relationship is hyperbolic, as you can see in the image above.
A load velocity profile on the other hand, looks at the relationship between load and velocity “in the gym”. It’s a more practical approach. The load velocity curve or relationship is linear:
Since there is a high correlation between the force-velocity and load-velocity relationship, I’ll use the terms interchangeably.
Why is force-velocity important
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.
Force velocity profiling
Force velocity profiling is the act of gathering data to create an individual force-velocity curve or profile. Let’s dive right into the practical steps to create a force velocity profile.
How to perform a Force-Velocity Profile test:
Force velocity profiling: exercises
Some exercises are more suitable for force velocity profiling than others. 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. Trap Bar Deadlifts are a bit more accurate in my experience. However, if you want to use the barbell deadlift, go ahead.
Force velocity profiling: equipment
To create a force velocity profile, you need three things:
- Weights that range between 15-100% of 1RM
- A tool that measures velocity. GymAware RS is the gold standard tool to measure performance. Its reliability makes it the system of choice for scientific research, elite teams and athletes worldwide.
- A notebook or spreadsheet, where you can write down the results. Download our free spreadsheet that automatically highlights what an athlete should work on based on the force-velocity results.
Force velocity profiling: test protocol
Now that we have the movements and measurement equipment, let’s look at the force velocity profile test protocol.
Here’s the way we normally conduct a force-velocity profile:
- Start with a standard 10-20 minute warm up.
- 15% 1RM: 3-4 repetitions
- 25% 1RM: 2-3 repetitions
- 30% 1RM: 2 repetitions
- 40% 1RM: 2 repetitions
- 50% 1RM: 1-2 repetitions
- 55% 1RM: 1-2 repetitions
- 60% 1RM: 1 repetition
- 65% 1RM: 1 repetition
- 70% 1RM: 1 repetition
- 75% 1RM: 1 repetition
- 80% 1RM: 1 repetition
- 85% 1RM: 1 repetition
- 90% 1RM: 1 repetition
- 95% 1RM: 1 repetition
- 100% 1RM: 1 repetition
A few things are important to get proper readings:
- Keep the warm up standardised to ensure consistent readings over time.
- Avoid deceleration, especially when the load is still low. Maximum velocity is key! As a result, at low loads, exercises normally end in a jump (e.g. in a squat) or in a throw (e.g. in a bench press).
- 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.
Force velocity profile results (example)
Now that you finished the protocol, you should have a combination of several loads (%1RM) and their corresponding velocities.
Here’s an example force-velocity profile for a Back Squat or Front Squat:
Note that some results are marked red. These velocities are below what you would expect based on the load. In other words: the athlete has room for improvement in this area of the load velocity profile. Also note the “quallity of strengt” or velocity zones. We’ll talk about these zones in a bit, but first: you can download the interactive chart that I made for you:
Download the free Force-Velocity spreadsheet!
How to interpret the force velocity results
When it comes to athletic development, it’s important that athletes have the ability to perform each of the strength qualities (e.g. accelerative strength, speed-strength, absolute strength) in a very equal and linear fashion. You can see the qualities of strength in the spreadsheet table on the right.
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. Learn more about the strength qualities or velocity zones via this article.
Most athletes fall into three categories:
- High velocity and low force
- Low velocity and high force
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.
If you are working with explosive athletes like football players, volleyball players, or Olympic weightlifters, the spreadsheet should easily guide your decisions. If you are working with powerlifters, you might want to dig for some common velocities associated with that group of athletes (see example image below).
As soon as I put the velocity readings in the spreadsheet, I am looking for athletes to be outside of a 7% standard deviation up or down. With the chart that I made for you, it will automatically light up red to alert you if any velocity deviates outside the acceptable range.
If the result lights up red, then this quality of strength is lacking for the individual athlete. In the above example, this athlete is having trouble with starting strength and strength speed. That helps me to understand what this athlete needs to work on.
Actions to take after creating the load velocity profile
Now that I know what my athlete needs to improve, I can think of a training program.
Since most athletes fall into the three categories. It makes sense to at least create 3 training programs, based on a force velocity (or load velocity) profile:
- One for Fast and weak Athletes
- One for Slow and strong athletes
- One for the Power Athlete
Force velocity profile video presentation:
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.