There has been an ongoing debate in the field of muscle strength and power development about velocity-specific training. The argument surrounds the idea that strength gains are specific to the velocity at which the athlete trains. In the past it was hypothesized that if you train at slow movement velocities, you will only increase strength at that velocity, while your strength at higher velocities would not improve. For an athlete, this could be problematic, as higher velocities are common in most sports. Based on this evidence, it was pretty much universally recommended that athletes gain “high velocity strength” and train with light weights (ie <60% 1RM) that they could move at high velocities to increase power.
However, some recent studies have shed more light on this notion. The “Window of Explosive Power” says that to be powerful, an athlete must have high velocity strength, as well as low velocity strength. It is now known that it is the intention to move quickly that determines the velocity-specific response and power gains. This means that heavy resistance training (ie >80% 1RM) is actually very effective in developing speed and power (as well as strength) as long as the athlete moves the load as fast as he/she can. In essence we are almost tricking our muscles into thinking we are moving fast. Let’s take a heavy squat for example. Obviously from an onlooker’s point of view, the barbell is not moving fast at all. But the athlete’s attempt to move as fast as humanly possible under this heavy load produces a tremendous rate of force development, increasing the athlete’s maximal power capacity, and not to mention strength. What are your thoughts? Do you feel powerful even if it is taking you a LONG time to get out of the hole on a heavy back squat? What about pulling a max deadlift off the floor? Do you feel like your intent is there to move quickly? Or do you feel more powerful moving quicker on our dynamic squat days, where the weight is much lighter?
In the end, velocity-specific training is important. If you want to become more powerful and explosive, you must move the barbell quickly with light loads, and attempt to move the barbell quickly with heavy loads. Both high-velocity strength and low-velocity strength are critical components of the window of explosive power of an athlete (the other components are rate of force development, the stretch-shortening cycle, and intermuscular coordination, all of which we have discussed before). So next time you are squatting or deadlifting heavy, remember to accelerate that bar like your life depended on it!
Strength/Skill: Deadlift 1/1/1/1/1
“Death By Clean and Jerk”
If you fail, do 5 c&j on the minute until the last person fails the DBCJ
Foam roll and stretch