Understanding the Force Velocity Curve

Force Velocity Curve

An understanding of the Force Velocity Curve is critical for both strength and conditioning coaches as well as athletes. The Force Velocity Curve is a visual representation that illustrates the relationship between force and velocity. In a nutshell, as the velocity of an exercise decreases, the force expression potential increases. As the velocity of an exercise increases, the force expression potential decreases. 

The Force Velocity Continuum
Supermax Strength: involves using an isometric exercise to express maximum force output. Overcoming isometric exercises such as trap bar and barbell mid-thigh pulls are great exercises for supermax strength. Mid-thigh pulls are generally in a biomechanically advantageous position for athletes regardless of their lever length. Time and velocity are not factors with supermax strength due to its isometric nature. 

Max Strength: an Isotonic exercise that typically is performed in the 1 RM to 3 RM range. Max strength exercises are done at 90-100% of 1 RM. Max strength exercises can include bench press, trap bar deadlift, front squat, back squat or whatever you want your strength measure to be.

Strength Speed: Strength speed exercises are executed at a lesser percentage of 1 RM. Exercises that focus on strength speed are typically executed in the 70-90% range of 1 RM. Due to the lowering of the load, speed and velocity are increasing. The same exercises done for max strength can be applied for exercises targeting strength speed.

Speed Strength: In speed strength, the load is decreased even more. This decrease in load increases velocity potential. Time is an increasingly important factor in speed strength. Speed strength exercises are typically done in the 30-60% range of 1 RM. The same exercise done for max strength can be applied for exercises targeting speed strength.

Max Velocity: Time is of the utmost importance in max velocity exercises. Max velocity exercises are done at less than 30% of 1 RM. Max velocity exercises can even be done unloaded. The external load is minimal for max velocity. Because of this minimal external load, the intent of the exercise needs to be high. Exercises that can be done at max velocity include plyometrics and sprinting as well as the same exercises that are done for max strength.