Rate of Force Development

rate of force development Jul 02, 2022

Photo Credit: Anete Lusina

Rate of force development affects training in 2 ways:

  • Low velocity training
  • High velocity training

As a coach, you also need to be mindful of max force vs. max rate of force development when programming training for athletes. The following graph depicts how different athletes are producing force.  


Graph key: 

X-Axis: Time (0 seconds to .5 seconds)

Y- Axis: Force

Colored Lines: Different type of athletes

(Steeper the line= quicker an athlete can develop force)

Black dotted line (explosive-ballistic-trained): Basketball players & sprinters for example produce a lot of force in a short amount of time

Purple dashed line (heavy-resistance): Power lifters for example produce a lot of maximal force, but less rate of force development

Blue solid line (untrained): General population, in general have a low rate of force development and low max strength

Let’s look at a box jump for example: 

The powerlifter can produce more total force, however, a box jump movement only gives you .2-.3 seconds of ground contact time to produce that force.

If you follow up the .2 second mark, you can see the basketball player will be able to do a higher box jump because they can produce more force during a shorter window of time.

In comparison to a 1RM squat, it takes 2-3 seconds to get up from a squat:

The powerlifter can produce more power during this window since it is a longer time frame.

Training an Explosive Athlete 

For our sprinter, during their acceleration phase, they will have .2-.4 seconds of ground reaction time with each foot contact. As they get faster, that ground contact time will shorten to ~.1 seconds of ground contact time.

This means the athlete will have a shortened time frame to put force into the ground, placing high importance on the high rate of force development.

  • Box jumps
  • Depth jumps
  • Power skips

For our basketball player who wants to jump higher, the focus of their training will also be on rate of force development including plyometrics, dynamic effort lifts, and medicine ball throws. These quick forceful movements will emphasize adaptations that drive up the slope at the beginning of the graph. Some max effort type lifts are still important during the off-season.

Training an Endurance Athlete

While working with a cross country or endurance athlete, they do not need to produce high rates of force development. Instead, they need to produce sustained effort.

Therefore, we might choose activities with a lower rate of force development for training.

  • Tempo Squats
  • Nordic Hamstring Curls
  • Bench Press

Some plyometrics for mechanics of accepting load and introducing the stretch-shortening cycle are still important, however, this is not a primary adaptation for this athlete. In fact, it may be detrimental to do too much rate of force development training because then they will generate force quickly and it will dissipate quickly.

We want our endurance athletes to produce force relatively slowly and maintain it longer (as seen by the gray arrow).   

Overall, most athletic movements occur too fast to produce maximal force.

It takes about .6-.8 seconds to produce maximal force, whereas most athletic movements are faster than this:

  • Max velocity sprinting: .09-.12 seconds
  • Changing direction: .4-.7 seconds
  • Acceleration phase of sprinting: .2 seconds

As a coach, assessing your athlete's needs first can help you design an effective and efficient training program that maximizes athletic adaptations for your clients but also saves you time & decision fatigue when programming.

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