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By Matt Gildersleeve MS, CSCS, Director of Strength and Conditioning, Akron University




The offseason is in full swing. Check out what Akron is doing to make their athletes more explosive for on field results.

By Matt Gildersleeve MS, CSCS
Director of Strength and Conditioning
Akron University


Have you ever heard of the expression, “Look like Tarzan, and play like Jane?” Or even better, “LIFT like Tarzan, and play like Jane?” Assuming you have, obviously a large part of this motto can be attributed to the “SOFTification” of American society which has produced young men that can display some severe cases of mental weakness. The athlete that doesn’t mind working hard, certainly looks the part, but just doesn’t have that “dog” in him on 4th and 1. Yes, that Tarzan piece of the pie certainly exists; however, I’m here today to tell you about the other side of the story. While mentality is clearly a huge factor in playing strong on the football field, there is also a physiological factor that you may be doing in your weight room that is creating Tarzan looking athletes, with Jane playing abilities.

When people ask me what Velocity Based Training is, I always like to start off by answering their question with a question. A very basic, simple, and in most cases a question that the majority think is asked in the rhetoric tense. So here it is Coach, the million dollar question, “Why do we do Power Cleans?” Well we Power Clean to develop power… Duh… right? Coach, I have three words for you, NOT.SO.FAST. A few years ago Bryan Mann, a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Missouri conducted a correlation study between Power Cleans and sports performance. After running the results what he found was quite unexpected. He determined that there was no correlation between an increase in power clean and power performance, zero. In other words, let’s say Athlete A increased his Power Clean 15 pounds in an 8-week off-season program, which is a tremendous jump. What Mann found, was that there was no correlation between Athlete As increase in his 1 rep max on the Power Clean with an increase in, let’s say, the vertical jump (which is a power output exercise).

So for all these years you’re telling me we have been power cleaning for no reason? No, that’s not what I’m telling you. Increasing your 1 rep max in the Power Clean means that you have improved your Absolute Strength, you are now stronger than you were, however, you are not more powerful. Let’s briefly talk about the difference between strength and power. First off, strength is crucially important; it is the base for everything sports performance related. However, it can’t be the only attribute you possess as an athlete. Absolute Strength is simply the most force your muscles can produce; however, there is no time limit on that strength. On the other hand, Power, is how FAST you can produce that strength.

Let’s dissect the sport of football versus a 500 pound 1 rep max Back Squat. When you’re in the rack, chalking up, getting ready to break a personal back squat record I want you to visualize this event. The bar gets unracked, you take your two steps back, set your feet, take your deep belly breath, drop down in the hole, and then fight like hell for 5 seconds on the way back up. Yes, you just produced a mass amount of strength; however, you did it extremely slow. Now let’s talk about football. You are playing nose tackle, its 4th and 1 and the ball is snapped. You are now in a situation where you must produce mass amounts of force in the snap of a finger… not a 5 second span. This is where power comes into play. This is where velocity based training WILL make your 500 pound back squatter play like Tarzan.

So here is the issue that might be happening in your weight room. You have a bunch of competitive guys that love lifting; I mean they love getting after it. You’ve done a great job of coaching technique, and your boys are plain and simply STRONG. You guys had a great summer and you thought to yourself, this is going to be a great year. Our team is filled with Tarzans and we are going to physically dominate our opponents… and then things just didn’t quite happen the way you thought they would. Guys didn’t seem as strong on the field as they did in the weight room. Enter, velocity based training. All summer long you were moving a lot of weight, slowly. So your athletes gained Absolute strength. But you never trained moving the bar FAST(power). Which left you with a bunch of athletes that could move a lot of weight slow but when it came to producing it on the football field, their bodies don’t know how to produce that strength at a fast enough speed to actually utilize it.

Understanding the Problem

I want to dive into two terms to help you truly understand why velocity based training is so important. First off, muscle strength deficit, this is when you contain appropriate power to produce strength fast, but you just don’t have much absolute strength. This would be like having an athlete that can only squat 250 pounds. However, he can produce all 250 pounds of that strength in the snap of a finger. Explosive strength deficit was our example of Athlete A, he can squat 500 pounds, however, he can only produce 250 pounds of that strength in the snap of a finger because he lacks power. This is how you end up having a bunch of 500 pounds squatters that play like Jane. So how you fix this problem?

When I came to the University of Akron, my first evaluation of our team was that we were EXTREMELY strong. I inherited an insane amount of 500,550, and 600 pound squatters. However, when I watched these guys move on the field they looked slow. And when I evaluated us in the trenches we looked weak. It didn’t make sense, so I hit the books. This is where I was introduced to velocity based training and when we made a huge adjustment here at Akron.

In the summer of 2014, we added velocity based training into our program. We started measuring one movement a day based off of the speed of the bar, rather than the weight of it. The main movements we implemented were Power Cleans, Hang Clean, Split Jerks, Back Squats and eventually progressing to Box Band Back Squat. I invested in 4 used Tendo units that spit out how fast the bar is moving each rep. Tendo units are an awesome tool for velocity based training, however, you don’t NEED them to train for power. We used the force velocity curve to find the correct speeds so we knew exactly how we were training our athletes… there was no guessing. We knew if Athlete A hit 1.55m/s on his Power Clean reps, he was training his muscles to produce POWER. We saw incredible results.


Know how to solve these problems using velocity based training model…

Join X&O Labs’ Insiders, an exclusive membership-based website, and you’ll get instant access to the full-length version of this report—including access to everything X&O Labs has ever published. Plus, if you join today, you’ll also receive up to 4 FREE books mailed directly to your home or office. Once you join the Insiders, you’ll get the full-length version of this report and you know how these problems are solved using the velocity based training model provided by Coach Gildersleeve including:

  • How to incorporate velocity based training into your program.
  • How to avoid making mistakes like not using enough variety in the weight room, choosing speed over technique and getting too concerned with weight and not movement.
  • How the use of Tendo units- that actually measure the speed of the bar- allows for the training of the exact desired response every snap.
  • The exercises the University of Akron uses in its velocity based training model.

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Velocity Based Training is an incredible tool but it cannot be the only tool in your tool box. Our goal is to create well- balanced athletes that can not only create a lot of force, but can create it extremely quickly. Never lose sight of technique, strength and power is never worth the cost of building both on an unstable foundation. Do not forget, coach bar speed! The intent must be speed when performing VBT movements. If your program can’t afford Tendo units that’s ok! Follow the percentages I provided, once again, coach bar speed and get to work! Lastly, we will be hosting strength and conditioning clinic with 10 division 1 strength and conditioning coaches here at Akron March 18th. Follow up with the link below to get pre-registered!




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