Velocity Based Training in the Weight Room

Dec 20, 2016 | Program Development, Physical / Mental Development


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.