Performance: Is it just the change?

As Tupac wrote. ‘…things will never be the same’

This blog has been writing itself in my head over the past 4-6 weeks after listening to Derek Evely on the HMMR media podcast. The episode titled ‘Changes’ discusses the use of change as the stimulus in training to elicit the desired outcome. Change is the process by which something transforms or becomes different to before.  As coaches, this is general what we desire. We want positive changes from our athletes, which deliver improved performance outcomes on the field, court or track.

Derek is one of the world’s most experienced track and field coaches having been mentored by Dr Anatoliy Bondarchuk. Without going too deep into Dr B’s training system, it is based upon stimulus, adaptation and then change (systematic in this instance); along with a specific exercise classification (which is another good blog to be written). Derek was discussing the process of when athletes change coach and immediately see an improved performance outcome; and people celebrate the achievement and expertise of the coach as the answer and reason the outcome was achieved. Simplistically, yes it is. However, as he went on to theorise, that perhaps it is just down to the change of stimulus; rather than the coaching. I tend to agree.

As the Einstein quote details about Insanity (doing the same thing and expecting different results…), change is necessary to push the boundaries in all fields. Specific to performance, the level of change or stimulus required to force an adaptation will be dependent on the years spent training (not level of athlete – elite athletes who are new to the sport will not require huge changes to see performance outcomes). Athletes who have been honing their craft across the better part of the decade will need a new stimulus to see improved performance outcomes; and herein lies the issue… determining what and how much to change. Referring back to earlier, I would theorise that a chaotic change would be required for elite level talent with many training years under their belt. For those who are in the infancy of their career(s), systematic change is all that is required.

Although coaches may be bias to a particular philosophy or principle of training, often a little change of structure, session content or approach to performance may be all that is required to steer the ship back on course. Change needs to sit right next to more commonly used training principles: frequency, intensity, duration, overload and accommodation. Performance coaches need to be creative with how to manipulate the change in the overall scheme of the sport structure of season.

So do not get too carried away when there is a performance spike when an athlete is using a new system. The body has been stressed in a way never experienced previously; and aside from the acute stress response, it has disrupted homeostasis enough to elicit performance gains. In a sense, the process of allostasis is in effect. Whereby, stability in the system has been achieved by way of the physiological stress applied.

The human body is a dynamic system however and will rapidly adapt to the stressors placed upon it; see the SAID principle. But staying with change, a chaotic change will cause much stress to all systems and possibly muscle and connective tissue trauma. A systematic change will be more moderate in comparison but should still be within reach of current capabilities.

So I urge you to make changes… just do not make too many, as then, you will not know the cause of the effect!

Force-Velocity Profile: Are you training correctly?

Every time I open my Twitter account, there seems to be more research and information released specific to Force-Velocity Profiles (FVP). It is becoming of greater interest to understand that although homogenous training is necessary at specific times during the training plan, it is also necessary to understand if any physiological and neuromuscular imbalances exist. This is where profiling your athletes can become advantageous.

At one end of the Force-Velocity Curve, see below, we have High Force-Low Velocity (heavy back squat) and at the opposite end, Low Force-High Velocity (assisted jumping). Using sprinting as an example, overcoming inertia and accelerating from the blocks (0-40m) would be HF-LV, whereas maximal velocity sprinting (40-100m including some decel time) would be LF-HV.


Power is one of the key elements to sporting success. How much force can you apply at the highest possible velocity? How much work can you do in the shortest period of time? Whether it be in a horizontal (acceleration>sprinting) or vertical (jumping) vector, the rate at which (plus magnitude & direction) force is applied is largely a limiting factor to overall performance.

Leading the way in this field are the following researchers/practitioners: JB Morin, Pierre Samozino, Pedro Jimenez-Reyes, Matt Brughelli, Jake Schuster and Matt Cross. These guys are doing fantastic work, continually challenging the thought process of how to improve our athletes.

Instantaneous Power output is the product of the external force developed by velocity. How quickly can you apply the force to throw an external mass (Discus), perform a CMJ, change direction or accelerate from a stationary position away from your opponent?

Using a common ballistic movement such as jumping (vertical profiling), an athlete’s maximum power, Pmax, can be calculated by performing a series of loaded jump squats (from above paper). For example using a Smith Machine at, 0% BW (CMJ), 25% BW, 50% BW, 75%, 100% BW, you can start to see how the athlete can demonstrate velocity at increasing loads. This protocol, or a variation of this, is shown in various papers by the above researchers. There are some papers which only use one to three external loads to develop the profile however most of the recent research endorse the use of five randomized external loads. With the use of various pieces of technology, GymAware, Optojump, Push, Force Plates, MyJumpApp, depending on the level of values desired, the actual FVP can be generated, then the optimal FVP developed (see below).


Without rehashing all of the literature, the Optimal FVP for the athlete is calculated by extrapolating the intercepts for both components, providing F0, the theoretical maximal force the lower limbs can produce at null velocity (N/kg), and V0, the theoretical maximal velocity which the lower limbs can extend under zero load (m/s). The graph above identifies a significant Velocity imbalance (check papers for calculations) for Player A and a Force imbalance for Player B. The graph also identifies the issue of two athletes displaying similar maximal power W/Kg, yet vastly different FVP; as they have achieved the result through different mechanical qualities; which raises questions regarding impulse (another blog).

So once we know there is a deficit or an imbalance, what next? Well, the practitioner needs to understand how to address the imbalance through overloading aspects of the curve. Addressing a force deficit should essentially be quite easy; develop a program with bilateral compound movements aimed at increasing the athlete’s 1RM. However, addressing a velocity deficit can require greater thought. Just this morning, JB Morin via Twitter, suggested that performing squat jumps at bodyweight may even be too heavy to address a velocity imbalance; you must get creative with assisted means.


Like any intervention, how do you measure the transfer to the actual task? E.g. Will it improve them as a basketball or soccer player? That is the million dollar question and highly contextual. However, if you asked each player would they like to become more ‘powerful’? The resounding answer would be YES! Even with a limited understanding, athletes are highly aware that speed and power are what separates the elite from sub-elite.

So… Profile your athletes… Understand the imbalances… Develop your intervention… Re-Test.

Give the athlete what THEY need. Not what everyone needs!

Hopefully you can see a level of improvement towards the optimal profile?

(As a side note – in my opinion, some from testing athletes and the rest from anecdotal observations, most sub-elite sprinters have a significant velocity imbalance, and an over developed force profile).