Do you know about "Rate of Force Development?" You should...

Do you know what "rate of force development" is? No? You should. Whether you run marathons, play tennis, or do high jump you need good rate of force development (ROFD). ROFD can also be described as; how quickly can and athlete develop force, how quickly can their engine spool and output the maximal force. The athlete shown here is a high school volleyball and basketball player with a left leg movement dysfunction. This movement pattern dysfunction will present itself in nearly all movement patterns, but in the jumping patterns I have her preform here it is very apparent. You can see in the picture below with the red line, her hips move back and away from her left hip each time she descends. This happens for a few reasons. One is because her Central Nervous System (CNS) does not know how to load her left leg correctly. The second is that the amount of time she takes to jump allows for this undesirable variable.

Under further investigation she does not have any structural changes, or combination of tight/short muscles that are forcing her into this suboptimal pattern. It is purely a CNS/movement pattern issue. Meaning that her brain is the priority when training. If we create the pattern in the brain, the muscles will take care of themselves and eventually it will be an unconscious competence within the movement. 

Due to the fact that she cannot control her movement pattern with a low ROFD,  we increased her rate of force development with a few specific extrinsic cues (cues that don’t have to do with her pelvis position). The key is cueing what she has control of since her brain has rewritten what a “normal/ideal” pattern is for her pelvis. This combination of correct cueing and increased ROFD fixed her issue when jumping off two legs. We greatly reduced the amount of time to preform the movement pattern which left no time for this undesirable variable. I had her jump 5 times within the OptoJump system for further measurement and analysis. With this reduction in time, many good things occurred. There was a 65% decrease in ground contact time (GCT), she increased her power output by 147% and increased her average jump height by 39% or 3.7 inches. All this happened instantly. This was not after a 12 week strength program, this was an instantaneous change uncovering her potential. 

With this increase of ROFD and correct cueing, comes large increases of movement efficiency. When running an ideal scenario would be that, the muscle creates an isometric contraction to hold on to the tendons and ligaments as they are the tissues that stretch and shorten rather than the muscles. This lowers the energy demands of the muscle and speeds everything up since the tendons and ligaments stretch and shorten much quicker than the muscle. In power exercises, volleyball, hockey it is paramount as it greatly improves each play which is a large percentage of the entire game. 

Also, this means that this will improve her performance as a volleyball and basketball player by taking away nearly half a second of time for her to get almost 4 inches higher off the ground. 

How this is done is be pre-activating her system for impact and to absorb forces, then change direction as fast as possible, and lastly produce force. As a society we focus way too much on force production and what happens after and neglect the things prior that are responsible for such production. A focus on landing is esstential as major ligament tears happen within the first 17-50 miliseconds of landing. When we focus on force dampening and change of direction (amortization) force production is optimized without being a main focus. Listen up coaches, this is done by NOT having her jump and land on her toes but actually land on her whole foot as she is in slight dorsiflexion (toes and feet pulled up). If you want to know what happens when you have an extremely high ROFD with landing/jumping off your toes, look no further than Derrick Rose. He is a perfect example of what happens when you mix high ROFD with extremely low movement competency. This positioning of her foot puts it in the most stable/neutral position possible, this then allows her to land balanced and then load her ankle, knee, hip equally and have maximal co-contraction of all muscles and have each joint in its safest and most powerful position. 

This combination of changes has a huge impact. The balance is important because it decreases the amount of time for the entire jump to be performed which improves her power output (power = work/time). If you don’t quite understand how that happens, here is an analogy for you. I got this analogy from Dr. Peter Gorman, the President of Microgate (company that makes OptoJump), pretend you have two guns, one is a .45, the other is a .22. If it takes you a long time to aim and shoot the .45, and very little time to aim and shoot the .22, you’re going to use the .22. Now let’s bring it back to power. Say you have the same gun example, but they are now the same caliber, but still only can aim one of them quickly, gun A. While gun B still takes a long time to aim. Since power = work/time, gun A becomes more powerful with the reduced time to fire. Except these guns are your legs, landing unbalanced causes you to misfire, cause injury and reduce power. Try doing what coaches across the country preach and balance on one leg on your toes…bet you don’t last very long. Try your whole foot…It’s just as bad when we ask our athletes to be on our toes, just happens too fast for most coaches to see. 

In conclusion, does speeding everything up fix everything? Yes and no, it has to be under the right guidance and coaching. She is still doing plenty of corrective exercises on the side to balance her hips out. But when we do any plyometric exercises, this is how she will be doing them. 

If you enjoyed this or learned from it, please reshare it. We have an epidemic of athletic injuries and uninformed coaches. We need to take it upon ourselves to show that there is a better way to do things and that injuries can be avoided. Thank you for taking the time to read this and hopefully reshare it.