Increasing Rate of Force Development In Overhead Athletes
Every baseball player, softball player, or really any athlete that throws a ball, hits a ball, or for example in lacrosse shoots with a stick, wants to increase their overall power to throw harder, hit farther, or shoot faster; but how is that accomplished?
First, let's take the ball, bat, or stick out of the equation, all that you have left is the body and the overall power that you can produce through your legs, hips, and rotationally.
Let's take a look at Ground Reaction Force or Ground Force and how it relates to us in general. Ground Force is required for each and every one of us to move our bodies, something as simple as walking requires ground force.
Our goal with ground force is to produce and develop enough force to overcome earths gravity. Doing this will allow us to move faster down the mound, or develop more power to hit the ball. In general to generate a high rate of speed, we need to produce an incredible amount of force and power to make all of the above happen.
The thing is, thats all much easier said than done, and athletes aren't able to just get stronger and get better that easily. In the weight room we need to focus on the development of the athlete and select movements and exercises that will help the athlete transition the power development in the weight room to the field.
Overall when selecting exercises we do not want to select movements that will impact the athletes mechanics or overall movement when on the field, and this not only relates to throwing and hitting, but running and jumping as well. Our goal is to select the best overall exercise that will increase the athletes ground force and rate of force development without hindering their ability to perform on the field.
Ultimately to increase Ground Reaction Force (GRF) or Ground Force (GF) we need to increase our rate of force development. The rate of force development (RFD) is a measure of explosive strength or simply put, how fast an athlete can develop force; hence, rate of force development. This is defined as the speed at which the contractile elements of the musculature can develop force.
Athletes who can create force at a higher rate have performed better during games, performance tests and more, which highlights the value an increase of rate of force development has on athletic development. Many forms of different training have show to improve the rate of force development, but for trained athletes, resistance and ballistic training have shown as the only way to increase RFD.
So how do we increase our RFD?
First, the easiest and one of the most effective ways is to train with moderate loads whilst focussing on maximum acceleration (While keeping good form) also known as the Dynamic Effort Method. As you train, there is a limit to the acceleration that can be reached on each lift or specific movement, and when we reach that, we have a quick deceleration so we don't lose the bar or weight; We want to avoid this quick deceleration as much as possible.
To avoid this quick deceleration phase, we take a look at accommodating resistance which is using a combination of weights and bands or chains. Additionally, ballistic training with med balls, or olympic weight lifting are the best means to improve rate of force development.
Accommodating Resistance refers to the use of chains or bands to develop maximal tension throughout a full range of motion rather than at your weakest point. While there are a number of benefits to using accommodating resistance, one of the most noteworthy is accommodating the strength curve in which tension is highest where we are strongest, and lowest where we are weakest. Additionally, when using bands or chains, the tension will increase as the band is lengthened forcing us to overcome the deceleration phase of the lift and actually increase acceleration to drive through the increased tension.
Ballistic training involves you releases the load, or better yet, throwing it. Therefore this method allows you to accelerate fully through the movement without experiencing the deceleration phase. This method is great for being able to push through the movement all out without worry about stopping. Additionally, squat jumps with weight are another great example.
Plyos are often considered the end all be all of explosiveness as it requires athletes to develop force to separate themselves from the ground to complete movements such as the vertical, box jumps, jump to catch a ball, or dunk a basketball.
So how do we apply this specific to sport? First and foremost we want to develop enough force to separate the body from the earth, or drive ourselves down the mound, drive the body into a shot in lacrosse, or into a throw down the field.
As we watch baseball players hit and throw, quarterbacks throw, or even lacrosse players shoot, they tend to move laterally, driving through the back leg, through the hips, and most of all initiating the body to create force, laterally.
Something we learned from watching JJ Morris at Strong Eight Develop baseball players and studying the methods used at West Side Barbell the movements they use which are the foundation of their athletes development are the Sumo Deadlift and the Wide Stance Box Squat.
Both of these movements are crucial in the Conjugate Method Used and Developed at WESTSIDE Barbell and have built some of the most explosive athletes the world has ever seen.
You will not find another movement which requires an athlete to engage their hips, groin, and adductors as well as the glutes, to develop maximal force which in turn will separate the body from the earths pull to create a maximal force production.
Not only will these lifts help increase your rate of force development, but they will in turn help you develop bigger, faster, more explosive muscle groups increasing your overall power production.
Check out this video from JJ Morris at Strong Eight in Florida who goes into depth on how and why we want to increase our overall strength to develop a better rate of force development which directly correlates to an increase in throwing velocity, bat exit velocity, shot speed, or overall power.
Morris, JJ. “LATERAL FORCE: Why Sumo Dead Lifts Build Power & Velocity.” STRONGEIGHT, STRONGEIGHT, strongeight.com/blog/sumo-dead-lift-for-velocity/.
"ground reaction force". Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science & Medicine, by Answers.com. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
“Science for Sport.” Science for Sport, 26 Mar. 2020, www.scienceforsport.com/rate-of-force-development-rfd-2/.
Ingtommy. “Explosive Training : a Guide to Understand Rate of Force Development and How to Increase It.” Beast Blog, 20 July 2015, blog.thisisbeast.com/explosive-training-a-guide-to-understand-rate-of-force-development-and-how-to-increase-it/.