In the majority of modern sports, power is often the key component in making for a successful performance. Whether your sport is dependent upon sprinting, striking, throwing or jumping, your ability to very quickly produce large amounts of force will be a massive factor in determining sporting success. Whilst many athletes will perform maximal strength work as part of their regular training, often little time is spent dedicated to specifically improving their rate of force development (RFD), this could potentially be a big oversight as within sport the speed at which you can produce large amounts of force is generally more relevant than the absolute maximal amounts of force that you can produce. In most sporting situations you often only have a fraction of a second to actually make contact when striking a ball or taking off for a jump, therefore the more force you can apply in that brief period of time.
The best methods for training to improve your RFD have been shown to be by performing very dynamic, submaximal lifts as fast as possible. Generally exercises which don’t involve the lowering of a weight immediately before lifting it (eg. A conventional bench press or squat involves this) are great here as they require you to produce force very quickly from a dead stop. Examples of these types of exercises involve Olympic lifts, deadlifts and (a personal favourite of mine) box squats. A recent study by Paul Swinton at the University of Edinburgh showed that the RFD for box squatting is 3-4 times higher than that for conventional squatting! Another means of training that can also be used here is plyometrics, which when implemented appropriately can a highly effective way of improving ones power.
Whilst typical training program designed to improve strength and power should in most cases look to incorporate different exercises, with different rep schemes at different %’s of an individual’s 1RM, in my view, all sessions should incorporate some movements designed to improve one’s RFD. A potential example may be something along the lines of performing 3-5 sets of box squats at a submaximal weight (60-80% 1RM) for 3-5reps all done as explosively as possible. One very useful addition to this type of training is the use of bands or chains to provide accommodating resistance, using these, in addition to the weight on the barbell, provides a resistance which doesn’t get easier & feel lighter as you near lockout which conventional weight will often do (this is also helpful for your joints). – see the video below for an example.
Hopefully this article has been of some help to you and may have stimulated your thinking in to how you can improve your RFD and potentially help to improve your training. If you have any questions, as always, you can contact me via the comments section below.