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Explosiveness: Understanding Strength lll

Updated: Apr 26


A surrealist painting of a strong man causing an explosin with his muscles.

In the previous article, I defined the various modalities of Strength. I described how they all lie on a spectrum divided into two continuums: one that is more functional/movement based in its developments and is related to Velocity and Power, and another that is more structural and vegetative and is related to muscular hypertrophy and stamina. In that schema, I labeled the modalities as Strength Abilities. 


The definitions of Strength

 Speed-Strength and Strength-Speed are the abilities of Power between Reactive Ability (pure speed) and Absolute Strength; this forms the Velocity-Power-Force Continuum.  


The Velocity-Power-Force Curve


Reactive Ability (speed) and Absolute Strength are Essential Abilities, the physiological manifestations of absolute Velocity and Force, respectively.  They are pure abilities that cannot be broken down into different parts; for this reason, they are essential abilities.


An essential ability is one that every person possesses inherently, albeit possibly in an undeveloped state.


Speed-Strength and Strength-Speed are composite abilities of Speed and Absolute Strength that manifest as various articulations of Power. Other abilities (like Versatile Power) arise from the synthesis of Speed-Strength and Strength-Speed in training; for this reason, we call these abilities Fundamental abilities.


So the V-P-F continuum is book-ended by two essential abilities (Reactive Ability and Absolute Strength) with two fundamental abilities that arise from them in between.  


This basic scheme gives a useful conceptual framework for understanding how physiological Power arises from pure raw speed and strength, but it is not complete.


Fundament cannot arise from Essence.  There is a layer in between, the ELEMENTAL.  This layer is composed of the Elemental Abilities of Strength.


The Elemental Abilities


The Elemental Abilities begin manifestation during the isometric phase of an action between the moment you decide to act and your body begins producing force and the moment you have developed enough force to cause movement.  The function of the elemental abilities before movement greatly influences the movement and largely determines the effectiveness of it.  


The Elemental Abilities are-


Starting Strength: The ability develop maximal force at the beginning of a muscular contraction, it is represented by the Q gradient in the following graph and manifests in the first 30 milliseconds after the beginning of a muscular contraction.


Accelerating Strength: The Ability to quickly reach maximal force in the course of developing working tension (isometric regime) in the muscles, it is represented by the G gradient in the following graph.  It manifests after Starting Strength, between the end of the first 30 milliseconds and the moment Force Maximum is achieved in the movement.


Explosive Strength: The ability to exert maximal forces in minimal time. The I gradient in the following graph represents it.  It is the explosion of force when the dynamic phase of the movement begins.


THe Force-TIme Curve showing how Strength is developed

The Rate of Force Development (ROFD) is represented by the Rf gradient and the gray tangential line; it is the product of the effectiveness of the lifter’s Starting and Accelerating Strengths.


Fm represents the maximum force achieved in the action.  Notice how the force production in the dynamic phase forms a curve; this is because the muscles cannot achieve maximum force in the lengthened (bottom position of a squat, press, or deadlift) position, then accumulate force once the dynamic phase begins up to a maximum somewhere in the middle of the movement, then decceleration mechanisms kick in in the body as the bones and joints near lock-out position.


The following graph shows the precise indices for each elemental strength.


Force-time curve and strength indices.

Starting Strength (Q indice): The starting gradient is half of the maximum force developed in the movement divided by the time it took to achieve it.  Fp / Tp


Accelerating Strength (G Indice): is the maximum force (Fm ) developed in the movement minus the weight overcome divided by the time it took to reach Fm (Tm) minus the time it took to reach the force of the weight. (Fm - P) / (Tm - Tp)


Explosive Strength (I indice): Explosive strength is represented by the maximum force achieved in a movement and the time it took to achieve it. Fm / Tm 


Since Explosive Strength manifests as an explosion of force when the muscles produce enough force to overcome the weight, it is clear that it is the culmination of the effects of the lifter's Starting and Accelerating Strengths.


Elements emerge from Essences, Fundament forms from Elements


Elements from Essence


Now that we have defined the elemental abilities and shown that Explosive Strength is the culmination of the other two let's look at how Starting and Accelerating Strengths arise from the essential abilities.


The following graphic of the Structure of Explosive Force for the lower body is instructive.   The concept was pioneered by Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky in his works “Supertraining” and “Fundamentals of Special Strength Training in Sport.”  


The scheme of the graphic is the same as that of Dr. Verkhoshansky but with updated graphics to enhance reader interest and comprehension.


Lower body Explosive Power


The Structure of Explosive Force: Lower Body

Dr. Verkhoshansky states that “the development of ability I (Explosive Strength), occurs under the conditions of a specific motor regime (the back squat in our example), has an influence on the components of Explosive Muscular Strength (Q, Fa, G, V) and forms the specific neuromotor structure (depicted as the lower body musculature and neural networks) of the action.  The Specific neuromotor structure is the fundamental condition for the development of explosive strength, its specific neuromotor structure acquires this or that functionally qualitative trait.” -Fundamentals of Special Strength Training In Sport


Basically, Accelerating Strength (G) arises from the Absolute Strength (Fa), and Starting Strength (Q) arises from the peak Reactive Ability of the legs in a squat movement.


The specific motor regime (squat) and the lifter’s Starting and Accelerating Strength potential for it give form to the specific neuromotor structure of an explosive squat.  All of this culminates in Explosive Strength in the Lower Body.  


Fundament from Elements


Now that we have defined how the elemental strengths arise from the essential abilities, lets look at how the fundamental abilities of power form from the elements.


After Starting Strength and Accelerating Strength form a neuromuscular explosion in the form of Explosive Strength, a certain weight will move explosively.  The intensity/force of that weight for the lifter will determine whether the power manifestation in the action will have a speed strength or strength speed character.


The following graph expands on Dr. Verkhoshansky’s scheme and shows the concept.  Sf represents Speed Strength, and Fs represents Strength Speed.  F represents the display of submaximal strength that is not Absolute but in which Speed is insignificant.  



Lower Body Strength Speed and Speed Strength

Lower Body Strength Speed and Speed Strength

Total body explosive Strength

These graphics clearly show how the elemental strengths potentiate movement power. When the dynamic phase of an action begins more explosively because the lifter's Starting and Accelerating Strengths have been trained effectively, the Power of the concentric movement will be greater, whether the movement has a Speed Strength or Strength Speed character. Coaches and athletes preparing for events that require Versatile Power (all bat-and-ball and combat sports) must understand and develop the elemental strengths.


Like the main strength abilities of the spectrum, the Starting, Accelerating, and Explosive Strengths are all fundamentally developed with the major barbell lifts, particularly the squat and bench press, as displayed above.


Conclusion


Now that we have defined the Essential, Elemental, and Foundational abilities of Strength, Power, and Muscular Stamina, the reader certainly has a solid grasp on what Strength is and what he or she needs to develop according to their Purpose and current Goals. In the next work, I will dive deeper into particular methods for developing the abilities. Strength is Life, and Life is Strength, so stay tuned.



Strength Philosophy

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