Updated: July 2nd, 2021

The use of scientific training is must to achieve athletic goals in a safe and quickest possible way.

And here we are giving it to you for free (How nice are we?!).

We understand that each athlete, like yourself, have your own goals and reasons for training. Although, We find that most train to increase performance. And to utilise the scientific evidence and methods out there will make the journey as easy and pain-free as possible (hmm okay, some pain from time to time) But listen and learn and you will possess solid run performances and low injury risks all thanks to science.

To that end, in this article, we will understand a very important scientific concept of force velocity curve and its importance in improving running performance.

Are you coming along?

Strength, Speed and running performance

Your strength as well as speed are essential for good and safe performance of any motor action including running. And you have to train for it, properly. By properly, I’m talking about consistent, safe and biomechanically effective.
Workout man
Sports biomechanics is a science dedicated to check qualities through specific biomechanical tests. These tests results help run coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, physical therapists to understand your individual strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, they can then properly design highly specific training modules (for achieving desired strength and speed) according to the sport and you the runner, as possible.

Right, here’s where we get technical… (stay with me, I’ll explain)

Force velocity curve

Strength is the bodies ability to produce force in order to move, walk or run. such force is produced by your muscles and connective tissue.


Velocity is the bodies ability to execute a motor task in shortest possible time.

So, The force velocity curve of an athlete is always parabola and it reveals inverse relationship. (See, it wasn’t that hard) – If you use more strength in any motor task, then velocity will be less in magnitude. On the other hand, if you do the motor task with full velocity, then your strength will be less in the magnitude. This is known as inverse relationship.

The force-velocity curve is a physical representation of the inverse relationship between force and velocity.

How to read the Force velocity curve

  • The x-axis (horizontal axis) on the curve indicates velocity, for example, this may represent muscle contraction velocity, or velocity of movement (measured in meters per second).
  • The y-axis (vertical axis) indicates force, for example, this may represent muscle contractile force, or the amount of ground reaction force produced (measured in Newtons).
  • Now, its easier to understand different training zones represented on force velocity curve, right?

    force velocity curve

    Training zones of Force velocity curve

    The force velocity curve has certain points showing specific training zones.These training zones differ by the extent of resistance training involved. The brief details of each of this zone according to force velocity relationship is given below:

    women training

    • Maximum Strength Zone: In this zone, you will train your body to produce maximum force. Hence, you will use resistance (free weights) equivalent to your 1 RM (repetition maximum). The RM is the maximum weight that you can use to perform one full repetition. So, when you use such heavy weights for training, your motor movements will be slower confirming force velocity inverse relationship. This zone is not for runners. The workouts like dead lifts, heavy weight squats are in this zone.
    • Strength- speed zone: The strength speed zone involves use of resistance that is near your 80-90 % of RM. In this zone, motor movements will be faster than maximum strength zone but not as fast as required for running. This zone is suited for throwing games like discus throw. The workouts like snatch press, snatch, clean and jerk falls in this zone.
    • Peak-power: In this zone, you will train with weights that are in the range of 30- 80 % of your RM. Power is needed in almost every sports-game. So, athletes lacking power should include such weight training module for power gain. The workouts like jump squat, bench press throw fall in this zone. The runners should include these workouts for power gain.
    • Speed-strength: (not to be confused with the strength-speed zone) This zone does not deliver peak power, nor peak velocity, so it sits in a ‘middle-ground’ between maximal velocity and peak power. The weight range for training here is 30-60 % of your RM. This training zone mainly focus on the improvement of your muscle coordination and on ability to use stretch shortening cycle (SSC). Hence, plyometric workouts (focusing on slow stretch shortening cycle) like counter movement jumps are mainly performed in this zone and are very important for runners.
    • Maximal velocity: This zone is dedicated to speed development and is must for runners. Either no resistance is used or in the case you require, weights are less than 30 % of your RM. Therefore, workouts in this training zone include plyometric workout focusing on fast SSC like box jumping, hoping etc.

    group training workout

    Selection of training zones and sifting of the F-V curve

    The selection of the above training zones is decided by the coaches on the basis of your biomechanical qualities. Secondly, type of sport is also important factor for selection of a training zone (note some where not efficient for runners!). As a sidenote, athlete age is also taken in account by coaches for selection of training zones. Besides this, time of year and season are other deciding factors.

    Shifting of Force velocity curve

    The purpose of shifting of force velocity curve is to confirm development of desired qualities for you, (the athlete) and sport in question (in this case, running).

    On a broader scale, athletes like yourself, are either trained more for strength or for speed depending upon the sport and your current biomechanical capabilities – known as strength trained or speed trained athletes, respectively.

    The force velocity curve shifts according to the training plan. If the training plan is aimed to produce strength trained athlete, then it shifts towards left. On the other hand, if the aim is to gain speed and to produce speed trained athlete, then it shifts to right.
    shifting force velocity curve
    Therefore, runners training for speed gain, force velocity curve should be shifted towards right. If your curve shifts to right after training, then you have developed speed, as force points on sifted curve will show higher speed in comparison to original curve before training. The opposite is true for strength training in which, force velocity curve shifts to left.

    So, focus on your force velocity curve and plan your training modules for high and safe performance in running.

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