Whether you have specific fitness goals or whether you are training to be better at a certain sport, most of us would be lying if we said we went to the gym just to ‘stay healthy.’ And there’s nothing to be ashamed of about wanting to get ripped. Unfortunately, however, there’s also nothing more frustrating than hitting a gym-plateau.
Instead of waiting for the newbies to catch up though (or for those dark-web protein powders to arrive), there is a way to increase your gains via entirely natural means: force development.
Enter: Ross Edgely, colloquially known as The World’s Fittest Man (after writing The World’s Fittest Book), one of the best-educated personal trainers in the business, and one of the only people to complete endurance tasks like swimming around Great Britain or climbing a rope the length of Everest with the physique you would expect from an Olympic Weightlifter, rather than that of a whippet-like long-distance athlete.
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Ross recently took to Instagram to discuss force development (or rather, the lack of it), a phenomenon which is holding many amateur weight-lifters back from reaching their full potential. As Ross explains, “Rate of force development… is [essentially] the speed at which muscles can produce force.”
“The faster the rate of force development [ROFD] the quicker and more explosive the movement.”
To illustrate, Ross says, “Take strength training as an example (your muscles ability to generate force combined with coordinated neuromuscular activation). If you’ve plateaued on your deadlift no amount of grit and determination may help, instead you must intelligently condition the body to become stronger.”
“On this note, one of the most important aspects to a deadlift is something called your “rate of force development” (ROFD). This is possibly one of the most under-appreciated areas of applied science when it comes to strength training.”
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“Let’s consider… two athletes performing a 200kg deadlift,” Ross continues. “Now both Athlete A and Athlete B are capable of producing 200kg of force, but lifter A has a significantly faster rate of force development. What this means is it may take Athlete A just two seconds to produce the required force to get the bar moving and off the floor and four second to lock it out at the top of the lift.”
“However Athlete B might have a slower rate of force development which means they take four seconds to get the bar moving and another four to lock it out… What this means is Athlete B takes longer to complete the lift and might therefore fatigue before fully locking out.”
The summary? To build a stronger deadlift (for example, but this can be applied across many other exercises), focus on the speed of the movement, not just the strength. According to Ross, “This will improve your ROFD and in turn you’ll start adding kg’s onto your personal best.”
That’s not to say you should sacrifice form; just that if you are stuck on a plateau, before you pile more weights on, maybe spend some time lifting what you can lift that little bit faster.