Want to know what RFD is all about then look no further than the 2013 NFL Combine and super freak LB Jamie Collins, at 6’3” and 250lbs., his 41.5 in the vertical topped the weekend, he ran a 4.64 40 yard dash, and jumped an unbelievable 11’7” on the broad jump.
That right there is a heck of a lot of power!
Now that shits Crazy!
RFD, What is It?
RFD or Rate of Force Development is a fitness quality that nearly any athlete will benefit from. Simply put, RFD is the speed at which an athlete can reach a maximum level of applied force.
I think an example is in order to clear things up a little; let’s look at two athletes in the same situation, since football ranks up there amongst my favourite sport let’s use that…Two running backs are running down the side line, one person to beat, taking individual skill out of the equation for the case of this example, the one that can apply the most force into the ground at the fastest rate will be able to create more separation from the imposing threat increasing the chances at making a play, scoring a touchdown, winning the game, and by default hooking up with the captain of the cheerleading squad!
Ok, maybe the last part isn’t true…
RFD can be explained on a neural level(that’s fancy talk for the nervous system, kinda… sorta… like… brain stuff), when we are trying to move an object and are applying maximal force we recruit these “things” called High Threshold Motor Units(HTMU), real scientific I know! The catch is that we must first exhaust our slow twitch motor units before getting to our RFD friends the HTMU’s(keep in mind it doesn’t work like an on off switch, it happens somewhat gradually depending on the speed of movement).
“Muscular tension” plays a huge role in developing said force, when the muscle is in the stretched position it is able to apply force more rapidly, this is very similar to a stretched out elastic band.
Ok, How Do I Get Some?
Alright, so how do we add this little bit of information to our training program? Simple, you focus on exercises that place your muscles in a stretch position and apply as much force as physically possible as quickly as humanly possible.
Since we want to get as many muscle working together and activating as many of those HTMU as possible, big compound barbell movements and explosive bodyweight movements fit nicely here; the deadlift, olympic lifts, jumps, sprints are just a few examples to help you gain an edge in the RFD department.
The Case For Speed Work
Although increasing our maximal strength can certainly help you improve your RFD, in this example I want to focus on something different, speed work or Dynamic Effort(DE) work made popular by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell.
Louie is a genius, he has this affinity with numbers, if you ever hear him speak you will realize immediately what I am talking about. On numerous occasions I have heard him rattle off 3-4 week progressions of speed work, what percentage, how many reps, how many sets and even how many bands were used for accommodative resistance.
Just for the sake of this article, let’s look at the power clean and how it can be used to increase RFD in your athletic development model but please understand the options are vast.
I am also going to make a few assumptions here, first is that you are currently using a well designed “athletically biased” training program, and secondly you are training at least twice a week using a “full-body” workout.
So here’s my 3 week progression,
Simply add this to the start of your existing workout and potentially reduce or eliminate all other heavy low-back work for the time being, ex: Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts, Rack Pulls, etc… You should also take the 4th week off from Dynamic Effort work before choosing a new exercise and progression.
- Week # 1: 3 Reps @ 60%RM: Rest 60 sec: x 8 sets
- Week # 2: 2 Reps @ 65%RM: Rest 45 sec: x 10 sets
- Week # 3: 1 Rep @ 70%RM: Rest 30 sec: x 12 sets
Day 2 *preferably 72 hours later
Hang Power Clean
- Week # 1: 1 Rep @ 70%RM: Rest 60 sec: x 12 sets
- Week # 2: 1 Rep @ 75%RM: Rest 60 sec: x 10 sets
- Week # 3: 1 Rep @ 80%RM: Rest 60 sec: x 8 sets
Just Do It!
So there you have it, a simple yet effective way to up your RFD, improve overall athleticism and not unlike Jamie Collins jump a small building in a single bound!