Athletes should always be looking for objective metrics and feedback to show them if
they are getting better/worse and to guide them on what they need to be focusing on in
training. This may mean tracking your mile time to see if it is getting faster or tracking
weight on the barbell to see if you are getting stronger.
While these tried and true methods can be effective, is there an alternative that can give
you feedback without having to run a max effort mile or load up maximal weight on a
barbell? This is where Force Plates come in. Force plates can be a valuable tool in
giving objective metrics to guide training and check progress over time.
What Are Force Plates?
Force Plates measure ground reaction forces during movement. Simply put, they are a
super charged scale. When you stand on a scale and bend your knees a few times, or
get up on your toes, what does the number on the scale do? It moves up and down.
That is ground reaction force. Force plates are a finely tuned, performance grade
version of this, which can also analyze the ground reaction forces we produce to
provide us with useful metrics.
Thanks to math, when we jump, squat, or do any other movements while on the force
plates we can derive a lot of information including: weight, velocity, power,
displacement, rate/speed. Because some force plates are split into right and left sides,
we can also discern the differences between our right and left sides during 2 leg
movements like jumping.
Why Use Force Plates?
This information is great, but what does it mean for me or my athletes?
With all the information force plates can gather, with guidance from a professional, they
can tell athletes a lot about movement strategies, lower/upper body power, speed, and
For example, take a vertical jump. Performing a vertical jump on force plates can tell us how high an athlete jumps, which on its own can be valuable. It can also tell us the how
fast they jump, how much force they produce at their current body weight, how well they land, and show us if there are any asymmetries in jumping and landing between right and left legs.
If an athlete produces a lot of force, but does so slowly, this can guide our training
toward speed work. If an athlete has a 40% difference in landing forces between their
right and left legs, this can be a sign of potential future injury that extra preventative
work can help with. This is just a small snippet of the information that a tool like force
plates can provide.
First, you should find professionals that can lead you through an assessment. While
force plates can give a lot of information, it’s also very easy to get lost in the weeds.
Second, consistency is key when doing any type of assessments. While getting an initial
assessment is a great first step in learning potential deficiencies and areas of emphasis,
getting assessed on a consistent basis, whether it is quarterly, bi-annually, annually, will
let you know if your training is making a difference or not.
Third, train! Information is useless unless you put in the work to make the changes!
Working with a coach in person or finding on-line programming from a coach that can
use this information to guide your training is the final but most important step.
For more information on how to get assessed, check our website for assessment
options, and follow our Instagram @virtusperformanceclub for more force plate content.