To ascertain whether force-velocity-power relationships could be compiled from a battery of sled-resisted overground sprints and to clarify and compare the optimal loading conditions for maximizing power production for different athlete cohorts.
Recreational mixed-sport athletes (n = 12) and sprinters (n = 15) performed multiple trials of maximal sprints unloaded and towing a selection of sled masses (20–120% body mass [BM]). Velocity data were collected by sports radar, and kinetics at peak velocity were quantified using friction coefficients and aerodynamic drag. Individual force–velocity and power–velocity relationships were generated using linear and quadratic relationships, respectively. Mechanical and optimal loading variables were subsequently calculated and test–retest reliability assessed.
Individual force–velocity and power–velocity relationships were accurately fitted with regression models (R 2 > .977, P < .001) and were reliable (ES = 0.05–0.50, ICC = .73–.97, CV = 1.0–5.4%). The normal loading that maximized peak power was 78% ± 6% and 82% ± 8% of BM, representing a resistance of 3.37 and 3.62 N/kg at 4.19 ± 0.19 and 4.90 ± 0.18 m/s (recreational athletes and sprinters, respectively). Optimal force and normal load did not clearly differentiate between cohorts, although sprinters developed greater maximal power (17.2–26.5%, ES = 0.97–2.13, P < .02) at much greater velocities (16.9%, ES = 3.73, P < .001).
Mechanical relationships can be accurately profiled using common sled-training equipment. Notably, the optimal loading conditions determined in this study (69–96% of BM, dependent on friction conditions) represent much greater resistance than current guidelines (~7–20% of BM). This method has potential value in quantifying individualized training parameters for optimized development of horizontal power.