What is velocity based training?
VBT, or as you know, velocity based training, is a way to measure bar speed. That’s all it is, nothing more, nothing less. However, our use and interpretation of that information is the important part of using VBT: are you getting the right data and using it correctly within the context of your program? Or are you simply monitoring athlete bar speed?
Here is what we know for a fact: certain bar speeds train certain physiological adaptations. With the rest of this conversation, we are going to make one assumption: that every rep is performed with maximal intent.
The slower the bar speed, the heavier the load and the less specific the training is to high level athletics. However, heavy loading is a necessary part of training in order to create the neurological and physiological ability to move things fast: maximal strength precedes maximal speed, in most cases. On the other end of the spectrum, extremely fast bar speeds usually involve lighter weights, and are more specific to most sports.
Programming for athletics is the ability to put these different training adaptations together in a way that the end result of them is increased ability to play the sport. FACT: We can do this without VBT. I have done it, as have many thousands of coaches. However, VBT allows us to fine tune what we want to see based on what the athlete can do on that day to maximize the long term return of an exercise.
First, lets go over what qualities the different speeds train. Let’s borrow some info from bryan mann.
We also know that we can train these same things with percentages, and that percentages correlate highly with speed:
Or to put the two together:
So if we know that percentages correlate with speeds (and vice versa) and both correlate with specific qualities, what are we missing?
We know that training at 90-95% of 1RM is very heavy, near maximal weights. However, consider your own training. There is days that 80% feels like it will CRUSH you! Your athletes have those same days, and 90% may not be a possibility regardless of what your plan was. The old method (and relatively effective, I might say), is to tell the athlete to simply lower the weight, ask the athlete how it was, and leave it there for the rest of the sets and reps. If you had planned 5 sets, the athlete would do 5 sets. Rinse and repeat.
With VBT, we can simply assign the speed that we want to train on, and let the athletes ability on that day dictate the weight. Instead of 5×3 @ 85%, its 5×3 & .34-.46 M/S.
The best part is, once you understand the basics of VBT, you can use a bit more novel programming to make it more adaptable, effective and fun. We don’t even have to assign an established number of sets or reps! We can make EVERYTHING variable based on how the athlete is feeling on that day.
For example, during a maximal strength phase, we can assign a speed of .34-.46 m/s, for as many sets of 2 as you can do within that range. If the speed goes above .46, you increase the weight (you are going too fast to train the desired quality). If it goes below, you decrease the weight to make sure you can get the desired volume in.
Some athletes that are CRUSHING it may be able to do 8 or more sets, and you get to reap the rewards of a great training session. Other athletes that are struggling may hit 3 or 4 sets, and be done. Fatigue, either acute or chronic (that’s another story) set in. You could never make these adjustments without knowing the bar speed.
The “old method” would have set the intensity at 80-90%, with a set and rep scheme likely based on prilipens chart. Would it have worked? Absolutely, you can make MONSTERS with this method! Is it 100% ideal to adjust for individualization of how each athlete feels on that day, based on what your goal for that phase of the yearly plan is? No, and as the industry progresses and technology gets cheaper and more accessible, we should always be trying to get better, not just hanging on to old methods out of tradition. The world is going to progress, whether you are willing to accept it or not, and this is no different.
What about during a peak power phase? Lets say you run a pretest: you pick the HEAVIEST weight you can do in this range. Then your goal is to do 6 sets, as many reps as possible per set, while keeping the speed in this range. Every time a rep falls below this range, the set is over. How much do you think this would motivate your athletes to keep up with the rest of the guys at their rack?
Again, only possible by knowing the speed of the bar!
Now, this information does not diminish the necessary programming knowledge needed to write a good program. If you don’t understand the building blocks of periodization, exercise selection, and various models of program design based on athlete ability and trainedness, knowing the speed of the bar just continues to make the water murkier and just becomes another toy.
Some other cool things you can do with VBT: