• Coach Boris

Does Velocity Based Training take the guess work out of programming?

The role of a strength and conditioning coach (SC) is to plan and periodised training sessions carefully, so as to target specific attributes, ensure adaptation and allow for adequate recovery. This is achieved via resistance training, it is possible to induces changes to hypertrophy, strength and power. (Guerriero, Varalda & Piacentini, 2018; Dorrell et al., 2019) Traditionally the ability to manipulate the variables that promote change athletic performance and adaptation in the muscles were down to adjusting volume and intensity along with the order in which the exercises are selected and the velocity the load is moved. (Guerriero et al., 2018; Fleck & Kraemer, 2014) The traditional method of determining training load is via a percentage of one repetition maximum (1RM), known as percentage-based training (PBT). (Banyard et al., 2018) But thanks to the development of modern science there is potentially no longer the requirement for PBT any more due to the knowledge and research around velocity-based training (VBT).

The introduction of research over the last decade in to velocity and force production has enabled the SC a greater insight into the athlete’s development by providing more instant data and therefore can monitor their fatigue levels. (Dorrell et al., 2019) Thanks to the more readily available equipment to measure velocity and force through, force plate (Force Decks), linear position transducers (GymAware) and accelerometer (Push Band) this has enabled the lab environment to be set up in gyms due to the addition of small bits of technology.


The paper written by Jovanović and Flanagan (2014), they look in to how to measure velocity, (velocity = displacement / time) along with once the force profile is built how it is applied to strength training. Knowing what velocity its important to understand what type is being measure, mean or peak. Mean is the average velocity of all reps performed during a single set. Peak is the greatest velocity produce in the set regardless of which rep was performed. Generally peak velocity is used to measure explosive/ballistic movements such as CMJ and Olympic lifts, where there are multiple phases to the overall lift (1st pull and 2nd pull). Therefore, mean velocity is used for the measure of the rest of resistance training modalities such as bench, squat, deadlifts and pull ups. This enables a better monitoring for velocity drop off and fatigue between sets and reps.


Traditional method for calculating 1RM consist of a trial and error method, in which progressively heavier loads are added to bar until the heaviest successful lift is achieved. (Picerno et al., 2016) Once the minimum velocity threshold (MVT) is known of the athlete its very easy to predict 1RM from 4 or more lifts, MVT score is last successful lift performed with maximal load, this MVT score is constant with submaximal loads (60,70,80%) performed to failure. The studies performed by Picerno (2014) and Dorrell (2019) testing the reliability of linear positional transducers such as the GymAware has shown that this method is a safe and reliable method to monitor the athlete without having to expose them to the risks of injury by trying to perform a 1RM. The calculation of the 4 or more increasing loads and their respective velocity along with the MVT it is possible to work out the slope and therefore the estimated 1RM. When working in a squad environment you may not have the time to test for the MVT, there is norm data to provide guidelines of what the MVT should be for the big 3 lifts.

Norm data taken from Janović & Flanagan (2014)

An example of how to calculate 1RM

For greater level of accuracy in predicting 1RM, Jovanović and Flanagan (2014) suggest taking multiple measurements from 30-85% 1RM. These predictors can enable the S&C coaches to monitor strength progression/loss throughout the weekly training sessions by tracking the velocity of the loads. Each individual athlete will have a different MVT score for each of their lifts, this data important for the coaches as it will enable them to know how far they can push their athlete during 1RM testing whether they have any additional repetitions left in them.


From this knowledge it possible for the coaches to focus on prescribe velocities, depending on what the focus for the training phase will be the coach can stipulate what velocity bracket they would want their athletes/squad training in so has to target which strength modality.

Velocity profile bracket for strength training

So instead of setting a specific load the coach provides a velocity bracket and the squad adjust their load to ensure that they are lifting within the selected force profile until there is a 20% drop in velocity. (Guerriero, Varalda & Piacentini, 2018) The table provides the velocity profiles compared to percentage of 1RM. So, if the coach wanted the athlete to improve his acceleration-strength they would be lifting loads 70-80% 1RM at velocity between 0.75-0.50m/s. The LPT provides instant feedback to both athlete and coach on movement velocity therefore allowing the athlete to express maximal force to drive adaptations during strength training improve power output and contraction type. (Guerrio et al., 2018)


From the studies mentioned it is possible to see that VBT protocol is a safe way of predicting 1RM due to only 3-4 sub maximal lifts required to make the prediction therefore it is not time consuming with constant loading of weights on to the bar and long recovery breaks between lifts. This additional 90seconds per exercise (e.g. ~9minutes for 6 exercises) could potentially be reallocated to another training modality or an additional exercise: something that could be valuable during time-restricted strength sessions. (Banyard et al., 2018) Resistance training with loads at velocities of =1.00m/s-1 enable propulsive power which is important for team sports. 

Cuerrio and colleagues (2018) found that by combining resistance training for maximum velocity with speeds greater than 1.00m/s-1 and plyometric exercises will enable better strength gains for sports performance, which is a crucial goal for most SC. The study done by Banyard and colleagues (2018) found that VBT permits faster velocities and avoids additional and unnecessary mechanical stress due to the reduction of amount of repetitions required to be performed but still maintained similar measure of force and power output compared to the traditional PBT.



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