What is velocity based training?
Velocity based training (VBT) focuses on the speed at which an athlete performs a movement rather than simply the amount of weight they are lifting. This can be useful for several reasons, including improving technique, monitoring progress, and ensuring that athletes are training at the appropriate intensity. VBT can be used in various exercises and movements, including squats, bench presses, deadlifts, and ballistic movements like jump squats or kettlebell swings. By carefully observing the barbell’s speed during an exercise’s concentric phase, coaches and athletes can gain valuable insights into their performance and adjust their training to improve their overall strength and fitness.
It’s simple, really: load and velocity have a linear relationship. The heavier the load, the slower it moves. The lighter the load, the faster it moves. Of course, the intent to accelerate the load must remain the same: we must use maximal intent to maximize gains in maximum and explosive strength.
I have often talked about the role of load autoregulation and the use of percentages (the pros and cons of percentages and RPE) of 1RM, or the one-rep max, in the context of training programming and periodization.
The missing piece is the velocity. This is where the use of velocity-based training can fill a significant gap.
Velocity based training: the missing link?
The velocity of a barbell is calculated in meters per second. If you move a certain weight and try to push with all your strength at a velocity of only 0.3 meters per second, you are training maximum strength (if you correctly track velocity and use mean velocity data). If you move a certain weight and try to push with all your strength at a velocity of more than 1 meter per second, you are not training maximum strength but rather explosive strength.
We have known these things for many decades thanks to the work of Carmelo Bosco and Yuri Verkoshansky and later carried on by S&C coaches like Bryan Mann and others. However, technology has limited our use of this data for many years, but it is finally making great strides in this area, and it is now possible for “common gym users” to use velocity-based training without spending a lot of money (although prices are still high in some cases).
What velocity based training is not
It is not training velocity. Instead, it is about using data on the speed of execution of an exercise to track, improve, modify, and regulate our training. VBT is not about speed, power, or maximum strength training, but it can help with all these things. VBT is not a training program or system; it can be implemented using percentages in strength and conditioning, soccer in-season training, or powerlifting training programs.
Why use velocity-based training?
What is the purpose of velocity based training? There are many possible uses for VBT, which is particularly well suited for strength athletes (such as powerlifters) and explosive strength athletes (such as weightlifters), but also for all those who, as athletes, use the weight room to improve physical performance. Some practical applications can be:
- Tracking progress
- Estimating one-rep max without performing the exercise
- Improving exercise technique and trajectory
- Identifying primary training target (strength, power)
- Assessment for readiness and fatigue
Let’s give a few examples.
Tracking progress and estimating 1RM
Having a linear relationship between load and velocity, if over the months, with the same load and exercise, I can move the barbell with greater speed, it means that I have become more explosive and that my maximum should have been slightly (or strongly, depending on the specific case) increased. In essence, if I do a single bench press repetition with 130kg at 0.2 m/s today and in two months,
I move that same load at 0.35 m/s; my maximum has likely increased. It can be instrumental both in the construction phase for a powerlifter who wants to make sure he is staying strong on his 1RM away from the competition and for athletes who wish to avoid excessive fatigue and do not need to test their maximums.
Velocity based training (VBT) can be used in multiple ways. For example, if my workout always starts with a single repetition at RPE8, and I constantly track the velocity, I will notice when I am out of shape or particularly strong. If I always move 130 kg at 0.2 m/s, but on a particular day, I move it much more slowly with the same maximal intent, it means that I am not in shape on that day (high level of fatigue, stress, etc.). I can then do a lighter workout or postpone it in an attempt to recover in good shape.
Another way to use VBT for self-regulating the workout is to use Velocity Loss, which is one of the most exciting aspects of VBT. If I lose more than a certain percentage of velocity between the first and last repetition within a set, it means that I am accumulating a lot of fatigue.
For example, if I have a 40% velocity loss between the first and fourth repetitions within a set, the fourth repetition is likely to be highly close to RPE10 or total failure.
On the other hand, if within a set of five repetitions, the fifth repetition moves almost at the same velocity as the first, I am accumulating very little fatigue.
The technology is so advanced in this sense that you can set an automatic “beep” that warns you when you lose X velocity within a set so that you can stop at a predetermined RPE set by you or your coach. For example, a 20-25% fatigue (velocity loss) is considered ideal in the context of a strength training workout and roughly coincides with an RPE8, which often represents a good compromise between strong stimulus and excessive fatigue accumulated within a single training set. Velocity-based training closes the gap between subjective feedback (RPE) and objective feedback (velocity).
Trajectory and technique of the exercise with velocity-based training
Several velocity based training devices also allow tracking of actual ROM (range of motion) or how much you move each repetition. This can be very useful for a powerlifter looking for a shorter ROM to minimize effort and maximize training load.
The shorter the ROM, the more you should be able to lift, which is why you see those awful benches in official competitions where the athlete barely moves the barbell; so much arch is made. Identification of the target and effectiveness of the training Among my favorite modes of use, especially in those subjects who struggle to self-regulate with RPE (rating of perceived exertion).
If the athlete cannot adequately evaluate themselves and does not have the coach on the spot to correct them, there is a risk of giving up and not pushing enough. Having objective feedback that tells the athlete, they are NOT training maximum strength (if the barbell moves quickly, you are NOT directly training maximum strength) can be incredibly useful. If an athlete, for example, wants to maximize results during a power training session, thanks to Velocity Based Training, they can ensure that they are using a load that allows them to maximize Peak Power Output.”
Velocity-based training vs percentage-based training
Velocity-based training (VBT) and percentage-based training are two different approaches to strength training. In VBT, the focus is on the speed at which an athlete performs a movement, rather than the amount of weight they are lifting. This type of training involves using devices that measure the velocity of a movement and provide feedback to the athlete, allowing them to adjust their technique and training accordingly in order to maximize their performance.
In percentage-based training, the focus is on using a certain percentage of an athlete’s one-rep max (the maximum amount of weight they can lift for one repetition) for a given exercise. This approach is based on the idea that using a certain percentage of an athlete’s one-rep max will allow them to train at the appropriate intensity level for their current ability.
Both VBT and percentage-based training can be effective approaches to strength training, and the choice of which method to use may depend on the individual athlete and their specific goals and needs.
Most S&C Coaches and Strength Coaches like to use both in conjunction, while also using autoregulation and RPE.
At the same time, I find myself preferring prescribing VBT rather than percentages for a few reasons.
First, VBT allows for more precise and individualized training. Because it involves measuring the velocity of an athlete’s movements, VBT can provide real-time feedback on the athlete’s technique and allow them to make adjustments accordingly in order to improve their performance. In contrast, percentage-based training relies on using a certain percentage of an athlete’s one-rep max, which may not take into account individual differences in technique and ability.
Second, VBT can help athletes develop power and speed, which are important factors in many sports. By focusing on the velocity of their movements, athletes can improve their technique and increase the effectiveness of their training. In contrast, percentage-based training may not necessarily lead to improvements in power and speed.
Third, VBT can potentially be more flexible and adaptable than percentage-based training. Because it is based on measuring the velocity of an athlete’s movements, VBT can be applied to a wide range of exercises and training scenarios, allowing athletes to adjust their training as needed in order to achieve their goals. In contrast, percentage-based training may be more limited in its flexibility and adaptability.
Which device should I use?
Several technologies allow us to take advantage of velocity-based training. GymAware is among the most used worldwide, but at a high cost. Personally, and like me, the Powerlifting Coach of the caliber of Bryce Lewis, Mike Tuchscherer, and many others in the world of Strength & Conditioning, I use the Vitruve.
I am so satisfied with the product and its use that I have started a partnership with them, and if you click on this link and use the discount code “NIK10,” you will also save 10% on your purchase. I am clarifying that I bought the product at full price before deciding to want to collaborate with Vitruve and that my point of view is transparent and sincere in this regard.
There would be a lot more to say about velocity based training, a topic I will deal with in more detail, but I hope that this brief initial guide has introduced you to VBT adequately. There is the theme of the different measurements (Mean Velocity vs. Mean Propulsive Velocity, Peak Power vs. Mean Power, and many more) or of the different devices (Vitruve, GymAware, etc.), as well as the theme of validity and reliability, which would certainly be addressed, and which I think I will do in time.
Other interesting topics related to VBT are the MVT (minimum velocity threshold) that varies between one exercise and another (you can move the sumo lift to very low speeds, lower than the squat!) and the profiling of the athlete.
For now, I can certainly tell you that I am doing several tests with VBT and that I am doing well, and it can be a good and useful tool. Like anything else, technology, method, and program it has their Pros and Cons, which I will certainly analyze in detail in the future. For now, velocity based training does NOT replace everything we know about self-regulation, percentages, and loads, but it is certainly a fantastic tool to improve the quality of our workouts. VBT can make our workouts more effective, whether you are a powerlifter or a soccer player.
What does velocity based training do?
Velocity based training (VBT) is a training method that focuses on the speed of an athlete’s movements. It involves using devices that measure the velocity of a load and provide feedback to the athlete, allowing them to improve their technique and maximize the effectiveness of their training. This type of training is often used by athletes looking to increase their power and speed.
What sports use velocity based training?
Athletes in various sports may use velocity-based training to improve their performance. This type of training is often used by powerlifters and sprinters, as well as athletes in other sports that require high levels of power and speed, such as football and soccer.
What is velocity in strength training?
In strength training, velocity refers to the speed at which an athlete performs a movement, such as lifting a weight. Velocity-based training (VBT) is a training method that focuses on improving the velocity of an athlete’s movements in order to increase their power and speed. This type of training involves using devices that can measure the velocity of a movement and provide feedback to the athlete, allowing them to adjust their technique and training accordingly in order to maximize their performance.