Velocity-Based Training

It’s literally the slowest speed at which a lifter can successfully complete a rep for the given exercise. Think of this as the end of the line for your load-velocity profile. In practical terms this represents your ability to produce enough acceleration on the weight to overcome gravity, any slower and the rep would be a fail. Some individuals may be moving a bit slower or faster than this, and that’s ok; we are looking for the average.

  1. Mike’s been using velocity-based training since 2009, and several of the RTS athletes have been using it for quite some time as well.
  2. Often a presentation is chosen in which the power curve is also plotted.
  3. According to Anatoliy Bondarchuk (1), starting-strength definition is the ability to rapidly overcome inertia from a dead stop.
  4. This doesn’t mean those measurements are wrong; they’re just measured by a different means.
  5. Technically, the velocity ranges for each trait are at least slightly different for different people and for different exercises.

The goal of the app is always to provide the athlete with a load recommendation. Incidentally, prescribing a specific velocity may not be helpful either. If an athlete wants to, he or she can achieve the specified 0.7 m/s with an 80 kg, 90 kg or even 100 kg load, for example. Depending on the athlete’s willingness to perform, this can result in completely different stresses. One is 1.95 m tall, the other 1.70 m and both are equally strong.


The entire sport of powerlifting is built around maximising and then expressing the highest possible 1RM on three barbell lifts (squat, bench press and deadlift). This number (in kilograms or pounds) represents the heaviest weight an athlete can lift for a single full repetition on a given exercise. Speed-strength is the next trait and includes velocities ranging from about 1.0 to 1.3 meters per second, depending on the amplitude of motion (4-6)(10). The Olympic lifts may have a much higher velocity as the bar has to move much farther. Speed-strength can be best defined as speed in conditions of strength, or speed being the first priority and strength being the second. In essence, it is utilizing lighter loads at very fast velocities.

VBT, Heuristics and Prilepin

This is why some days we feel strong in the weight room and some days we don’t. We wanted the 80% based on the previously tested 1RM, but today that prescribed 80% is actually 98% of the individual’s capability for that day, so it’s way too heavy. This is because mean velocities are more stable measures for most exercises (excluding the Olympic lifts) due to the large amount of time that is actually spent decelerating the bar (2). Peak velocity tends to better represent our athletes’ capabilities.

As a function of the reports, the GymAware can also give you a predicted 1RM for any given day. With this already done and accounted for, it enables you to examine trends in the loads lifted at the various velocity zones over time to assess progress. Some people get lucky and get the results they desire, I’d always rather be right than lucky. All we know going into the session here is the initial velocity and cutoff velocity. To program this method, I first determine the set and rep scheme I want to perform.

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The device doesn’t tell us because it doesn’t recognize what’s going on with the movement nor what the athlete’s intended motion is. Because I used mean velocity for a decade with great results, I was quite hesitant to change my recommendations. For each Olympic lift, I knew what the mean velocities should be. Over the past five years, a plethora of information has become available and has greatly influenced my thoughts on what to use and why.

Why use VBT speed zones?

In their review paper from the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association, Jovanovic and colleagues’ (7) used formulas by Jidovtseff (6) to estimate a daily 1RM through the load-velocity profile. They noted an approximately 18% difference above and below the previously tested 1RM, meaning that there is a 36% range around the previously tested 1RM. The next velocity zone in the strength speed continuum is called accelerative strength. While this may create a mental picture of a runner moving down the track at increasing velocity, this is not the case. Bosco defined it as driving against a heavy load as fast as possible (8). It is more akin to trying to dominate a rugby scrum, or an opponent on the line in American football.

If we zoom out a little when looking at e1RM protocols, they looks a lot like a normal strength training session, with the data collection lining up nicely with a standard ramped warm-up set series. My approach is to simply collect the data needed for a profile passively during the course of normal training. I have the lifter complete their regular warm-up sets, collecting best rep mean velocity from each set along the way. According to Anatoliy Bondarchuk (1), starting-strength definition is the ability to rapidly overcome inertia from a dead stop. Cody is FMS L2 and FRCms, and has taken extensive PRI course work.

I don’t worry about going slightly under the cutoff velocity as it is a guide, but getting below cutoff velocity can be indicative of very poor readiness for the day. This method includes movement in which the force output is a result of both high acceleration and a moderate/heavy mass to be moved. The most well-known example vbt chart of this is Olympic weightlifting (and its variations). Besides that, strength-speed training is frequently used by powerlifters to improve their main lifts – we call it the “dynamic effort method”. Have your athletes focus on power output, and continue adding load to the bar until they find their power output begins to dip.

While it is less accurate than using VBT every workout, it still gives you feedback on how you’re doing. I primarily use it on my main lifts — the ones I focus on improving. Tracking my speed on those lifts gives me highly valuable information about my progress on a workout-to-workout basis. For example, when you feel great you might add ten pounds to the bar. But when you feel tired that day, or when your form starts to break down, you decrease the weight (or change other variables). Hopefully this overview gives you some good reference points to feel more confident using VBT and more importantly, gets you better results in your own lifting or for the athletes you coach.

Whilst many of these are very easy to measure, for example, intra-set rest times may be one minute and the athlete may be given a training frequency of three sessions per week, other variables such as intensity are not so simple to calculate. Each athlete will have a subtly unique profile, and the profile will have different characteristics for each exercise (back squat vs bench press) and even for variations (full depth squat vs 1/4 squat, narrow grip vs competition bench press). The shape of this profile is also likely to change over time as an athlete develops their lifting skill and gets stronger.

Well, what is interesting, is the mean concentric velocity also appears to remain constant for the ‘repetitions in reserve’ (i.e., reps left in the tank) across a spectrum of intensities (60, 65, 70 and 75 % of 1RM) (24). To make this clearer, Table 3 demonstrates how the mean concentric velocity remains constant when an athlete has 𝑥 number of ‘reps left in the tank’. With only 3-5 data points from a given day, each set has an outsized influence on the athlete’s performance profile (and potentially your programming decisions), relative to that sets much more minor place in the bigger training picture. This %BT approach represents an “all-in” commitment to the 1RM, with the load lifted on testing day serving as judge and jury for all that will happen in the sessions that follow a testing day.


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