Training with Velocity

The last two weeks we introduced velocity based training (VBT) and tied it into autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise (APRE). This week, I’d like to briefly outline how VBT can be/is used in a practical setting.

Before I dive into it, I want to quickly review one key principle that governs gains in strength and performance - the principle of ‘Progressive Overload’. Simply put, an athlete will adapt to a particular stimulus (ex: exercise, load, number of reps or sets etc.) and therefore this stimulus needs to somehow increase for further improvements in performance. Figure 1 below depicts the theory behind this process.

Figure 1

Notice that as time passes, gains in strength (or performance for that matter) are increasingly smaller. This is term is coined the ‘principle of diminished returns’.

In any case, the reason I am reviewing the ‘Overload’ principle is to set the stage for the example that will follow.

A Session with VBT

Athlete X walks into the weight room at the University of Toronto (U of T). Let’s call him Cody. Cody is a freshman athlete with very little experience in the weight room. The strength & conditioning (S&C) coach at U of T wants Cody to improve his general upper body strength and prescribes the bench press as one of his exercises. The coach then sets a velocity range for Cody that falls between 0.5m/s and 0.7m/s; i.e., he wants Cody to maintain this velocity range week in and week out while at the same time, increasing the amount of weight he can lift.

Let’s take a step by step look at how this would look:
Figure 2

1) 1RM Test - Using the load-velocity relationship, a predicted 1RM can be established (we’ll look more closely at this in a future post). Let’s say the result was 185 lbs.

2) Percent-Based Prescription - Using the 1RM score, Cody is given a percent range to work with. Let’s say it’s 70% of 1RM, this gives us a load of ~130 lbs

3) Perform Initial Set - Cody warms up to his prescribed load. He does three reps and all of them are above 0.7m/s.

4) Adjust Load and Repeat - Cody adds 10 lbs (we’re now at 140 lbs) and now all three reps are below 0.5 m/s.

5) Adjust Load and Repeat - Cody takes 5 lbs off the bar (we’re now at 135 lbs). He repeats the set and does six reps within the desired range before his velocity drops. Fatigue has set in.

6) Stick with that Load - Cody has reached is optimal load for that day and should continue doing several sets until he can no longer maintain his pushing speed on the bench press.

Some Points to Consider

Whenever using VBT, an athlete usually has to drop below the assigned threshold with two consecutive reps before the set is terminated. This ensures the athlete is in fact fatigued and it wasn’t just a lapse in concentration. Also, if we go back to our example above, when Cody goes back into the weight room next week to perform the same exercise, he doesn’t have to go through the entire process - he can now begin his first set with the ‘adjusted load’ from the previous week. Hopefully Cody has recovered and is now a little stronger than the previous week (i.e. he has increase the load for the same velocity range).

One last key point to consider, with VBT, the athlete is always trying to move the weight with maximal speed, otherwise, the results will not be accurate. Also, when doing so, if the athlete is increasing the load on the bar from week to week, his power output is also improving (remember, Power = Force x Velocity).

Next week we’ll have a special guest blog post courtesy of Marv from Blast Athletic in Toronto. Marv is the owner and head trainer at Blast, which, we’re proud to say, is the official testing facility for PUSH. Stay tuned!