Dr. Daniel Baker: Using PUSH to improve coaching

Now everyone is excited about PUSH and the metrics, such as velocity and power, it provides during resistance training.  But what really excites me, now, as it did 20-years ago, is how we use those metrics to improve coaching.

So let’s look at four different ways that PUSH can be used to improve coaching.

1.  Motivation and intent to be explosive.

For the first two examples, think of exercise technique as a behaviour and that behaviour can be modified by the use of reinforcement techniques, among other things.  So we want to reinforce the good things we see and modify the incorrect or less appropriate things.  That is the nature of the on-going coaching process.  

To derive the most benefit from maximal strength and power training, there must be an attempt to lift the weight as fast as possible, whilst maintaining correct form and alignments.  This is not always the case with muscle size training, where time under tension is also a critical factor, but for strength and power, lift as fast as possible is the goal.

So with that understood, lets look at an example of where an athlete is performing a “secondary” exercise, such as Romanian Deadlifts.  Athletes usually are really excited on their Key or Primary lifts (eg. squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups, etc) but can often go through the motions a little on the important secondary lifts like RDL’s etc.

In this actual example, displayed in Figure 1 and Table 1, we see the athlete has performed their first set of RDL’s.  Technique was good, but the coach could tell and was re-affirmed by PUSH’s velocity data, that the athlete was not lifting to their usual capacity. So he provides the following feedback after the set.

“Good set.  Technique was great.  But I think you can lift a little more explosively.  With this resistance, you usually get velocities of   m/s or so, but that set was   m/s on your best reps. So next set, what I want you to do is lift with the same great technique but with more intent to lift explosively.”

The results are quite visible in the velocity data ~ an increase of about 10% brought about by extra motivation or intent from the athlete.  The coach used the PUSH band to provide concrete objective data about intent and velocity and used the renowned reinforcement techniques of 1. Simple Positive Praise (“Good set”). 2. Why it was good (“Great technique”) 3. The Corrective reinforcer (“next set… more intent to lift explosively”).

The velocities of the second set are much better.  After that second set, the same feedback/reinforcement process, but slightly modified to suit the changing situation.

“Fantastic.  Great technique again and that set had that extra velocity that challenges your control, but you still nailed it.  Third set we’ll just do it again.”

So in this scenario the coach used the PUSH band to modify the athlete’s intent and motivation, which altered the key performance variable of velocity.


Table 1.  The velocities for each rep during three sets of eight reps with the RDL.  Despite accumulating fatigue, sets two and three have higher set averages than set one.


Figure 1.  RDL’s with three sets of eight reps.


2.  Technical deficiencies, corrective cues, technique improvement and velocity.

In this next situation, the athlete is performing Push Press behind the neck with a wide (snatch) grip.  From Figure 2 and Table 2, we can see a small decline in velocity is occurring on the first three reps. In actuality, the coach does not see the Push data until the end of the set, but during the set, his experienced eye notices it.  He quickly determines why ~ the athlete is not pushing air down into the belly properly to lock down the lower torso before the explosive initiation of the lift.  As a result, there is less core stability and the body inherently slows down the movement to compensate for the less stable segment through which force must be transferred from the legs to the arms.

The coach starts to provide the corrective reinforcer after the third rep.“Good. But push your belly air down into the belt. Good. Belly down. Good. Belly down.”

The resultant increase in torso stability brought about by pushing the diaphragm down and tensioning the abdominal area sees an immediate improvement in technique and with it, lifting velocity.

After the set, the coach explains what was happening and shows the athlete the PUSH velocity data and goes through the reinforcement/feedback process.  The linkage of the appropriate cues provided by the coach, to the clearly visible improvement in velocity as well as the enhanced proprioceptive feel experienced by the athlete on the last three reps of the exercise is a powerful reinforcer to the athlete.

So the PUSH data backed up and reinforced what the coach was already seeing.  The athlete could feel the difference in the quality of the reps when he undertook the corrective cues provided by the coach and the Push data also reinforced it to him.  He also now highly respects the coaches “eye” for technique improvement.

So in this scenario the coach used the Push after the fact to validate how the appropriate use of coaching cues can markedly alter the quality performance of repetitions, which was clearly seen in the velocity data.

Table 2.  Change in velocity within a set due to corrective coaching cues being provided by the coach in response to a noticeable decline in velocity across the first three reps.


Figure 2.  Change in velocity during a set of six reps on the Push Press behind the neck with a wide (snatch) grip.  After the first three reps, the coach can visually see the decline in velocity and provides the corrective cue for the athlete.  There is an immediate increase in lifting velocity.  The Push data appears just after the set confirms watch the coach saw and the effectiveness of his corrective coaching cue.

3.  Analysing and comparing mean and peak velocities #1.  

The first two actual scenarios showed how PUSH can be used to help the athlete by modifying their behaviour.  In this scenario, we will look at how it can be used to modify the coaches behaviour, in this instance, programming, by analysing and comparing mean and peak velocities during two squat workouts one-month apart.

The workouts are depicted in Table 3 (excluding some previous lighter warm-up sets), while the mean velocity data is shown in Figures 3 & 4 and Table 4.

What we see is that there is no improvement in velocity despite continued hard training across the month.  Not only that, the mean velocities seem lower! Why would this be, if the athlete has been diligent in training?

When an athlete has trained hard but there is a decrease in mean velocities for the same resistance across a period of time, look at the peak velocities in the PUSH Portal.  Remember that mean or average velocity is the velocity across the entire concentric portion of the rep but peak is the score for the best 5-milli-secs.  As such, the peak typically occurs during the rebound (aka stretch-shortening cycle or SSC) or just after it, within each rep.

So, the mean or average velocity scores are down in some sets by around 10% (eg. from .39 to .36 and from .43 to .39 during the last two sets with 150 kg).  But the peak scores are down by closer to 20% (eg. from .70 to .59 and from .75 to .61 in the same two sets)!  What does this mean?

This means a slower “pop” out of the bottom of the squat ~ the SSC is very susceptible to fatigue or maybe it could be said, it shows when you are fatigued.  So basically the weights are being lifted, but they were SLOWER, GRINDING REPS because the velocity of the rebound was markedly decreased!!!

When analysing data, if the mean/average velocity is down on most reps by > 5%-8%, check the PEAK Velocities. If the peak velocities are down by > 10-15%, it suggests the SSC is fatigued and the athlete is over-reached, under-recovered, (or whatever term you want to use).  This may be OK in a hard, training phase but not in a peaking phase.

The coach looks at this and understands the cause of these changes. So rather than increasing training intensity, volume or effort (which would be inappropriate behavior in this example), he alters the program to reduce the lower body loads as he knows that volume and intensity manipulations go hand-in-hand with changes in velocity and technique.

In this case, the PUSH data was used by the coach to discern why there was no improvement and in actuality a decrease, in performance.  A comparison of the mean and peak data obtained from PUSH, lead the coach to believe the athletes was a little under-recovered/over-trained and he altered to program by temporarily reducing total lower body workloads in order to facilitate some positive adaptation.

Table 3.  Two squat workouts performed one-month apart.


4.  Analysing and comparing mean and peak velocities #2.

Another example, would be comparing the mean and peak velocities during Olympic weightlifting exercises like the power clean.  In the Olympic lifts there should not be a marked difference for one athlete compared to others of similar strength, between mean and peak velocities (ratio wise).  

Let us say the coach has two athletes who have similar peak velocities (2 m/s) but one has a much lower mean velocity.  Why would this occur?  It suggests that the athlete who has a lower mean but similar peak velocity is decelerating near the end of Range Of Motion (ROM), hence the overall slow-down in speed.  But why would the athlete decelerate near the end of ROM?  Maybe they have mobility problems that cause technique problems and the body inherently knows not to continue accelerating or lifting with high velocity until the catch, if it may be dangerous to the involved joints, tendons etc.  

So they may have a high peak velocity in the safe “power position”, but the body will slow down the speed so that it does not have to deal with high force and high velocity at a vulnerable end of ROM in athletes with mobility/injury concerns.   

The coach realizes this from the PUSH velocity data.  He suggests that the athlete would probably be better off not performing the power clean, but may be better off performing a variation that does not include racking the bar (eg. Clean power shrug jump).


The PUSH arm band provides great metrics.  One of the many ways to use these metrics is to improve technique and/or programming.


By Dr. Daniel Baker