If you’re a PUSH user and have started incorporating velocity feedback into your training, give yourself a pat on the back, you're on your way to optimizing training loads and pinpointing specific training targets. Many top coaches and athletes have been asking me the same question, what velocities should I use based on my training goal? In this post, we'll tackle how you can go beyond the general guidelines and personalize your VBT (velocity based training) sessions.
Using velocity feedback isn’t a new concept - many top strength coaches (like Dan Baker) have expressed that there are different velocity zones for different training qualities. While many coaches have adopted a (VBT) approach, others prefer using a traditional percent-based training (PBT) approach. But are these two approaches mutually exclusive? Hardly! In fact, research (Gonzalez-Badillo and Sanchez-Medina 2010) is suggesting that the two can complement each other quite well.
PBT, Meet VBT
Most of us already know the drawbacks of using a PBT approach - the main one being that you need a relatively precise measure of 1RM to have an accurate percent range to work off of. However, the experienced coach or lifter knows that 1RMs fluctuate daily - so most of the time athletes are either using a 5RM or 10RM chart to figure out what loads to use on a specific day or they’re relying on a subjective assessment of how the loads feel. There’s a better way, and research is starting to show it.
Gonzalez-Badillo (2010) put over 100 subjects through a 1RM bench press protocol while simultaneously recording their velocity outputs. What they found was that each velocity measure corresponded with a specific relative % load (Table 1) - in other words, even if my 85% load was 225 and your 85% load was 305, we would both have the same (or similar) velocity output at this given % load. There is however, a catch - this relationship between velocities and relative percentages is exercise specific, and to a lesser extent, individual specific. Research on this topic has been limited to two exercises so far - the bench press and bench pull (Sanchez-Medina et al 2014). This group of sport scientists have mentioned that research with other exercises, like back squat, deadlifts and even Olympic lifts, is on the way.
Table 1 - Velocity Output at A Given % Load
The scarcity in research shouldn't stop you from doing your own experimentation. If you’re looking for that extra edge, continue reading as I’ll walk you through a simple way to create your own personalized percentage-velocity chart - you'll be able to choose any exercise and know exactly what % load you’re working with depending on your velocity output.
7 Steps PUSH Helps to Create an Individualized Lifting Profile
Step 1 - Choose an Exercise
Remember, each exercise has a different load-velocity profile - this will apply best to your main lifts like squats, deads, presses, pulls.
Step 2 - Perform a 1RM Test
Make sure you have a spotter and perform 1-2 reps at each progressive load until you reach your 1RM. You’ll only have to do this once.
Step 3 - Use the PUSH Portal to Export your Data
Step 4 - Create a Load-Velocity Profile
In excel, place the load in one column and the average velocity in an adjacent column. When you plot the values, it’ll look something like the figure below. Notice that there is a clear relationship between load and velocity - once load increases, velocity decreases. But again, each exercise, and each individual, may have slight variations in their profile.
Step 5 - Velocity to Percent Conversion
Work backwards - so you did the test and your 1RM was 230 at a velocity of 0.26m/s. You know that if you reach 0.26m/s in your training, that’ll be the last rep you can do. The second last set in your 1RM test was 225 and this was performed at 0.3m/s. You now know that 225 is equal to 98% of your 1RM (225 divided by 230). This continues until you associate each velocity with a % load. Which brings us to the next step.
Step 6 - Create Individualized Ranges Based on Velocity
Use the percent values and the velocity outputs from your 1RM test to create your own personalized chart that you can refer to at anytime. Look at the table below. This is my personalized chart for bench - yours might be similar, or it may be different - it's up to you to find out.
Table 2 - Velocity Zones to Percentage Zones
Step 7 - Train with PUSH!
Mel Siff, author of Supertraining, offers percent zones (Table 3) based on different training qualities. Keep in mind that these are only recommendations.
Table 3 - Key Loading Parameters for Different Training Goals
Use velocity as a feedback tool to guide your training loads based on your goal and the percentages associated with that goal. For example, if I want to increase strength, I'll train at 80-100% of my 1RM - if you look at my chart, this percent range falls anywhere from 0.26m/s to 0.48m/s. I can get even more precise - if I'm looking at improving my absolute strength for example, I'll need to work closer to the 0.26m/s mark, while working closer to 0.48m/s will be more of a submax strength quality. Just keep in mind, ALWAYS look at the first couple reps of the set to determine if the load-velocity relationship corresponds to your training goal, and then adjust accordingly.
More on this topic as research becomes available.