Things at PUSH have been heating up – in a good way – but it’s time to get back to the blog and help you achieve your ultimate goal, athletic supremacy.
Last time I shared a post, we looked at APRE (Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance Exercise) and its ability to regulate how much to stress to impose on an athlete.
A quick review, APRE has 3 protocols - power, strength and hypertrophy – all of which help coaches adjust training loads based on how the athlete’s body (or better yet, system as a whole) is responding on a particular training day. Why does APRE work so well? Because it enables coaches to stress the athlete appropriately and to avoid either overtraining or undertraining.
Ok, so let’s expand on APRE and see what some of the top coaches are up to.
APRE, Meet VBT
Although there is no scientific research that looks at APRE and VBT together (at PUSH, we’re working with many top notch institutions to change this), many coaches are already integrating the two with their athletes. Leading the way are guys like Dr. Bryan Mann, Mark Buckley, and others. The basis of APRE is to regulate training from one session to the next; VBT then acts as the perfect complement. Why? Because as long as your athletes are pushing themselves on every rep, the numbers don’t lie. And as Cal Dietz puts it in his book, Triphasic Training, strength coaches are essentially stress managers – and most strength coaches are actually under-stressing their athletes.
How can that be you ask? Often times, athletes are getting tortured from a conditioning standpoint but lack the appropriate stressors from a neuromuscular (NM) standpoint. And as coaches, if we can improve the efficiency of their NM system, they won’t have to work as hard to produce effortless and explosive movement. Are you still with me? Let’s use an example to help explain. Jim is a tremendous soccer player (yes I've been following the World Cup lately), but has room to grow from an athletic perspective. On a regular power training program, Jim might be prescribed to perform various power movements (awesome) for a certain number of reps and sets, let’s say 3 reps for 5 sets. Jim finishes his power movements and still feels like he could give more effort so what does he do - wind sprints until he’s seeing stars.
Because the fatigue associated with power training IS NOT the same as the fatigue associated with metabolic conditioning – i.e. you don’t necessarily feel completely gassed, many athletes don’t have the sense that they've pushed themselves to their limits. Want a better way to improve NM efficiency, move better and enhance your resistance to fatigue? Let’s revisit our friend Jim again and put him on a VBT/APRE protocol (Figure 1, for example). Now, instead of prescribing him with 3 reps for 5 sets, we’ll get him to do as many reps as he can with his power movement exercises, within the appropriate velocity range, until his system shuts down. He then rests, and does another set. This continues until there is a significant drop-off; but it could continue for many sets (up to 10 or more) and that’s ok. Old Russian texts show us some examples of lifters doing 15 triples during Olympic lifts and that was not uncommon.
One approach to VBT + APRE
There are many ways to use VBT and APRE, especially considering there are no concrete standards and very little research on the topic. We've proposed a couple different options for power (Figure 1) and max strength (Figure 2) development.
If you read the last post on APRE, you would have noticed that the traditional APRE protocol is very similar to the VBT protocol we've outlined here. The difference - with VBT, athletes stick to a predetermined velocity range rather than a trying to hit rep thresholds. This pushes an athlete’s NM system in such a way that not only is strength being developed, but there is also an emphasis on RFD (rate of force development). Why is this important? It’s well known that athletes need strength, but more importantly, they need speed. Whether you’re trying to block a defensive end from sacking your quarterback, or coming out of the blocks in a 100m dash, activating your NM system in the blink of an eye is critical.
How does monitoring velocity help?
Under heavy loads, the intent to move fast is just as important as actually moving fast. So whether your goal is strength (Figure 1) or power (Figure 2), both will help improve explosive qualities.
At this point you’re probably wondering how this can be possible. Let me explain. Most research suggests that early on in a training cycle (or if you’re new to lifting), athletes can achieve great increases in power and explosiveness by working off of strength protocols. However, an athlete’s power output WILL eventually plateau – this is where a killer power protocol comes into play and a greater emphasis on speed work (Figure 2).
4 Things to Keep in Mind When Using VBT
1. Regardless of your training goal - strength, power, speed or other - it’s an absolute MUST to push through the concentric phase as fast as you possibly can. If you fail to do this, you’ll fail to train the appropriate training quality.
2. If you push hard on every rep, you’re on your way to improved rate of force development. However, when there is intent to be explosive on every rep, it becomes extremely taxing on the neuromuscular (NM) system. Keep this in mind when designing a program because your athletes may need the extra REST!
3. Don’t feel like you have to stop at a certain number of sets. I've seen athletes only do 1-2 sets for an exercise on a particular day while on other days, these same athletes do up to 10 or more sets for an exercise. Why is this the case? On some days, our NM system is rested so we can do more, while on other days, the body just won’t go.
4. Similarly to our 3rd point, don’t limit yourself to a certain rep range. If an athlete is staying in the velocity range that’s been prescribed, let him continue until he drops out of that range. If he can go on for many reps, this could mean several things – like, the load isn't heavy enough OR he’s just an absolute beast.
VBT Can Work for You
Whatever your training goal, velocity feedback can play a key role, especially on a day to day level. In our next post, we’ll look at how coaches keep track of long-term volumes and we’ll look at a secret metric that isn't used enough – but could change your training drastically.
Dietz, Peterson 2012. Triphasic Training. A Systematic Approach to Elite Speed and Explosive Strength Performance.
Mann 2011. The APRE: The Scientifically Proven Fastest Way to Get Strong
Siff 2009. Supertraining