A common theme when hitting the gym is wondering what the workout is going to bring. Maybe today will be a PR and maybe it will suck the life completely out of you with a crushing warm up set that shouldn’t ever feel that heavy. As a trainer, you have a few things that work in your favour, like periodization, known outcomes and history of performance for the individual. These factors can help you get a good idea of what’s happening, but when it comes down to that day, it’s a tough call.
You could use a calendar to write everything down and then extrapolate as to whether you will hit a certain outcome on a certain day, or you could use a much more accurate technological breakthrough to help you plan your workouts much more precisely.
There’s a lot of things that can interfere with performance, such as quality of sleep, hydration, stress, whether that breakfast burrito made it’s way through your system without issue, and any number of potential variables. The downside to any of these is it’s tough to predict outcomes without seeing the person actually load the bar and give it a shove.
Some correlative tests can be used to figure out ideal positions, postures, and alignments to get maximal strength application. Grip strength is a common one to use. Test your grip strength with a handgrip dynamometer, then do an exercise, test again. Move your arm to another position or alignment, and then test again and see if there’s a difference between the three. There should be. The best position is the one you get the highest grip strength outcome.
That’s great for testing positions, but it doesn’t determine whether you’re going to smash weights well, and also doesn’t give an idea as to what your weight should be either. The good thing is you can use PUSH to test loading, velocity and power output during your reps and figure out not just whether today will be a PR, but also what your cut off point in volume should be, whether an increase in load is ideal or not, and whether you should keep it simple and just work on patterns today. I’ll outline how all of that works in this post.
The PUSH band has the unique ability to measure bar speed velocity during a set, breaking the movement down into an average velocity and a peak velocity. Using the load you’ve selected, it also gives you the chance to calculate power output, which is a massively impactful metric for determining work output and training stress. These metrics can be very useful to determine that day’s training with a few indicator sets.
Bar speed during warm up sets can be a major indicator of whether a person is ready to try for a max lift or whether it’s a back off day. Using a weight equivalent to around 40-50% of the persons max, working on generating maximum bar speed, and then seeing the outcome, can help to determine whether your nervous system can tolerate max loading.
Louie Simmons uses a bar speed for his dynamic effort sets in the West Side Method of between 0.7-0.8 meters per second, working with roughly 50% of the lifters max to determine their peak power output. During your warm up sets, attaining a peak velocity greater than these numbers can indicate that the lifter can handle a lot of loading that day. If the bar speed doesn’t get over 0.6 meters per second, it’s going to be a struggle to toss around some wheels.
One way to cheat the system somewhat and to figure out whether the nervous system is primed up is to actually prime the nervous system with the use of some Post-Activation Potentiation work, or PAP. This is done by including some very high velocity movements, like jumps or throws to help increase the neural drive into the working muscles and have a carry over effect to the working set. An example of how to use this in the purpose of determining loading:
Do a set with 50% of your max, and calculate bar speed trying to move at max velocity. Complete 3-5 reps. Rest for 1 minute.
Do a set of 3-5 jumps, either standing vertical, broad, or depth jumps from a small box.
Get under the same load for the same number of reps, and try to max out your velocity again. See what the bar speed comes out as, and whether there was a big jump from the first to the second set, and also what the total speed comes out to be.
If the bar speed average is greater than 0.65 m/s, it’s a good day to go heavy, especially if the peak is greater than 1.2 m/s. If the bar speed is between 0.65 and 0.45m/s it’s a good day to hit up work between 70-80% loading with a rep total of between 20-30 reps for the workout.
If the bar speed is below 0.45 m/s, work on patterning the lift, eccentric focus, and making sure you don’t hate life too much. Make it a recovery day if anything.
Dean Somerset, BSc. Kinesiology, CEP, CSCS, MEPD
Dean is the Rehabilitation & Medical Fitness Coordinator for World Health Club, a company with over 25 clubs across Alberta, Canada. He oversees the trainer education and Post-Rehabilitation program implementation alongside over 100 medical and allied health professionals, and works to create a continuum of health and wellness for both patients and clients. His personal clientele ranges from joint replacement rehabilitation, cancer treatment, metabolic dysfunction, general weight loss and elite athletic performance from a “function first” philosophy.