By Neal Prokop, Sport Performance Specialist
With the advances in technology, movement velocity based training (VBT) is now a popular tool incorporated into strength and conditioning training, and something we incorporate with Team Manitoba athletes when appropriate, and as they come through the center. Just as it sounds, movement VBT is focused around completing and measuring movements, or repetitions, at a specific velocity.
In our field, it’s easy for athletes to measure ‘what they did’ during a particular weightlifting session. For example, ‘Athlete A’ and ‘Athlete B’ both completed 3 sets of squats, each consisting of ten reps at 100 kilograms. Although informative, completion is only part of the picture. With movement VBT tracking, we can now gain insight into ‘how they did’, or typically how the concentric (lifting) phase of a movement was carried out. As a coach, or athlete, you might be curious, was I faster last week? How many reps can I maintain my speed or power? Did I fatigue and slow down during the set? Am I improving in the sense that I can lift more at a consistent velocity? Rather than just monitoring whether the session was completed, or subjectively trying to determine how the workout felt on a scale of 1-10, monitoring movement velocity immediately provides objective feedback on how the athlete performed the exercise… specifically the intensity of the movement.
We hope this post provides you with a little bit more insight into movement VBT, and if you’re interested in trying it out or learning more, be sure to get in touch with us!
Why Has Measuring Velocity Become So Popular?
It’s common knowledge that as the external mass you lift gets heavier, the speed in which you can lift it, or move it, is reduced. The loss of velocity continues until a 1 ‘rep maximum’ is achieved, which is essentially the minimum velocity that is needed by you to complete the lift. There’s a near perfect linear relationship between velocity, and intensity, across a range of exercises when it comes to predicting a one rep maximum. With all of this in mind, VBT can help us prescribe external loads, target particular athletic abilities, and allow us to adjust training volumes for each session, regardless of fluctuations in the athlete’s readiness and fatigue.
Ultimately VBT uses velocity to inform or enhance training practice, but before we discuss a few more details regarding VBT, here’s a few practical uses of how you can incorporate it into training.
1 – Tracking Progress: Over the course of a training program, if an athlete consistently moves more mass at the same velocity, or the same mass at a quicker velocity, one can assume they’ve improved some athletic abilities related to ‘power’.
2 – Monitoring Fatigue: If an athlete usually moves a weight at a particular speed he’s accustomed to, and then suddenly has weeks, or sessions, where he struggles to meet that speed, it might indicate the athlete is in a fatigued state and/or the program is causing him to regress. When fatigue develops, velocity slows.
3 – Appropriate Loading: Did you know that an athlete’s 1 rep maximum can fluctuate by +/- 18% on any given day, possibly due to stressors and/or sleep quality. Imagine prescribing an athlete reps at 80% of their 1RM assuming their 1RM is 100kg. That could be a 15kg (+30lbs) difference when accounting for potential fluctuations. If you prescribe an athlete to complete reps at a certain velocity, the weight can easily be adjusted to reflect the athlete’s state of readiness. Although the athlete might not be at 100%, it provides objective feedback on how to adjust the load to train the physiological abilities (speed/power) we intended to.
4 – Cut-Off Velocities – Cut off velocities can help prevent overtraining and keep athletes in a particular velocity zone (mentioned below). We can tell athletes to end their set once their velocity drops to a certain point. Rather than prescribing a certain number of reps, perhaps you leave it empty and prescribe a velocity zone (e.g 5 sets of ? reps @ .5 m/sec (metres/second) – .35m/s). Perhaps you tell your athlete to end the set when the velocity drops 10%, 20%, or 30% from their first rep. Athletes don’t need to grind through the final reps of a set, which might not elicit the training effect we might want, and may cause extra fatigue during particular points of the season.
5 – Increase Motivation and Competitiveness – We know athletes are competitive, and VBT provides real-time velocity feedback. Just as we measure our athletes sprint speeds and starts with timing gates so they can try to beat their score, the same can be applied to lifting weights.
Velocity Variables, Zones and Where Should I Start
Different equipment pieces are mentioned at the bottom of this post, but once you decide on the product that best fits your needs, you need to decide what variables to measure. There are two velocity variables that are commonly used. Mean Velocity (MV), which is the average velocity across the entire concentric phase) and Peak Velocity (PV), is the maximum instantaneous velocity reached during the concentric phase. We primarily use mean velocity.
From there, choose an exercise and create an athlete’s load-velocity profile. Now although there might be minor differences in an athletes’ load-velocity profiles, for the most part, they stay fairly consistent and are rather influenced by the type of exercise an athlete does.
Let’s use the squat as an example, here’s what an athlete’s load profile might look like. Remember, 1RM is the maximum amount of weight an athlete can lift for 1 rep.
Athlete A – Barbell Back Squat – 1RM = 100kg
90kg | 90% of 1RM = 0.40 m/s
80kg | 80% of 1RM = 0.55 m/s
60kg | 60% of 1RM = 0.86 m/s
40kg | 40% of 1RM = 1.16 m/s
20kg | 20% of 1RM = 1.41 m/s
Based on a variety of articles and research studies, here’s the approximate 1RM velocity of the subjects studied , or the minimum velocity threshold, across a few commonly used exercises.
Bench Press – 0.17 m/s
Bench Pull – 0.5m/s
Pull Up – 0.23 m/s
Seated Military Press – 0.19m/s
Lat Pull Down – 0.47m/s
Seated Cable Row – 0.40m/s
Squat – 0.30 m/s
Deadlift – 0.15m/s
Hip Thurst – 0.25 m/s
Every exercise will have slightly different ‘velocity zones’, but here’s an example of what the zones could look like. Depending on what physical abilities you want to train, will influence the speed you prescribe for your athlete.
Acute and Chronic Responses
When you prescribe exercises in which velocity fluctuates, there are differences in acute and chronic responses from the body. With greater velocity lost during a set, there’s an increased training volume, greater exertion, and increased fatigue. The mass is heavier for the body during the set. Chronically, greater velocity lost during a set will facilitate less ‘power’ development, and target ‘muscular endurance’ attributes such as increasing type 1 (slow twitch) muscles fibre and reducing type 2 (fast twitch) muscle fibre development. Additional reps at slower velocities should increase the time under tension and increase overall muscle volume.
There are a lot of different options and modalities you can use to capture velocity. Our Sport Manitoba Performance Team went with Gym Aware and have been extremely happy with it!
Information can be found at: https://gymaware.com/
If you’re curious about what other products are out there, here’s a great buyers guide from SimpliFaster
If you’re interested in learning or discussing more, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org