Velocity Based Training

What do you know about Velocity Based Training?

There is a growing body of evidence about the use of Velocity Based Training in especially developing power in athletes.

So, in strength and conditioning especially its so hard especially in a private setting where we might only see our athletes once a week or less sometimes.  Its easy for athletes to go to the gym and get caught up on “how much do you bench press/squat/deadlift?” fantasy land.

The reality is, is that there are some great evidence that promotes getting stronger, but there is also a lot of professionals in the industry that think that strength is not everything!

My opinion, as a coach for quite a while, is that its the ability to generate force rapidly and then do this repeatedly that is the answer to athletic performance when you are looking at the relationship between strength and power and speed.  You can be strong, but you can also be slow and strong.  If you can lift 200kg off the ground at an average velocity of 0.8m/s and then your friend can lift 200kg at average velocity of 0.21m/s then we would assume that you have more power.  We also know from the table below what velocities indicate in terms of different styles of speed/strength in performance.

So, we can accurately predict in a training cycle and train the athlete off velocity rather than absolute load.  So, for the sake of this, we are working with a rugby athlete on return from knee surgery. Instead of worrying too much about the load he is lifting, we have started to look at the velocity that he is moving load at.  So, first time he deadlifted 100kg at about average velocity of 0.8m/s which is indicating of 50-60% of 1RM and looking at strength and speed.  Which was good, as we are aiming to build more power, more speed in our athlete returning back from knee surgery and keep him away from high intensity strength movements for a few more months.  But, then 2 weeks later, he is now lifting 140kg at average velocity of 0.8m/s.  So now, we are looking at a rapid rise in strength, whilst still increasing speed technically and this as a coach makes me happier, as he is keeping with the velocity ranges we want to work within, and the load is just depending on how fast he can move.

Then, we trained recently a trampoline athlete to go to world championships.  In helping taper the athlete we wanted to keep the intensity of training high and promote accelerative strength to assist with run up speed and acceleration and also reactive power from the trampoline surface.  So, we in this instance were working on box squats with a velocity range of 0.55-0.65m/s and then going and working into some plyometric work to help potentiate the effects of strength training onto his power generation.  We found that over the weeks leading into the competition his vertical jump was improving and we could monitor velocity, load and fatigue based on his ability to move weight at a certain speed, and this then has a relationship with his vertical jump height. So, for example, one week he could squat 135kg at 0.65m/s and then vertical jump was more than 70cm.  Then the next week, could only squat 135 at 0.55m/s.  10% drop at same weight, and his vertical jump was less than 70cm.  This can be a great indicator of fatigue or something that is just wrong but not necessarily enough to be an injury as such.  So, we dropped of the heavy squat session and just focused on landing mechanics, some upper body strength and plyometrics.  Instead of just pushing through a highly neuromuscular based strength to power session that was not necessarily going to demonstrate any benefit.

I am a big fan of Dan Baker’s work in Velocity Based Training and I was lucky enough to hear Dr Bryan Mann speak at the Australian Strength and Conditioning Conference last week and he spoke a lot about the impacts of stress on athletes and how there were strong injury patterns when it comes to athletes carrying more stress.  The great thing about Velocity Based Training is that I think it helps quantify stress, because from my experience, highly stressed athletes cannot fire up their CNS as well as athletes who are “feeling good” and who do not report high stress levels.  I have not gotten to read Bryan’s study as yet, but I am looking forward to reading this and applying what we can to our athletes to help them better manage stress and avoid more injuries as a result of our ability to better measure their weekly power outputs, rather than having to set up a vertical jump test, which is much more time consuming than being able to accurately monitor fatigue in normal training settings.

Variation in Daily Strength Levels

So, some very interesting quotes from some research I have read are:

“This is essentially because our nervous system is never constant. In their review paper from the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association, Jovanovic and colleagues’ (7) used formulas by Jidovtseff (6) to estimate a daily 1RM through the load-velocity profile. They noted an approximately 18% difference above and below the previously tested 1RM, meaning that there was a 36% range around the previously tested 1RM.”

So, what that is saying that on every day, your strength is variable up to 18%.  That is a lot of weight if you think about someone who could say lift 100kg in a bench press. Imagine doing sets of 3 at 85% of that weight.  An 18% variation would make those triples feel like they were your 1RM, because in fact if you are down by that much, then you are nearly doing your daily 1RM for a triple, which is pretty tough.

So, this is where the Velocity Based Training has its advantages because we know that a speed of under 0.5m/s gets down to maximal strength.  I have seen bench press speeds of 0.11m/s on maximal lifts.  For example, I have deadlifted a profile for myself to see what happens. So, 100kg at 1.1m/s, 140 @ 0.8m/s, 180 @ 0.5m/s, 220 @ 0.3m/s, 240 @ 0.25m/s

You can see how the velocity reduces over the load increasing.  So, if we were to constantly train at that slower velocity, you are working at a high intensity all the time.  But, if I worked at say the 180-220 range for sets between 2-5, then this means that over the set I would be fatiguing in terms of my speed or velocity of lifting, rather than starting from a high point and ending up with velocity of under 0.2m/s.

Picture taken from Article by Bryan Mann, MS, PhD, CSCS


The article that I got some of this information from is:

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