- What is velocity-based training (VBT), and how does it differ from traditional strength training methods?
A – I don’t like the actual term VBT, I do not recommend basing everything on velocity alone. But the term is pretty much out there, so I use it. But basically, it means using velocity scores to help inform about resistance training…about the correct resistance to use, about fatigue, etc. So coupled with the coach’s eye, set RPE/RIR, % est. 1RM, it adds more objective data upon which informed decisions can be made.
- How can VBT be effectively utilized with team-based athletes to enhance their strength and power development?
A – By getting a resistance/velocity profile for CERTAIN KEY different strength and power exercises for each player, we can see any changes in the velocity score for any given resistance, relative to a certain smallest worthwhile change, indicating a change in strength or power. It is that simple.
And by knowing that your 1RM or max effort velocity before failure is the same. The 1RM velocity, the 5th rep of a 5RM, 10th rep of a 10RM, it is the same velocity. By knowing this velocity, I then know how close each set was to failure/complete fatigue. Therefore I can better control training, get closer to failure when I want, or steer a bit further away from it when I want.
- What are the key advantages or benefits of incorporating velocity-based training into the training protocols of team-based athletes?
A- As above, without having to test, we can see on a regular basis if strength/power is maintained, improving, or temporarily suppressed due to fatigue from games or training or perhaps due to some niggle or injury. And the great thing is we know the exact amount or are pretty close to it.
For every 0.05 m/s change in velocity, the equivalent change in strength is ~2-2.5% 1RM.
Eg. From my above answer, the athlete comes into training, we use a last warmup set of say 60-65%1RM x 1-2 reps for a squat. Their score is 0.1 m/s down on the usual score they get with that weight. Say it is 100kg and the athlete’s most recent 1RM was 150kg. This means their strength is suppressed on that day by around 5%. So, if their training program for this session was to do 70% x 5, 75% x 5, and 80% x 5, meaning 105, 112.5, and 120kg, we may need to adjust those resistances. Instead of using those resistances, we lower them by ~5%. So, the first set is 100kg (but we do it for 5-reps now, not the 1-2 as per when it was last warmup), then 107.5 kg, and then 112.5 kg. Simple.
But if during any of those sets, the scores tend to shift back to normal, well we would increase the resistance for the following set and take it that the athlete was starting to feel better (this happens sometimes, they “warm up” better into the session).
The other way is to do a CMJ 1-2 per week, at the end of warmup, to monitor leg “freshness/readiness to train” in relation to loads, on an ongoing basis.
- How do you determine the appropriate velocity ranges or thresholds for different exercises when implementing VBT with team-based athletes?
A – The threshold is a 0.05 m/s change for all strength exercises (average velocity) for the BEST rep in a set and 3% change in peak power for a power exercise. Do not act on anything less.
And that is just a ~ 2.5% change as well. So, for some exercises, it may mean no change in weight (eg. female athlete with 50kg 1RM bench press, the minimum weight change of 2.5 kg means 5%…so do we change the weight 5% if their score may be 0.05 m/s or ~ 2.5% 1RM down on a given day?) I probably would not…or I would consider other factors besides just the velocity score before deciding (I always do anyway, consider other factors).
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- Could you provide examples of specific exercises or movements that are commonly used in VBT for team-based athletes?
A – Your KEY movements that relate to success in the sport or that relate to physical tasks in the sport (sprinting, jumping, CoD, tackling, etc). Squat, pull-ups, bench press and bench pull, rows, deadlift, OH pressing, deadlifting, jump squats, power cleans, med ball throws, jumps, etc. We don’t bother using it for isolation exercises or minor things.
- What role does technology play in monitoring and assessing velocity-based training in a team setting, and which devices or tools do you find most effective?
A- Test what is important. Collect data on what is important. Technology allows us to do that.
Right now, OUTPUT is what I use and recommend. Push was what I used for years, but they got bought out by Whoop and shut down. I have used GymAware and Tendo and they are great as well. And the PlyometricPower system and a jump matt back in the 1990s.
Most of the devices now that have been around 2 years or more are pretty good and have been validated in university studies. I will leave it to the individual to decide, there are clearly budgetary considerations.
I have been using Velocity devices for 30+ years now. VBT is not new at all.
Just new to some peoples’ minds and the price and size of devices have made them more available to everybody.
OUTPUT is great, same technology but it also measures angle for ROM testing and stability testing. So, this one device, OUTPUT, wow, it tests all our gym stuff. You can also put it on the foot during acceleration and get foot contact/flight time ratios. So, it is pretty cool.
In the gym, if we are measuring, objectively, velocity, ROM, stability, and left v right differences in those things, that is pretty good.
- How do you ensure that the use of velocity-based training does not compromise the technical skills or sport-specific movements required by team-based athletes?
A- How would it be? The idea of using velocity scores is to better manage the training and overload.
- Are there any specific considerations or adjustments you make when implementing velocity-based training with different team sports (e.g., AFL, basketball, rugby)?
A- No. Adjustments are in the program already. Velocity scores just help inform training decisions about loading, motivate the athlete, and hold everybody accountable (S&C Coach and athlete).
- How do you individualize velocity-based training for team-based athletes who may have varying strength and power profiles or specific positional demands?
A – Just do the load-velocity profile for the KEY exercises. Simple.
Your program need not change, you are just supplementing it with a knowledge of velocity scores.
Eg. If we are doing trap bar jumps, what resistance are you using? How do you know if the athlete is trying as hard as possible?
If I program we are doing trap bar jumps with the highest load that allows us to attain 1.2 m/s average velocity, then the athletes and I know what the weight is going to be for their first set (based on data from their load-velocity profile) – this does not matter if it is 35%1RM for one athlete and 50% 1RM for the other, it is the resistance where they get 1.2 m/s on their best rep. Individually determined.
“Were you over that score by 0.05 m/s average velocity or 3% peak velocity?
If so, add 2.5% to the bar for the next set. Over by 0.1 m/s (ie getting 1.3 m/s), then add 5% for the next set.”
And vice versa if the scores are lower. Simple.
Knowledge of velocity scores DRIVES the athlete on power exercises. Drives competition.
- In your experience, what are the key factors or strategies that contribute to successful implementation and integration of velocity-based training within team-based sports environments?
A – Need to develop the load-velocity profile for the Key exercises. It takes about 15 minutes in a test situation. Or it can be done during usual training and does not need a designated test day. Or just gather the info over a few weeks.
For strength exercises, 4-5 resistances, being the last warmup weight (60-65%), about 70% or a 12RM weight, 80% or 8RM, 90% or 3-4RM, all done for just 1-2 reps. Not fatiguing. Take the best rep average velocity score for each resistance.
Then do either a 1RM OR do a full max-out set with about a 6RM (a resistance halfway between the 8RM and 3-4RM). The last rep before failure is your 1RM or max effort velocity. That is the velocity you will fail at, no matter how many reps you do in a set. Ie. Your max effort velocity.
Any other resistance is linear in the velocity relationship. So, what is 75%1RM, I did not test it. The velocity score for 75% will be halfway between what you got for the 70% and 80%% resistances. No need to test every single weight, simple extrapolation does it for us.
Jack McLean is the founder of Prepare Like a Pro. He loves coaching people so that they can reach their personal/professional goals and become the best that they can possibly be. He is currently the Strength & Rehab Coach of Melbourne Football Club and has worked as Strength & Conditioning Coach at Hawthorn Football Club. Jack is a Level 3 Australian Strength & Conditioning Association and Professional Coach and a Level 1 Australian Weightlifting Federation Coach.