How to Start Velocity Based Training (VBT)
We are one of the world’s biggest fans of Velocity Based Training. However even we can see how introducing the method can seem like a headache. Standing in your way is a long list of reading material plus some lengthy investigation into the technology available. You will also need to figure out how to integrate Velocity Based Training into your current practices.
What if starting Velocity Based Training didn’t have to be this difficult? We don’t believe it needs to be.
If you have not heard much about VBT, it is a method of training that uses the speed of an exercise as a performance measure. The advantage of velocity is that it offers an objective and precise metric. Among other things, velocity can be used for real-time feedback, autoregulation, flexible prescription and volume control.
For those who are new to this, your start point is to spend more time understanding what Velocity Based Training is and what it can do for you.
For anyone that’s unsure about where to start with Velocity Based Training, here are some recommendations.
Don’t Try and Overhaul Your Entire Approach
You do not need to be a VBT expert to introduce some of the methods correctly and get benefit from them.
Velocity Based Training is not really one single method. It is more like a toolbox of supplementary prescription and training practices that you can build up over time that will help you better understand your athletes, get more out of them in training and create efficiencies in the gym.
The easiest thing you can do is start small then let curiosity and need drive the integration of Velocity Based Training methods into your practice over time.
Buy Once and Buy Well
If you buy a device that has not been validated or has been found to be unreliable, you will either have a terrible experience with Velocity Based Training, or, you will need to upgrade in the near future anyway.
Our recommendation is to buy a quality VBT device, especially if it is independently validated. As an initiate, you want to focus on mastering new Velocity Based Training concepts, not wasting time wondering why the numbers do not seem to stack up or confused about oddities like why a rep was recorded when an exercise was not performed.
Of the dozen or so VBT devices on the market, there are only a small selection that hit the mark. We are proud to say we have the two best VBT devices available. GymAware has withstood the greatest amount of scrutiny and competition of all the commercially available devices. FLEX has also been independently validated and the results show the device to be extremely accurate, we are confident with any future validations studies FLEX is subjected to.
Train Yourself First
You will learn faster by using a VBT device in your own training. You will get a feel for your own numbers, really understand what ‘moving with intent’ means and you will rapidly learn the ins and outs of the technology and software.
In our experience athletes can quickly feel out when a coach is talking about something they do not really understand. Your athletes are very likely to have a tonne of questions about Velocity Based Training. Your first hand experience will be invaluable in making them feel confident about this new approach.
It also takes some time learning the different metrics and by using it yourself first, you’ll get a good understanding of when to use which one. More on the different metrics here
Coach Lifting with Maximum Intent at a Range of Loads
Many Velocity Based Training methods hinge on athletes lifting as fast as they can for any given load. For example, the closer to 1RM an athlete lifts, the more likely an athlete will put in maximum effort. The opposite is often true for athletes who have not trained with velocity before. That is, as they move away from 1RM they tend to coast or pace, which is effectively a drop in intent.
At light loads it can initially be quite awkward lifting the bar fast if you’re not used to it. Less experienced athletes speeds at light weights could be quite variable. Depending on how you use Velocity Based Training, athletes will generally perform better with an explanation of what lifting with maximal intent means. Mix this with some practice time getting used to ‘moving the bar fast’ at relevant loads at you’ll be flying.
Start by Using Feedback to Enhance Performance
The easiest place to start implementing Velocity Based Training in the gym is using real-time feedback to boost performance. This is such a simple coaching intervention and is almost guaranteed to have an immediate impact.
All you have to do is set a VBT device up and display the real-time results to your athletes. Their performance is going to improve instantly as they try to match or beat their own results.
This has the added benefit of:
- Allowing you and your athletes to get familiar with the VBT device
- Giving some time over to practice and understand lifting with maximal intent
- Introducing athletes to their bar speeds at a variety of different loads.
Another simple Velocity Based Training method you can introduce early is autoregulation. Some studies suggest maximum strength can vary by up to 18% above and below a recently tested 1RM on a daily basis. Autoregulation using velocity accounts for this fluctuation. With some quick instructions an athlete can easily use velocity to make their own load adjustments.
Is their bar speed substantially above their target? Something like 0.1 m/s or more? They are probably feeling pretty good that day and could add some weight to the bar. Is their velocity below the target? For example, do they fall short after a rep or two? It’s generally an indication they’re fatigued in which case they should reduce the weight to ensure they’re targeting the correct training stimulus.
It would not take much to convey these instructions to a group of athletes. After an explanation of why this will help them manage fatigue or make the most of the days they feel particularly good, most athletes will be ready to make minor adjustments with only a little coaching oversight.
Learn More about your VBT Device
While the better VBT devices do more than just pump out velocity numbers, the best products make your job easier with workflow enhancements, reporting and analytics.
GymAware is incredibly versatile. One of the biggest mistakes we see some coaches making is purchasing new technology for problems that their GymAware can already solve. They just needed to spend a little more time learning the depths of the system.
User experience is a priority of our product development process. However, due to the sheer extent of GymAware’s feature set, the learning process can be lengthy.
If you are a GymAware user, or intend to be one, we recommend going through the GymAware Practitioner courseThe course is designed to make you aware of what GymAware can do so you know what features and workflow tools you have at hand.
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