Benefits of Implementing Velocity-based Training with High School Athletes
Dr. Harry Banyard
High school athletes often compete in multiple sports and are subjected to many life stressors which can impact on resistance training performance . Velocity-based training (VBT) is an objective method of monitoring movement velocity to inform or modify individualized resistance training programs . VBT has many benefits and practical applications to account for fluctuations that may be observed in high school athletes’ performance. Yet despite the benefits of VBT, many high school strength and conditioning (S&C) coaches may be reluctant to use VBT methods with their athletes. This article will aim to address the perceived barriers and outline the benefits of implementing VBT with high school athletes.
- Perceived Barriers of VBT
- VBT Applications and Benefits for High School Athletes
Perceived Barriers of Velocity Based Training (VBT)
Many high school S&C coaches may be reluctant to use VBT with their athletes due to:
- Limited knowledge and education of VBT methodologies;
- Logistical difficulty in applying VBT methodologies with a large squad of high school athletes;
- Erroneous data concerns with VBT technology;
- Suitability concerns with applying VBT methodologies with high school athletes .
Investing time and effort into learning past, present and emerging training methodologies will help the development of S&C coaches. There are now a multitude of free or inexpensive VBT education resources to learn from via peer-reviewed journal articles, online courses, e-books, online blogs and social media networks. Beyond these resources, S&C coaches may seek mentorship from experienced S&C coaches in the field to further their VBT knowledge. After all, many S&C experts are happy to share their knowledge to aid and better the S&C industry.
The logistics of VBT implementation amount to prior planning and preparation. Once sufficient VBT knowledge has been acquired, S&C coaches can identify the most accurate device for their price range, and which VBT methodology will assist their athletes attain their training goal. Other factors such as the number of available S&C coaches, and the number of athletes training also need to be considered. The accuracy of different VBT devices can be viewed elsewhere in peer-reviewed journal articles [4,5,6,7]. Most VBT devices make it fairly simple to train groups with a single device, or a few devices. Once the athletes’ details have been entered into a VBT system, it is usually a case of quickly switching between athletes or exercises. Once the data has been collected, reports can then be exported rapidly, and future training based decisions can be made.
Many high school S&C coaches may question the suitability of implementing VBT for a novice high school athlete when they may be more concerned with their athlete’s movement quality and technical proficiency. However, why can’t you do both? For example, you could watch their technique whilst using VBT technology to monitor improvements in displacement and movement velocity between sessions, which are likely associated with enhanced range of motion and neuromotor performance.
VBT Applications and Benefits for High School Athletes
There are many ways VBT can be implemented in high school settings. The most common applications are:
(1) Feedback: providing Real-time velocity feedback to motivate athletes to improve acute performance .
(2) Programming: using Load-Velocity profiles to monitor changes in velocity and modify load prescription (if required), and/or Velocity Loss Thresholds to monitor training volume prescription (repetitions) within a set;
(3) Testing: using Load-Velocity profiles to identify changes in velocity compared to load, and/or One-Repetition Maximum (1RM) predictions for sessional estimations of maximum strength;
(4) Monitoring: using Load-Velocity profiles to monitor changes in velocity between sessions and comparing with their target velocity;
The simplest implementation of VBT is providing real-time velocity feedback following every repetition. This is known to improve acute velocity performance  and chronic training adaptations [9,10] compared to providing no feedback. Importantly, when a high school athlete improves their movement velocity in each exercise across the load-velocity profile, their maximum strength and force production will also improve. So how do you know if their movement velocity has improved? You monitor it. Moreover, if a high school athlete wants to optimize gains in maximum strength and force production, they should move the external load (i.e. barbell) as fast as possible during the concentric phase (maximal intended movement velocity) of each exercise. So how do you ensure an athlete is consistently providing their best effort? You monitor it. There are also further benefits of providing real-time velocity feedback relating to enhancing athlete motivation, which include increased competition between teammates, and educating athletes on their individualized data .
During biological maturation, high school athletes undergo various alterations in their bone and muscle tissue, as well as their neurological and endocrine systems . As a result of these changes, maximum force production and movement velocity will improve, especially when combined with resistance training . However, high school athletes are also subjected to many life stressors that can negatively impact resistance training performance. These aforementioned factors suggest that high school athletes’ performance could fluctuate, and they would benefit from objective VBT methodologies to modify resistance training prescription.
Research has shown that maximum strength adaptations can be blunted if resistance trained athletes perform sets to failure . To avoid this, movement velocity loss can be monitored to indirectly assess neuromuscular fatigue . This can be useful for high school S&C coaches when deciding on the amount of training volume (repetitions) or training load to prescribe a high school athlete. Recent studies have shown that using load-velocity profiles and/or velocity loss thresholds can accommodate for sessional readiness to train and improve performance over time [15,16,17,18]
Movement velocity is very reliable [19,20]. This means that VBT technologies can accurately verify meaningful changes in movement velocity between sessions, so that genuine training adaptations can be determined across the load-velocity profile [2,19]. A major benefit of using load-velocity profiling to monitor velocity changes is that it allows for ‘silent testing’. If the high school athlete is providing maximum intended movement velocity during the warm-up sets, the S&C coach can monitor changes in movement velocity for each exercise across the load-velocity profile during any prescribed resistance training session. The ‘silent testing’ can be used to detect changes in an athlete’s resistance training performance without the requirement of additional independent testing assessments (e.g. maximum strength or power assessments). This is extremely beneficial for high school S&C coaches since they can monitor performance changes of their athletes without having them lift maximal loads or perform submaximal repetitions to failure. Therefore, ‘silent testing’ using load-velocity profiles and 1RM predictions is a highly beneficial and time efficient method of testing high school athlete’s performance changes in multiple exercises on a regular basis.
Monitoring velocity is recommended to detect individual rates of strength and power adaptation across all maturation stages. However, there are slight differences in the underlying mechanisms of maximum strength and power adaptations at different biological maturation stages . For example, increases in maximum strength and power for pre-peak height velocity status ([PHV] period when youth athletes experience the fastest upward growth in their stature) are likely due to enhanced force production via improved rate coding and motor unit recruitment . Whereas, post-PHV athletes experience additional changes in muscle mass and cross-sectional area that drive enhanced force production . Therefore, irrespective of peak height velocity status, maximum strength and power adaptations can be detected from monitoring velocity via load-velocity profiling.
VBT is an objective training method that can be highly beneficial for high school athletes across all biological maturation stages for enhancing acute performance, autoregulating training programs, monitoring readiness to train and fatigue management, and estimating maximum strength.
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Dr. Harry Banyard is a Lecturer in Exercise & Sports Science at Swinburne University of Technology. He completed his PhD on the topic of velocity-based training (VBT) to improve strength and power development. His research focus is to improve exercise training & monitoring methods in different populations (youth, adults, older adults, athletes, astronauts). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org