Velocity Based Training vs Percentage Based Training
Let’s compare traditional 1RM percentage based training (PBT) with velocity based training (VBT). But keep in mind: you don’t have to choose one or the other. In fact, the easiest way to start using VBT is to stick to your current training method, and add velocity measures. This allows you to get a full picture of your strength, velocity and power.
Intensity prescription: 1RM vs Velocity
Percentage based training prescribes loads based on a percentage of one repetition maximum (1RM). For example:
- 3 sets, 4 reps at 70% 1RM
Velocity based training prescribes loads based on the speed of the lift. This is a good intensity indicator because of the simple relationship between load and velocity: the higher the load, the lower the velocity. A training prescription could say:
- 3 sets, 4 reps at 0.6 m/s
The athlete should now pick a load and move it as fast as possible. If the velocity turns out to be higher than the target, the athlete should increase load. If the velocity turns out to be slower, load should be decreased.
Since velocity decreases when fatigue increases during a workout, you can even stop using predetermined sets and reps, and instead prescribe training based on velocity loss:
- Velocity target: 0.6 m/s. Stop adding reps when velocity loss is above 30%. Stop adding sets when velocity loss remains above 30%.
Benefits VBT compared to PBT
There are several benefits to velocity based training when compared to traditional percentage based training. To name a few:
VBT gives a full picture: strength, speed, power
In many sports, it’s not only about lifting heavy weights. Sprinters, team athletes, Olympic weightlifters… they all combine strength with explosiveness. 1RM training does not take that into account. VBT does, by looking at load, speed and power.
VBT allows for daily adjustments in training
Many coaches say the biggest benefit of using velocity instead of 1RM is that velocity takes daily fluctuations into account. When athletes have a good day, they automatically lift higher loads and when they are starting a workout feeling fatigued, they automatically lift lower loads.
That is because of the fatigue-velocity relationship.
In fact, during the warmup you already have an objective measure of your daily readiness, when using velocity measures in standard warmups.
VBT individualizes training and progress
While percentage based training only uses one end of the strength spectrum, velocity training looks at the full force-velocity profile of an athlete.
In traditional training, your entire program and progress is based on a measure that only looks at what you can lift once: 1RM. In VBT, you can monitor progress on a full range of loads. For instance, by setting a new velocity record on a submaximal (< 1RM) load.
Although there are many more benefits of using VBT over PBT – we should now look at one of the most important differences: training effectiveness.
Is velocity based training better than 1RM percentage based training?
According to science, VBT is more effective than traditional 1RM training. Let’s cover a publication.
Comparison of Velocity-Based and Traditional Percentage-Based Loading Methods on Maximal Strength and Power Adaptations
This study looked at the training effect of VBT and PBT on maximal strength in the back squat (VBT: +9% | PBT: +8%), bench press (VBT: +8% | PBT: +4%), overhead press (VBT and PBT: +6%) and deadlift (VBT: +6%). They also looked at the performance in jump height, which only got better in participants who were assigned to the VBT group. They concluded:
The VBT intervention induced favourable adaptations in maximal strength and jump height in trained males when compared to a traditional PBT approach. Interestingly the VBT group achieved these positive outcomes despite a significant reduction in total training volume compared to the PBT group.
Read the full research paper via this link.