Unconventional Uses of Velocity Based Training

Coach Travis Mash

Introduction

In this article, we are going to discuss unconventional and underrated uses of Velocity-based training (VBT). We’ve all heard about the importance of real-time feedback, improving athlete intent, and power development, but there are so many other uses that might be even more important to athletes depending on training age, sport, and genetics. 

Yes, most VBT instruments can measure the velocity of the barbell’s concentric contraction, and some measure a bit better than others. I can’t speak for other VBT tools, but with the GymAware RS and FLEX units, the concentric velocity measurement is only a small part of how we use VBT. Yes, you can use VBT to monitor dynamic effort work, but that’s just the start. I use our GymAware RS and FLEX units to: assess athletes, teach technique, measure rate of force development (RFD), improve elasticity, and mainly to ensure my athletes are improving in the specific areas needed based on their sport and genetics.

This week you will learn how to tap into some unconventional uses of VBT using gold standard technology i.e GymAware RS and FLEX

Content menu:

Tracking Bar Path

Bar path and video review are GymAware’s most underrated features. If a coach only measures velocity, they can open themselves up for many mistakes. For example, when an athlete is moving a barbell slower than normal, most coaches will chalk the repetition up to fatigue or lack of effort. However, the top coaches in the world will consider technical proficiency first. Let me explain the importance of monitoring bar path and reviewing video with athletes.

Video Review

We’re already in the era of athletes videoing everything they do in the gym. If its used wisely, video review is a great way to help athletes improve their technique. The GymAware RS and FLEX units both have video review options with multiple overlays: velocity, power, position, and even bar path. This becomes a great tool of placing a high velocity or even a low velocity movement with the athlete’s technique. 

Bar Path

Bar path can help explain why a lift was perceived as heavy or light. It can also help explain a miss especially in the Olympic lifts. A clean or snatch rarely feels heavy, but misses happen never-the-less. There’s an optimal bar path for each individual based on their anthropometrics and basic biomechanics. If the bar drifts away from a particular joint, the load on that joint is increased. At GymAware, we are able to match bar path and video review at the same time.

For an in depth dive on the importance of bar path, check this article out: Measure and improve bar path

Bar path in FLEX Stronger app Unconventional Uses of Velocity Based Training
Bar path – FLEX Stronger app

Rate of Force Development > Power

Concentric time, distance, and the load on the bar allows GymAware to calculate almost any parameter. Power is a metric a lot of coaches are using as their main KPI, but Dr. Bryan Mann convinced me that it’s probably not the key metric to measure. Absolute strength or maximum force development isn’t the best parameter for explosive athletes either, or powerlifters would rule all sports. The best metric for athletes in high-speed sports like football, baseball, basketball, etc is time to peak force or rate of force development. Force, velocity, and overall power are great metrics for day-to-day intent, but an increase in power or force is irrelevant unless performed at a comparable rate of their individual sporting activity. Let’s dive in!

To be clear, it’s not about how much peak power or peak force an athlete can create. It’s more about how quickly they can create that power or force relative to their sport.  (Here’s an article where Dr. Mann explains this concept in-depth)  

Luckily, both the GymAware RS and FLEX units indicate peak force and the time, so it’s an easy metric to track. With the GymAware Cloud, we have the rate of force development as a parameter saving you the math (rate of force development= peak force/time to peak force).

If you want to take a closer look at why the rate of force development is more important than power, check out my article below:

Rate of Force Development (RFD)

More on the adaptations from a fast velocity vs. a slow velocity:

Repetition Velocity

Distance and Jumps

If you follow me on the GymAware Blog, you know that I am a big fan of the Reactive Strength Index or depth jump performed at 45cm looking at height/ground contact time. I used the jump mat for a while, but I found the GymAware RS unit much more accurate and easier to track data. I was able to put my pen and paper down, and my athletes couldn’t cheat the test. If an athlete can cheat, they will cheat. However, when you measure distance with an LPT, there’s no real way to cheat.

RSI and Depth Jumps mentioned in former articles:

Reactive Strength Index (RSI)

Before moving on, I want to mention the direct correlation between improved RSI scores with improved stretch shortening cycles leading to faster sprints, better overall jumping, and improved power production.

Vertical Jumps, Barbell Jumps, and Trap Bar Jumps

I use the GymAware RS for all my jump measurements: vertical leap, pogo jumps, unilateral jumps, and just about any variation you can think of and then some. The FLEX unit can also measure jumps with an empty bar. You could even use the GymAware FLEX to perform pogo jumps for ground contact time measurement. 

For more on the importance of jumps and the protocols for testing with GymAware, check out the article below:

Measuring Jumps with GymAware

Eccentric Measurements

We know that there are many sought after adaptations to be gained from proper eccentric overload. You can look back at my article on Eccentric Contractions to get an idea of these adaptations. To give you an idea, an athlete can strengthen overall elasticity, stronger tendons, hypertrophy of the titin protein filament, and maximum hypertrophy of the fast twitch fibers. However, if you aren’t measuring the eccentric contraction phase, you are just guessing.

Eccentric metrics - GymAware iPad app - Unconventional Uses of Velocity Based Training
Eccentric metrics – GymAware iPad app

Eccentric Time

Both the GymAware RS and FLEX units allow practitioners to measure the eccentric time parameter for their individual athletes. This allows the practitioner to measure eccentric strength in relation to concentric strength without the coach standing over them with a stopwatch. During eccentric only phases, the athlete can check the time to ensure they are meeting the coach’s intended parameters. Another benefit is simply monitoring an athlete’s ability to handle a particular load with a faster eccentric contraction over the course of time. For example, if an athlete can squat 184kg/405lb with a faster eccentric time than say four weeks prior, this is a sign of several sought-after adaptations.

Eccentric time - FLEX Stronger
Eccentric time – FLEX Stronger app

Eccentric Velocity and Force

Whether you are using a GymAware RS or FLEX unit, you can now measure eccentric velocity in real time. Here’s what you need to know. If your eccentric velocity is greater than your concentric velocity, you have overcome and expressed more force eccentrically than concentrically.  With the GymAware Cloud, it’s easy to look at the eccentric force compared to the concentric force showing an athlete’s improved eccentric capabilities over time.

Measuring the Flywheel

One last thing, I have also found the GymAware RS and FLEX units to be superior to any other monitoring tool for the Flywheel. Personally, of course I use the Kratos Flywheel from Kabuki. Being able to quantify the difference in eccentric force and concentric force is the only way to ensure proper adaptations are being met. We can look at the way the flywheel acts on the body versus an internal device looking at the angular acceleration of the wheel. I hope to publish more on those findings soon. Here’s the research that pointed me in this direction: “Use of Concentric Linear Velocity to Monitor Flywheel Exercise Load”.

Summary

I hope that I have given you some new ideas for measuring your athletes with velocity-based training. If you are solely looking at concentric velocity, you are simply scratching the surface. GymAware has made it easy for all of us to ensure the proper adaptations are being realized by our athletes. It’s up to us to maximize the use of these tools like:

  • Video analysis
  • Bar path
  • Concentric Time and Distance
  • Rate of Force Development
  • RSI and other jumps
  • Eccentric measurements

As always, if you have any questions, email me at Travis@GymAware.com.

Video Presentation:

https://youtu.be/9d-6-DKZTKc

References

  • Kaneko M, Fuchimoto T, Toji H, and Suei K. “Training effect of different loads on the force-velocity relationship and mechanical power output in human muscle.” Scandinavian Journal of Sports Sciences. 1983; 5:50–55.
  • Bompa, TO and Buzzichelli, Carlo. Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training. Human Kinetics, Inc., 2018.
  • Hakkinen K, Komi PV, and Alen M. “Effect of explosive type strength training on isometric force- and relaxation-time, electromyographic and muscle fibre characteristics of leg exensor muscles. Acta physiologica Scandinavica. 1985;125:587-600.
  • Weakley, Jonathon PhD1,2; Mann, Bryan PhD3; Banyard, Harry PhD4; McLaren, Shaun PhD2,5; Scott, Tannath PhD2,6; Garcia-Ramos, Amador PhD7,8. Velocity-Based Training: From Theory to Application. Strength and Conditioning Journal 43(2):p 31-49, April 2021. | DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000560 
  • McNeill C, Beaven CM, McMaster DT, and Gill N. “Survey of Eccentric-Based Strength and Conditioning Practices in Sport.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2020;34(10):2769–2775.
  • Douglas J, Pearson S, Ross A, and McGuigan M. “Chronic Adaptations to Eccentric Training: A Systematic Review.” Sports Medicine. 2017;47(5):917–941.
  • Mike J, Kerksick CM, and Kravitz L. “How to Incorporate Eccentric Training into a Resistance Training Program.” Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2015;37:5–17. 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000114.
  • Schoenfeld B. “The Use of Specialized Training Techniques to Maximize Muscle Hypertrophy.” Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2011 Aug;33(4):60–65. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e3182221ec2
  • Martín-Rivera F, Beato M, Alepuz-Moner V, and Maroto-Izquierdo S. “Use of concentric linear velocity to monitor flywheel exercise load.” Frontiers in Physiology. 2022 Aug;13, 961572.

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Coach Travis Mash

Coach Travis Mash

Being a World Champion in powerlifting, Travis competed at a world-class level in Olympic weightlifting and has coached professional Olympic weightlifters alongside Don McCauley and Glenn Pendlay at Team MDUSA. Now Travis coaches the most successful weightlifting team in the USA.