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Muscular anatomy and understanding how to build strength go hand in hand. This post will help explain the mechanisms of muscular contractions from an anatomical perspective, and how the principles and purposes of velocity based training directly relates.

VBT AND MUSCLE CONTRACTIONS

All of the below is meant to give you a very concrete understanding of muscular anatomy and physiology in order to see how it relates to strength training and velocity based training specifically. We spoke in previous posts about force-velocity profiling. Force-Velocity relationships is simply the relationship between the speed at which a muscle length changes (regulated by either external load or other muscles) to the amount of force that same muscle generates. The properties of an individuals’ muscle tissue will dictate what the curve of the Force-Velocity profile looks like, and that curve can again shift by both recruiting more motor units in each contraction, and by increasing the firing rate of each contraction. And those two variables can change by training, and training specifically and with intent, as with velocity based training.

With the immediate and objective feedback given on a VBT unit like Perch, the intent of a lift is quantified in addition to tracked over time. These data points allow coaches a glimpse or baseline understanding of what is actually happening deep within the muscles of an athlete. Providing a number assigned to effort can help athletes understand what muscular contraction feels like at various effort levels and encourage them to be more in tune with their bodies. Training muscles to generate more force is simple, though not easy. Your program needs to teach athletes to:

  1. Recruit MORE motor units for each contraction
  2. Increase the firing rate of an already active group of motor units

With velocity based training technology becoming more commonplace in a variety of strength and sports performance settings, the rate at which this can be achieved is expedited and athletes can maximize their potential. The following will help you understand the why and how muscles contract.

TYPES OF MUSCULAR CONTRACTIONS

There are four types of muscle contractions:

  1. Isometric Contraction: The muscle generates tension without changing its length
  2. Isotonic Contraction: The muscle generates a consistent tension despite a change in its length.
  3. Concentric Contraction: Muscle tension overcomes the external load opposing it and the muscle shortens as it contracts
  4. Eccentric Contractions: Muscle tension is not greater than the external load opposing it and the muscle lengthens during contraction.

SKELETAL MUSCLE ANATOMY

Every skeletal muscular contraction (with the exception of reflexes) originates in the brain. An electrochemical signal is sent through the nervous system to a motor neuron that innervates multiple muscle fibers. The actual anatomy of a single muscle can be seen below:

A layer by layer look at the anatomy of skeletal muscle, adapted from Scientist Cindy [6].
A layer by layer look at the anatomy of skeletal muscle, adapted from Scientist Cindy [6].

From smallest to largest, the layers of muscle tissue are:

Sarcomere: The smallest, most basic and functional unit of a muscle that determines contraction. Consisting of interlocked fibers (actin and myosin) and is responsible for the striations of muscle fibers. Many units live inside a single myofibril.

Myofibril: Long and parallel units of a muscle fiber composed of thick and thin myofilaments (contractile proteins called actin and myosin, and regulatory proteins called troponin and tropomyosin). Surrounded by the sarcoplasmic reticulum (or SR).

Muscle Fiber: Long cylindrical cells containing numerous myofibrils. Surrounded by the sarcolemma. Also known as a muscle cells.

Sarcolemma: The cell or plasma membrane that encloses each muscle fiber.

Endomysium: The smallest piece of connective tissue that encases a singular muscle fiber.

Muscle Fascicle: Bundles of muscle fibers surrounded by the perimysium.

Perimysium: The medium piece of connective tissue that encases multiple muscle fibers in their fascicle structure.

Epimysium: The largest piece of connective tissue, elastic and fibrous sheath that encases the entire muscle, simultaneously allowing it to maintain its integrity and move independently of other tissues and organs nearby.

Fascia: the layer of thick connective tissue that covers an entire muscle and resides over the layer of epimysium.

NEUROMUSCULAR JUNCTION

The neuromuscular junction (also known as the myoneural junction and the motor end plate) is essentially a chemical synapse formed between the contact of a motor neuron and muscle fiber. The most basic unit is called a motor unit which consists of a singular alpha motor neuron and all the muscle fibers it can innervate, this can be seen below:

A rendering of a motor unit, taken and adapted from Gardiner [2].
A rendering of a motor unit, taken and adapted from Gardiner [2].

The motor neuron consists of the soma (cell body), dendrites, a nucleus, an axon (coated in a myelin sheath) and the axon terminal. The axon ends in a synaptic bulb or bouton (on the presynaptic side) which is where the junction or synapses form with a synaptic cleft in between the end of the bouton and the start of the target cell, the postsynaptic side. In skeletal muscle the target cell on the postsynaptic side has series of junctional folds that are coated in receptors. Below is a step by step summary of what happens at the neuromuscular junction:

  1. Action potential travels down the motor neuron causing the synaptic bouton to release neurotransmitter known as Acetylcholine into the synaptic cleft.
  2. Acetylcholine binds to the acetylcholine receptors in the junctional folds on the postsynaptic side.
  3. Once bound, ion channels open and allow positive sodium (Na) ions to flow into the postsynaptic cell. This depolarizes the cell and causes an end plate potential.
  4. The depolarization leads to an opening of voltage-gated sodium (Na) channels, turning the end plate potential into an action potential.
  5. The action potential travels along the muscle fiber and causes a contraction of the muscle fiber through Excitation-Contraction Coupling.
The “architecture of the neuromuscular junction” taken from Gonzalez-Friere et al. [3]
The “architecture of the neuromuscular junction” taken from Gonzalez-Friere et al. [3]

EXCITATION-CONTRACTION COUPLING

The excitation-contraction coupling is the series of events that takes place on the postsynaptic side summarized step-by-step here:

  1. The action potential triggered by the depolarization of the end plate potential travels through the rest of the sarcolemma across the surface of the cell
  2. The action potential travels into a structure known as T-Tubules which back up against the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR)
  3. The action potential triggers the release of calcium (Ca) from the terminal cisternae of the SR into the cytoplasm of the cell
  4. The Ca then binds to troponin, which shifts tropomyosin and exposes the myosin-binding sites on the actin.
  5. Myosin heads form cross bridges to the actin and begin the muscular contraction
  6. ATP binds to the myosin heads and causes them to release and reset
  7. Once Ca is pumped back into the SR via enzymatic processes, relaxation occurs
An overview of the excitation-contraction coupling originating at the neuromuscular junction. Adapted from Scientist Cindy [6]
An overview of the excitation-contraction coupling originating at the neuromuscular junction. Adapted from Scientist Cindy [6]

SLIDING FILAMENT THEORY

The sliding filament theory refers to the process of muscular contraction at the most basic level. With some overlap to excitation-contraction coupling, we’ll go step-by-step summary here:

The action potential stimulates the release of Ca into the muscle cell

The Ca binds to troponin (previously bound to actin), which clears the tropomyosin strand from the actin, thereby clearing binding sites for myosin.

Once myosin globular heads are bound to available actin sites using ATP configured as ADP + P, a “power stroke” occurs pulling the actin filament toward the center or M-Line

A new ATP then binds to myosin, which causes the cross-bridge formed to detach from the actin site.

The muscle can continue to contract if more ATP is present and can form another crossbridge, or it can relax and Ca will be shuttled back into the SR.

DIFFERENCES IN SKELETAL MUSCLE CONTRACTIONS

Muscular contractions are controlled by action potentials (as you read above) and can be generally categorized as:

  1. Twitch: A single contraction and relaxation cycle produced within the muscle fiber itself
  2. (Wave) Summation: Occurs when multiple successive twitches are added to produce a larger and stronger muscle contraction
  3. Tetanus: Multiple contractions together to produce a continuous and strong contraction, this can be fused or unfused.
A look at the sliding-filament theory progression: Binding, Bending, Breaking, Bouncing. Copyright Benjamin Cummings 2001.
A look at the sliding-filament theory progression: Binding, Bending, Breaking, Bouncing. Copyright Benjamin Cummings 2001.

It is important to remember that at the very basic level, there are only two ways to change the amount of force generated in skeletal muscle:

  1. Recruit MORE motor units for each contraction
  2. Increase the firing rate of an already active group of motor units

Once all possible motor units are recruited and firing at their maximum rate, you have achieved a 1 Repetition Maximum (1RM). The body will always choose to recruit more motor units than destroy those currently in use if pressured. The length and extent of a contraction can also be regulated by motor unit recruitment through:

  1. Increasing the number of active motor neurons
  2. Activating the smallest/weakest motor units first, followed by larger motor units

CONCLUSION

At Perch, we are huge proponents of understanding the “why” behind everything. So while we believe velocity based training should be an integral part of every weight room setting to train muscles with precision and enhance overall athletic performance, we think understanding muscular anatomy is important to truly grasp this. Hopefully this was helpful for you as well!

OTHER RELEVANT POSTS!

Want to learn more about the basics of VBT? Check out Perch’s VBT Dictionary!

Curious about how muscles grow with VBT? Check out our article on muscle growth and Velocity Based Training!

FOLLOW US!

Keep checking back for more velocity based training content, tips, tricks, and tools. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter , Instagram and Linkedin and like us on Facebook .

SOURCES

  1. Baechle, T., Earle, R., & National Strength & Conditioning Association (U.S.). (2008). Essentials of strength training and conditioning (3rd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  2. Gardiner, P. (2011). Advanced neuromuscular exercise physiology (Advanced exercise physiology series). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  3. Gonzalez-Friere, M., Rafael, de C., Stephanie, S., & Luigi, F. (2014, August). The Architecture of a Neuromuscular Junction. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-architecture-of-a-neuromuscular-junction-NMJ-A-B-The-NMJ-is-composed-of-three_fig1_265056822.
  4. Gray, H., Williams, P., & Bannister, L. (1995). Gray’s anatomy : The anatomical basis of medicine and surgery (38th ed. / ed.). New York: Churchill Livingstone.
  5. Scanlon, V., & Sanders, T. (1999). Essentials of anatomy and physiology (3rd ed.). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.
  6. Scientist, C. (n.d.). Muscles and Reflexes Lab. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.scientistcindy.com/muscles-and-reflexes-lab.html.

VBT PROGRAMMING

Many hundred page textbooks have been written time and again on strength training and programming, yet very few manuals exist on Velocity Based Training specifically. We are trying to bridge the gap between the vast amount of knowledge out in the world with regards to lifting weights, and hope to provide some clarity on what VBT is, how to periodize with it, and how to program with it. A few weeks ago we posted a piece on Periodization and VBT. This week we are hoping to delve a little bit further into the various VBT programming schemes to help shed a little more light on this. The majority of the information below was adapted from Bryan Mann’s “Developing Explosive Athletes” [6]. Additionally, multiple other sources are cited at the bottom, each of which helped us understand the information below further.

HOW TO PROGRAM A SET WITH VBT

A few weeks ago at Perch Headquarters, we challenged ourselves to a whiteboard session during which each team member brainstormed how many different ways a single set could be programmed. We brought our unique experiences and familiarity with programming to the table and talked through our ideas. What we realized is something as simple as a single set is shockingly complicated to program. This is true of percentage based training as well. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that we needed to create guidelines (based in the research, obviously) that could serve as an at-a-glance look into the many ways velocity can be programmed. What you’ll see below is the result of that, and a few subsequent meetings and research sessions. As is commonly said in the strength & conditioning world with regards to programming, “there are a thousand ways to skin a cat.” Here are some more. Research on these methods is still in the works, but experimentation and collaboration with other coaches in the field is always a good idea.

VBT Programming, Perch

OTHER RELEVANT POSTS!

Want to learn more about the basics of VBT? Check out Perch’s VBT Dictionary!

Curious about how different populations can utilize VBT? Check out our VBT for specific populations series!

SOURCES

  1. Banyard, H.; Nosaka, K.; Haff, G. Reliability and validity of the load-velocity relationship to predict the 1rm back squat. J. Strength Cond. Res. 2016, 31, 1897–1904.
  2. Bompa, T., & Buzzichelli, C. (2015). Periodization training for sports (Third ed.). Champaign: Human Kinetics.
  3. Gonzalez-Badillo, J.; Sanchez-Medina, L. Movement velocity as a measure of loading intensity in resistance training. Int. J. Sports Med. 2010, 31, 347–352.
  4. Jidovtseff, B.; Harris, N.; Crielaard, J.; Cronin, J. Using the load-velocity relationship for 1rm prediction. J. Strength Cond. Res. 2011, 25, 267–270.
  5. Jovanovich, M.; Flanagan, E. Research application of velocity based strength training. J. Aust. Strength Cond. 2014, 22, 58–69.
  6. Mann, B., Kazadi, K., Pirrung, E., & Jensen, J. (2016). Developing explosive athletes: Use of velocity based training in athletes. Muskegon Heights, MI: Ultimate Athlete Concepts.
  7. National Strength & Conditioning Association (U.S.). (2016). Essentials of strength training and conditioning (Fourth ed.) (G. Haff & N. Triplett, Eds.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  8. Lake, J., Naworynsky, D., Duncan, F., Jackson, M., Comparison of Different Minimal Velocity Thresholds to Establish Deadlift One Repetition Maximum. (2017). Sports, 5(3), 70.

Periodization and programming with VBT can be difficult to understand when first learning about VBT. The two most common questions for those first learning about velocity based training are:

  1. How to program week to week
  2. How can overall periodization effect the training year for your team or athlete

As with most sports performance or strength and conditioning, there is no one size fits all approach . It will depend on the sport or type of athlete you are training, the needs analysis of the individual, the competitive season and game schedule, and what the tendencies of the sport coach are with regards to volume and intensity of training sessions. This is nothing new as far as periodization for strength training goes. Ultimately, velocity based training is no harder to conceptualize into an overall training plan than traditional percentage based training.

In fact, it may be easier because (as you will see) you simply assign a velocity zone or a specific velocity for a training adaptation through a phase and any alterations can take place on the fly with ease. The finer details with which you can assign velocities is often where the confusion lies. We will explain the most common ways to prescribe velocity here and you can experiment and select what works best for you and your program.

ANNUAL PLANNING

Quickly, we want to review annual planning for strength training before delving deeper. The annual plan is the zoomed out look at a team or individual’s training season. This is essentially the 30,000 foot view. And it is almost always in the best case scenario. We’re going to talk about this in terms of levels. The annual plan is the highest level and is used interchangeably with the term Macrocycle. After that comes individual mesocycles or two or more phases or cycles within the larger macrocycle. The NSCA text has categorized several mesocycles into the following [7]:

  • Preparatory phase/offseason (4-6 months)
  • First transition period/pre-season (6-12 weeks)
  • In season/early season competition (6-12 weeks)
  • In season/peak competition (6-12 weeks)
  • Second transition period/immediate post season (1-4 weeks)

You may notice there are general time assignments with each mesocycle. These are broken down further into microcycles which are shorter periods that can range from a few days to a few weeks and are the last major level of periodization. This is where specific adaptations for a particular training cycle come into play. Think hypertrophy, strength, speed-strength etc. And this is where outfitting percentages or in our case, velocity, also comes into play in a big way [7].

If you are a visual person, take a look at this basic annual plan categorized out for your convenience.

periodization, VBT

VBT ZONES ASSIGNED

There are some discrepancies in what percentages belong to what velocities. This is largely due to exercise selection and something we will address here too. Researchers González-Badillo and Sánchez-Medina concluded in a paper that there existed a near perfect relationship between relative load and mean velocity (R²=0.98). Meaning that knowing a velocity, the percentage RM can be predicted with great accuracy. Their study focused on the bench press, so while not perfect and ideal for every lift, it is a good starting point. The chart that accompanies their results is below [3].

Taken from Researchers González-Badillo and Sánchez-Medina paper Movement velocity as a measure of loading intensity in resistance training [3].
Taken from Researchers González-Badillo and Sánchez-Medina paper Movement velocity as a measure of loading intensity in resistance training [3].

Some more helpful charts/resources are below. Since velocity zones are variable given the exercise in question, and the training age of the athlete, among other factors, the following is to be taken with a grain of salt. It is not written in stone, and is subject to change within variables. The two charts do not necessarily agree either, which is why we wanted to give both. They are adapted from Bryan Mann’s book in addition to research cited below and will be a good starting point to help you with understanding percentages and VBT. The only true way to understand this is to try it yourself and with various teams to help you build your own profiles for athletes with more precision.

These two charts don’t agree on where the percentages and velocity zones coincide. That’s okay! Use them as guidelines and develop your own zones for your athletes.
These two charts don’t agree on where the percentages and velocity zones coincide. That’s okay! Use them as guidelines and develop your own zones for your athletes.

MINIMUM VELOCITY THRESHOLDS

A minimum velocity threshold (MVT) is exactly what it sounds like. It is the slowest velocity a bar can move at that a coach or athlete will safely find acceptable, or just before failure sets in. If you look at both charts above, the < 0.5 m/s is where we roughly cap a lift. Big heads up: this varies per lift and per athlete as well, it will typically be slower in athletes who are well trained, and higher in athletes who have a younger training age. The bench press presents a much slower MVT than the squat. And the squat and deadlift present similar MVT [8].

MORE PERSPECTIVE

If we go back to the 30,000 foot view or annual planning or macrocycle, we can get a better idea of where and when to assign these velocity zones. Again, this is all about training for specific adaptations at specific times of the year. That decision is still for coaches to make as the practitioner. Below is the traditional phases for strength training alongside its percentage, and alongside the suggested velocity. As a major disclaimer, this is by no means finite nor comprehensive. We want to provide guidelines and suggestions to help you get started with velocity based training. We believe in velocity based training as an incredible tool that can enhance performance and minimize injury if leveraged properly. So we want to help provide the means to do that. All of our suggestions are based on the research, so please read further into our sources if you want to know more! The two major sources for the below were Bryan Mann’s Developing Explosive Athletes and Tudor Bompa’s Periodization Training for Sport [2,6].

PROGRAMMING VBT AND ANNUAL PLAN CONSIDERATIONS

While periodization of training is an important factor, much like traditional percentage based training, velocity based training involves a lot of research and experimentation for you to figure out how you want to program. Everything stated above is based in the research, and is definitely a good place to start, but we encourage you to do more digging. We love sifting through data and research and providing educational content to you, but the best part of all of this is you can experiment with it too! Let us know what you find out.

OTHER RELEVANT POSTS!

Want to learn more about the basics of VBT? Check out Perch’s VBT Dictionary!

Curious about how to program VBT? Check out our post on Common VBT Programming Methods!

FOLLOW US!

Keep checking back for more velocity based training content, tips, tricks, and tools. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter , Instagram and Linkedin and like us on Facebook .

SOURCES

  1. Banyard, H.; Nosaka, K.; Haff, G. Reliability and validity of the load-velocity relationship to predict the 1rm back squat. J. Strength Cond. Res. 2016, 31, 1897–1904.
  2. Bompa, T., & Buzzichelli, C. (2015). Periodization training for sports (Third ed.). Champaign: Human Kinetics.
  3. Gonzalez-Badillo, J.; Sanchez-Medina, L. Movement velocity as a measure of loading intensity in resistance training. Int. J. Sports Med. 2010, 31, 347–352.
  4. Jidovtseff, B.; Harris, N.; Crielaard, J.; Cronin, J. Using the load-velocity relationship for 1rm prediction. J. Strength Cond. Res. 2011, 25, 267–270.
  5. Jovanovich, M.; Flanagan, E. Research application of velocity based strength training. J. Aust. Strength Cond. 2014, 22, 58–69.
  6. Mann, B., Kazadi, K., Pirrung, E., & Jensen, J. (2016). Developing explosive athletes: Use of velocity based training in athletes. Muskegon Heights, MI: Ultimate Athlete Concepts.
  7. National Strength & Conditioning Association (U.S.). (2016). Essentials of strength training and conditioning (Fourth ed.) (G. Haff & N. Triplett, Eds.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  8. Lake, J., Naworynsky, D., Duncan, F., Jackson, M., Comparison of Different Minimal Velocity Thresholds to Establish Deadlift One Repetition Maximum. (2017). Sports, 5(3), 70.

INTRODUCTION

The nervous system governs everything we do as humans both in and out of the weight room. In previous posts, we have briefly touched on the concept of autoregulation. In this post, we’ll delve a little deeper into autoregulation in addition to explaining what the nervous system is and how it dictates our daily readiness for both life and competitive sport. The nervous system can be difficult to understand on the cellular level, so we will explain it more generally here as an introduction. It is important to note that more is being discovered about neuromuscular physiology each year, and this is by no means fully comprehensive.

THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

The nervous is comprised of two main components:

  • The peripheral (or PNS) and
  • Central (or CNS) nervous system.
  • The central nervous system primarily controls the brain and spinal cord, it is essentially mission control. The peripheral nervous system on the other hand consists of the nerves and ganglia outside of the brain and spinal cord. Otherwise said, the PNS serves as the liaison between the CNS and the rest of the body.
Adapted from Lumen Learning [7]. The illustration shows the Central (A) and Peripheral (B) nervous systems.
Adapted from Lumen Learning [7]. The illustration shows the Central (A) and Peripheral (B) nervous systems.

The peripheral nervous system is then divided up further into:

  • Sensory neurons (or afferent pathways) and
  • Motor neurons (or efferent pathways)

Motor neurons may ring a bell, as they consist of the:

  • Autonomic nervous system which controls involuntary movement
  • Somatic nervous system which controls voluntary movement

The final branching takes place in the autonomic nervous system (involuntary responses) which has two subdivisions in:

  • Sympathetic responses
  • Parasympathetic responses
  • You may have heard of “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” responses, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are responsible for those. Sympathetic is action, parasympathetic is energy conservation.

The graphic below will hopefully help explain this in further detail [7,8].

The breakdown of the central and peripheral nervous systems.
The breakdown of the central and peripheral nervous systems.

THE NERVOUS SYSTEM AND FATIGUE

Muscular fatigue is understood by a human at the neuromuscular junction. This is the “chemical synapse formed by the contact between a motor neuron and muscle fiber” [11]. This entire entity is called a motor unit When the muscle fiber is no longer capable of contracting or more likely fatigued enough for you to notice (we will get more detailed with this in a later post), the motor neuron is alerted and relays that information back up the chain all the way to the central nervous system. This, in theory, will tell the brain that you are fatigued and hopefully encourage you to rest and recover. Often in sports we are told to “push through” this barrier. On the field of play in the middle of a championship, that may be exactly what you have to do. In the weight room, trying to train for adaptations and not for injury, it is helpful to be able to see and quantify that fatigue and perhaps adjust training to your capabilities for that session.

A motor unit, adapted from Physiopolis [11].
A motor unit, adapted from Physiopolis [11].

AUTOREGULATION

This, in essence, is the concept of autoregulation. Autoregulation is “a form of periodization that adjusts to the individual athlete’s adaptations on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis” [1-3, 8-9]. We know an athlete’s RM can fluctuate by 18 percent on any given day, and below a hypothetical illustration of those fluctuations can be seen [12].

Coaches can monitor athlete readiness by subjective means (daily surveys, RPE measures etc) and objective means (readiness assessments in the form of grip strength tests, vertical jump etc). They can tell an athlete to go up or down in weight depending on these measures, or cut volume by a set or reps accordingly. Velocity Based Training can make this adjustment on the fly a lot more exact with true quantifiable measures in live time, zones and set thresholds for specific adaptations, and data storage to track trends per team or individual and adjust overall training load as need be.

STRESS AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

Good or bad, the nervous system reads stress as the same. With too much, the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is constantly the dominant pathway and that can make it hard to “rest and digest” which is the job of the parasympathetic nervous system. We know rest is critical for recovery [13,14]. We know training is a stimulus that an athlete must recover from in order to yield and benefit from positive adaptations [13,14]. Thus as coaches, we must provide the appropriate stimulus at the appropriate time to elicit the adaptations we want for our athletes. We need to, alongside the athlete, manage stress and provide the right amount with precision in order to aid the athlete’s development process instead of impede it.

Athletes have stress in many forms cast upon them on any given day. They may have quizzes and exams they have to study for and subsequently take. They may have arguments with significant others or friends or family. They may have traveled for school break or games, games can go into overtime and add more. They may have gotten poor sleep or eaten less than stellar foods. All of these extraneous factors can impact performance. And while it is important to learn how to control and manage stress as an athlete, it is equally important to learn how to provide the appropriate stimulus as a coach in order to enhance the capability of an athlete, and not detract from their performance by adding too much stress.

Velocity based training is another tool in a coach’s toolbox that can help them provide the appropriate stimulus to an athlete and train for specific adaptations by taking a lot of the guesswork out. By including objective measures in the assessment of an athlete’s fatigue, we can make more appropriate decisions guiding their training and recovery.

READINESS ASSESSMENTS

A readiness assessment is a quick and easy test that a coach can have their athletes do every day, or prior to a training session in order to immediately assess their fatigue or readiness. Some coaches use grip strength tests, some use vertical jump, others use a jump squat or a barbell jump squat with a velocity based training device. Whatever the method is, provided the practitioner is consistent and can trust the athlete to perform it with maximal intent, this is an excellent way to paint a picture of your athlete, their ability, and what it means for that individual to be and feel ready to train. This can also be a great educational tool for a coach to help their athlete understand their body and their readiness a little bit better.

DAILY MONITORING At Perch, we are big believers in daily monitoring using a velocity based training device. Readiness assessments don’t have to be a rigid overly structured part of a workout. A barbell squat jump prior to warm up sets is a quick and easy way to do this. Even monitoring speed of warm up sets can give you an idea of an athlete’s level of fatigue and the workout can be adjusted accordingly. Even if you are not leveraging your VBT tech in the day’s training session, using the tech to monitor and measure readiness is always applicable. Over a longer period of time, this can especially help you regulate an athlete’s load or take action if you see something indicative of chronic fatigue or overtraining.

Our goal at Perch is to make capturing this information on a daily basis as easy and seamless as possible, so monitoring can be performed and performance insights can be captured regardless of phase or time of year.

OTHER RELEVANT POSTS!

Want to learn more about the basics of VBT? Check out Perch’s VBT Dictionary!

Curious about how different populations can utilize VBT? Check out our VBT for specific populations series!

FOLLOW US!

Keep checking back for more velocity based training content, tips, tricks, and tools. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter , Instagram and Linkedin and like us on Facebook .

SOURCES

  1. Martinez, D. B., & Kennedy, C. (2016). Velocity-Based Training and Autoregulation Applied To “Squatting Every Day”: a Case Study. Journal of Australian Strength & Conditioning.
  2. Mann, J. B., Thyfault, J. P., Ivey, P. A., & Sayers, S. P. (2010). The effect of autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise vs. linear periodization on strength improvement in college athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
  3. Folland, J. P., Irish, C. S., Roberts, J. C., Tarr, J. E., & Jones, D. A. (2002). Fatigue is not a necessary stimulus for strength gains during resistance training. British Journal of Sports Medicine.
  4. Pareja-Blanco, F., Rodríguez-Rosell, D., Sánchez-Medina, L., Sanchis-Moysi, J., Dorado, C., Mora-Custodio, R., … González-Badillo, J. J. (2017). Effects of velocity loss during resistance training on athletic performance, strength gains and muscle adaptations. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.
  5. Chiu, L. Z. F., Fry, A. C., Schilling, B. K., Johnson, E. J., & Wiess, L. W. (2004). Neuromuscular fatigue and potentiation following two successive high intensity resistance exercise sessions. European Journal of Applied Physiology.
  6. Jones, D. A., Rutherford, O. M., & Parker, D. F. (1989). PHYSIOLOGICAL CHANGES IN SKELETAL MUSCLE AS A RESULT OF STRENGTH TRAINING. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Physiology.
  7. Learning, L. Biology for Majors II: The Central and Peripheral Nervous System. Retrieved from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wm-biology2/chapter/the-central-and-peripheral-nervous-systems/
  8. Taylor, J. L., Amann, M., Duchateau, J., Meeusen, R., & Rice, C. L. (2016). Neural contributions to muscle fatigue: From the brain to the muscle and back again. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
  9. Fisher, J. P., Young, C. N., & Fadel, P. J. (2015). Autonomic adjustments to exercise in humans. Comprehensive Physiology.
  10. Nishikawa, K., Biewener, A. A., Aerts, P., Ahn, A. N., Chiel, H. J., Daley, M. A., … Szymik, B. (2007). Neuromechanics: An integrative approach for understanding motor control. Integrative and Comparative Biology.
  11. What is a Motor unit? (2014, March 16). Retrieved from https://physiopolis.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/what-is-a-motor-unit/
  12. Jovanonic, M., & Flanagan, E. P. (2014). Researched applications of velocity based strength training. J Aust Strength Cond.
  13. Reilly, T., & Ekblom, B. (2005). The use of recovery methods post-exercise. Journal of Sports Sciences.
  14. Gill, N. D., Beaven, C. M., & Cook, C. (2006). Effectiveness of post-match recovery strategies in rugby players. British Journal of Sports Medicine.

INTRODUCTION TO FORCE VELOCITY PROFILING

Simply put, a force velocity profile allows you to see what your athletes’ existing force and velocity production capabilities look like. Once graphed, this information roughly translates to how quickly your athlete produces force at various percentages of their RM. Because velocity is a factor here and the RM value will fluctuate given an athlete’s velocities at various loads, you do not need to test for an RM to build a force/velocity profile. This is similar to RM predicting algorithms in VBT software. What you do need is a weight room and a velocity based training device.

The force velocity curve we briefly discussed in our second blog post can give a picture of what an ideal profile would look like for an athlete. Typically, when you profile your athletes you will see more of a linear regression rather than the non-linear decay you see here. However, the linear regression will not be a perfect correlation. Strong by Science provides a great tool for building r2 values (how much of the x axis – or velocity – is explained by the y axis – or force) that will help you interpret the relationship between force and velocity for your athletes.

Ultimately building a force/velocity profile will give the coach critical information about an athletes’ abilities and deficiencies in order to individualize their training more effectively. This individualization is easiest to apply in larger settings by using velocity based training and working within zones for desired adaptations. The force/velocity profile is essentially a roadmap of your athletes’ existing abilities including strengths and areas for improvement. You can then determine which area to focus on given sport and position needs, and program velocity zones according to the desired traits. Research has shown that basing resistance training off force/velocity profiles for specific adaptations is an effective method, in this case increasing vertical jump performance [1].

While many research articles have been written about force/velocity profiling, the following four resources can be really helpful . Morin & Samozino [6, 7] and Samozino et al. [10, 11] These tools are primarily useful for force/velocity profiling in sprinting and jumping. For force/velocity profiling using a barbell and velocities, Strong by Science has a great excel calculator.

Taken from Samozino et al., Effectiveness of an Individualized Training Based on Force-Velocity Profiling and depicting loading targets and training loads for specific/desired traits given the force/velocity profile of an athlete.
Taken from Samozino et al., Effectiveness of an Individualized Training Based on Force-Velocity Profiling and depicting loading targets and training loads for specific/desired traits given the force/velocity profile of an athlete.

WHAT BUCKET NEEDS FILLING?

Areas of improvement or “empty buckets” can be made more abundantly clear with the use of force/velocity profiling. Typically this is broken up into three different categories depending on your athlete: Velocity-Deficient, Force-Deficient, or Well-Balanced [1]. These theoretical profiles are depicted and labeled below. Once you have this given roadmap, you can determine how to train your athlete and help them create their optimal force/velocity profile for their sports performance needs. This will vary by athlete and by sport or position as well. The best way to determine this is to perform a needs-analysis and intimately understand what adaptations you ideally want to develop in your athlete.

A theoretical and idyllic example of a “well-balanced” force/velocity profile. This ideal will vary depending on the needs of the sport or position, and on the athlete in question.
A theoretical and idyllic example of a “well-balanced” force/velocity profile. This ideal will vary depending on the needs of the sport or position, and on the athlete in question.
On the left, a theoretical example of a Velocity-Deficient profile, to shift this profile closer to well-balanced, the athlete would need to focus on speed of movement and rate of force development than pure strength.On the right, a theoretical example of a Force-Deficient profile, to shift this profile closer to well-balanced, the athlete would need to focus on generating more force with higher loads and less focus on speed of movement.
On the left, a theoretical example of a Velocity-Deficient profile, to shift this profile closer to well-balanced, the athlete would need to focus on speed of movement and rate of force development than pure strength.

On the right, a theoretical example of a Force-Deficient profile, to shift this profile closer to well-balanced, the athlete would need to focus on generating more force with higher loads and less focus on speed of movement.

It should also be said that power output is not a sufficient measure for this profile. Power = Force x Velocity, meaning that two very differently profiled athletes could have similar power outputs and be on totally opposite spectrums of needs. Be careful when using power output as an indicator of how prepared your athlete is to perform his/her sport. The force/velocity profiling will provide a much more exact picture. Think of it as a rough sketch versus a 3D rendering, you’ll be able to provide more value and detail with a 3D rendering and a force/velocity profile.

HOW STRONG IS TOO STRONG?

Strength and power are the two biggest desired traits for which coaches program. But how strong is too strong? This is obviously variable from sport to sport, position to position, and athlete to athlete. There are some vague apply-all recommendations (have you ever heard phrases like “once your guys can lift 2x body weight in the front squat, or 2.5x deadlift, they’re strong enough”?). These recommendations are typically based in research, but can be so imprecise given the individual athlete that they could potentially be dangerous if taken at face value. Always do your own research and draw your own conclusions, you know your athlete best. In any case, worrying about rate of force production, which will transfer more directly to sports performance, and which will be depicted using a force/velocity profile, will be more beneficial for both you and your athlete [1-10].

HYPOTHETICAL CASE STUDY

Imagine you have an athlete who is a 100m sprinter. His Freshman year he added 60lbs to his squat and saw tremendous improvements on the track with abundant Personal Records. Thinking this was the ticket, he worked all Sophomore year to load up his squat more and more adding an additional 60lbs, but instead of improving on the track, he got slower. This athlete clearly reached a point of diminishing returns and is now a velocity-deficient profiled individual (see the red “velocity-deficient” profile above). That same athlete had he undergone a force/velocity profile screening upon entering his Freshman season would have been flagged as force-deficient (see the green “force-deficient” profile above). As he added more weight to his squat, his profile would have reached a well-balanced equilibrium and his coach could have trained him to optimize that profile and continue to improve force and velocity tangentially (see black “well-balanced” profile above). Without that roadmap the athlete will swing like a pendulum between force-deficient and velocity-deficient and not reach his full potential on the track. Force/velocity profiling is a tool in the toolbox that can help you optimize your athletes’ success in their given arenas.

On the left: The athlete entered as a force-deficient profile.In the Middle: After training and adding a lot of strength, the athlete swung his pendulum too far to become velocity-deficient.On the right: This is the ideal well-balanced profile the athlete and coach may want to train towards to enhance performance on the track.
On the left: The athlete entered as a force-deficient profile.

In the Middle: After training and adding a lot of strength, the athlete swung his pendulum too far to become velocity-deficient.

On the right: This is the ideal well-balanced profile the athlete and coach may want to train towards to enhance performance on the track.

GENERATE YOUR OWN PROFILES

Using the following protocol, you can generate your own load-velocity profiles for your athletes to establish a baseline and continue tracking over time.

CONCLUSION

Force/velocity profiling may seem like a bear to tackle, but in truth it is fairly simple to understand and perform. The assessments only takes a few minutes and gives you a broad understanding of your athletes’ capabilities and areas of improvement. Using a VBT device to understand percentage of RM given the velocity output will help you build a comprehensive profile and a roadmap of where your athlete is and where you can take them.

Keep checking back for more velocity based training content, tips, tricks, and tools. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter , Instagram and Linkedin and like us on Facebook .

Bringing technology into the weight room can allow us to train athletes with more precision, provided it is hassle free and enhances, instead of detracts from, your coaching.
Bringing technology into the weight room can allow us to train athletes with more precision, provided it is hassle free and enhances, instead of detracts from, your coaching.

OTHER RELEVANT POSTS!

Curious about the Coach’s perspective on VBT? Check out our Coach’s Corner series!

Check out our Return To Play from Covid-19 series!

SOURCES

  1. Jiménez-Reyes, P., Samozino, P., Brughelli, M., & Morin, J. B. (2017). Effectiveness of an individualized training based on force-velocity profiling during jumping. Frontiers in Physiology.
  2. Morin, J. B., & Samozino, P. (2016). Interpreting power-force-velocity profiles for individualized and specific training. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance.
  3. Suchomel, T. J., Comfort, P., & Lake, J. P. (2017). Enhancing the force-velocity profile of athletes using weightlifting derivatives. Strength and Conditioning Journal.
  4. Cronin, J. B., McNair, P. J., & Marshall, R. N. (2002). Is velocity-specific strength training important in improving functional performance? Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.
  5. Cronin, J. B., McNair, P. J., & Marshall, R. N. (2003). Force-velocity analysis of strength-training techniques and load: Implications for training strategy and research. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
  6. Morin, J.-B., & Samozino, P. (2015). Interpreting Power-Force-Velocity Profiles for Individualized and Specific Training Vertical Profiling for Ballistic Push-Off Performance Interpreting Power-Force-Velocity Profiles for Individualized and Specific Training. Article in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 11, 267–272.
  7. Morin, J. B., & Samozino, P. (2016). Interpreting power-force-velocity profiles for individualized and specific training. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance.
  8. Jiménez-Reyes, P., Samozino, P., Cuadrado-Peñafiel, V., Brughelli, M., & Morin, J.-B. (2016). Effectiveness of an optimized training using Force-Velocity profile analysis. European College of Sport Sciences, (July), 1–2.
  9. Kawamori, N., & Haff, G. G. (2004). The optimal training load for the development of muscular power. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
  10. Samozino, P., Rejc, E., Di Prampero, P. E., Belli, A., & Morin, J. B. (2012). Optimal force-velocity profile in ballistic movements-Altius: Citius or Fortius? Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
  11. Samozino, P., Morin, J. B., Hintzy, F., & Belli, A. (2008). A simple method for measuring force, velocity and power output during squat jump. Journal of Biomechanics.
  12. Giroux, C., Rabita, G., Chollet, D., & Guilhem, G. (2016). Optimal balance between force and velocity differs among world-class athletes. Journal of Applied Biomechanics.
  13. Behm, D. G. (1995). Neuromuscular implications and applications of resistance training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

VELOCITY BASED TRAINING + TECHNOLOGY

It goes without saying that to implement Velocity Based Training in a weight room and do so accurately, technology is necessary. While velocity based training (VBT) is still a relatively young method of training, more options for VBT tech and new devices are coming onto the market each year. As we mentioned in the second post, we believe VBT should be a ubiquitous form of training. We would not have built a company around it if we did not truly believe in it as a training modality.

We also recognize that we would not be doing our due diligence as a company if we did not educate you further on all of the different VBT technology options currently available. When it comes time for you to make a purchasing decision, we want to help you make your decision with confidence that the product you have is going to serve you well in a variety of environments for years to come. The technical aspects of this post are relatively brief to ensure comprehension. At Perch, we geek out over this stuff. If you have any questions or would like to dig deeper, please reach out!

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF VBT?

3D CAMERAS

3D cameras are a relatively new addition to VBT tech. 3D cameras produce images with pixels, just like any camera. However, instead of each pixel having an associated color, each pixel has an associated “depth.” The “depth” is simply how far away that object is from the camera.

A view of what 3D Cameras see when tracking movement in the weight room.
A view of what 3D Cameras see when tracking movement in the weight room.

The image is represented by a number of pixels. Each pixel has a corresponding “depth.” In this image above, the barbell is ~ 5.3 feet away from the camera, the lifters chest is ~3.5’ away from the camera, and the back of the platform is ~11.3’ away from the camera. If we know the angle of the camera and an object’s distance from the camera, then the object’s position in three dimensional space can be determined. We can take those 3D coordinates and calculate displacement over time. When displacement is known, barbell path, velocity, acceleration, and power output can be calculated.

LINEAR POSITION TRANSDUCERS

Linear position transducers are the original velocity based training devices. They have been around for decades due to their simplicity, intuitive user experience, and the minimal processing power needed to sample the data. A string is attached to the object of interest, usually a barbell. The string is wrapped around a pulley which is connected to an encoder. When the string is pulled, the pulley spins, and the encoder measures the rotational displacement over time. From this information, linear velocity can be determined. A tension force of a couple of pounds is often applied to the string to ensure that during the eccentric (downward) portion of the movement, the string remains taught.

ACCELEROMETERS

Accelerometers can be found in many consumer electronic devices. These are one of the many electronic components your FitBit uses to count your steps and it is how your phone determines its orientation. These same chips can be put on a barbell or on an athlete to measure velocity.

An accelerometer is basically a series of tiny springs put on a chip. When the accelerometer accelerates, these springs feel a force proportional to the acceleration. This force is measured and the acceleration can be calculated.

CONCLUSION

We hope this helps clarify any lingering questions you may have had about how certain VBT tech works and provide some guidance for what form of technology may be right for you in the long term. Like we said, we geek out about this kind of stuff, so please feel free to leave any comments on the bottom and be sure to follow our RSS feed and follow us on social media channels linked below.

OTHER RELEVANT POSTS!

Want to read more about tech in weight rooms? Check out our post on 3D cameras in the Saints weight room!

Want to learn more about the basics of VBT? Check out Perch’s VBT Dictionary!

A QUICK HISTORY LESSON

Velocity based training is not a new concept for sports technology. VBT in its recognizable form today has been around since the 1990s. The concept of using velocity in a weight room came about in the mid to late 1980s through Russian sports scientists, Yuri Verkhoshanskii and RA Roman [1-2]. It was then popularized by Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell, and later by Dr. Bryan Mann through his research and publication of his book, Developing Explosive Athletes [10-11]

Westside Barbell began incorporating VBT in a weight room setting in the 1990s. Louie Simmons published an article in Powerlifting in 2002 about the successful experiment using Tendo Units and VBT started catching on. By using methodologies to improve explosive strength thought up from researchers Vladimir Zatsiorsky, Mel Siff, and Yuri Verkhoshanskii [15-16] regarding bar speed and dubbed the “Dynamic Method,” powerlifters started using velocities to quantify the training program.

The 6th Edition of SuperTraining Copyright 1999
The 6th Edition of SuperTraining Copyright 1999

In the mid 2000s, Bryan Mann was a first year doctoral student with a project and a deadline. He ran a statistical correlation between Olympic lifts and vertical jumps thinking it was a no-brainer. The common assumption was that coaches prescribe and athletes perform Olympic lifts in order to improve explosive power. Vertical jumps were the performance test commonly used to inform vertical explosive power. What was shocking was that Mann found no statistically significant relationship between the Olympic lifts and vertical jump. Meaning as weight in Olympic lifts increased, there was a point of diminishing returns for improvement in the performance indicator–vertical jump. Enter: Velocity.

PRACTICAL IMPLEMENTATION TODAY

Velocity Based Training has been gaining much more traction since Simmons’ publications in the early 2000s. More practitioners are experimenting with the sports technology in a variety of environments, more case studies are made available, and more companies are building better products to solve practical issues in the weight room setting and truly quantify weight room work load and neuromuscular strain.

The really neat thing about using velocity is that it is not a totally new concept. Thanks to research from González-Badillo & Sanchez-Medina we know that velocity zones very closely follow percentage of RM [9,13,22] . Periodization, therefore, can follow a similar structure to what is commonly taught (ie Percentage Based Training), but instead of a percentage of an RM, we can use corresponding velocities to adhere to what the athlete is capable of on that day, and train for that specific adaptation with precision.

The chart below will hopefully provide some clarity for this. You may notice both Speed-Strength and Strength-Speed are classified as 40%-60% of RM, this is due to the percentage zone being “unquantifiable” and hard to nail down as a percentage, which makes the case for using velocity even stronger.

In the strength & conditioning, and sports performance world alike, there are numerous names for every exercise, every phase, and every adaptation. With your periodization, whether you call your phases accumulation/volume/hypertrophy, or intensification/strength, or realization/power there is a velocity zone that will correspond with each phase. Depending on how you like to program, it may be up to you to determine which zone is right for the adaptation you want to focus on with your athletes. Hopefully these guidelines help.

Equally common in strength & conditioning and sports performance is the use of pyramids to help illustrate priorities from a foundational point of view and up. Velocity Based Training can be visualized using this as well, as seen below. The top of the pyramid is not any less important than the bottom, but it has to be built towards with a strong foundation initially. If the chart above does not appeal to you, perhaps this pyramid will help clarify.

Velocity Based Training does not have to be a confusing concept, nor does bringing sports technology into the weight room need to feel daunting. On the contrary, it can be incredibly easy to understand and much more accessible than most realize. Using a VBT device in the weight room setting can help coaches adjust on the fly by serving as immediate and objective feedback, helping your athletes understand when to push it or when to regress contingent on the speed, weight, and desired traits. As a general rule of thumb: if the athlete is below the speed zone, the weight is too heavy and they need to take some weight off the bar. If the athlete is above the speed zone, the weight is too light and then need more load on the bar. Much more research is needed regarding fluctuations in loading based off of velocity, and even with research, each athlete is unique. Despite this, anecdotally many strength coaches implementing VBT will use 1 lb for every 0.01 m/s as a starting point to add or subtract load. Try it out and see if it works for you and your athletes, then let us know what you think or what method you prefer.

“Velocity Based Training does not have to be a confusing concept. On the contrary, it can be incredibly easy to understand and much more accessible than most realize.”

Our hope is that through this blog and through our sports technology we can help address some of the questions and hesitations around VBT, and encourage more coaches to use and experiment with VBT to enhance the potential of and reduce the fatigue in their athletes. In this way, with more feedback, precision, and data points, we can improve our programming, decrease injury rates, and maximize what our athletes are capable of in the weight room and on their field of play over the duration of their career.

THE FUTURE OF SPORTS TECHNOLOGY AND VBT

The field of sports analytics and sports technology is due to be worth over 4.5 Billion dollars by 2021. Companies are growing, data is made available and analyzed. Positions of “sports data analyst” “athletic metrics analyst” and “sports scientist” are rapidly being created across the country and the world. Sports technology, in other words, is a burgeoning field in its infancy with massive potential and a long road ahead of it.

However, we believe it will only be able to make a lasting impact if technology and technology companies can improve in several key areas:

1) HASSLE FREE TECHNOLOGY

In most cases, measurement equipment in the weight room is an add-on. It is something that you pull out every now and again during specific training periods or testing days. Our research has shown that a big reason for this, is a lack of practicality. If weight room technology and velocity based training is going to ingrain itself into daily training, it must become hassle free.

2) IMPROVED RESEARCH AND EDUCATION

Data should not be collected for data’s sake. Practitioners and companies need to collect the right data, they need to know what to do with this data once it is collected, and resources need to be created to educate athletes and coaches on how to leverage this data to enhance performance. Though much more research is needed, we have seen there are some promising studies on quantifying speed of movement for both younger and older populations in order to train for adaptations specific to those populations [17-21]. We are seeing amazing growth in the research of of velocity based training and the sharing of practical knowledge.

3) AUTOMATED INSIGHTS

As covered in section two, practitioners must know what to do with the data they collect, but at a certain point, it no longer becomes practical to collect every single piece of data. A team of sports scientists do not have the bandwidth to analyze the thousands of data points collected, let alone individual strength coaches with already demanding schedules. The data collection technology must advance from simple measurement tools, to tools that can aggregate and analyze data and raise red flags. Coaches should not have to decide if they should monitor their athletes, simply because they do not have the bandwidth to analyze what is collected.

Perch’s mission is to help in all 3 of these areas, helping usher velocity based training and sports technology into the future.

CONCLUSION

Although technology will begin to play a larger role in the weight weight room, coaches will continue to be the most important piece of the puzzle; people like you with their boots on the ground and deep in the trenches are constantly seeking the next best way to help your athletes succeed. Your unwillingness to rest until you have developed the perfect program, until you have maximized your athletes’ potential with care and precision is what will create the next generation of athlete, and it’s what inspires us to keep working harder. We want to make your job a little bit easier. By sifting through decades of research, making it easily accessible to you, and working to solve your weight room problems by continuing to develop our technology, we look to stand beside you on your quest.

Using velocity we can learn more about athletes strengths and weaknesses, their neuromuscular fatigue in real time, and provide them with the tools to succeed in their chosen sport. If intensity can be considered a specificity for training, it may well be the most important one to focus on [23]. Now that quantifying intensity can be done with increasing ease, training athletes, younger and older populations could look similar from a technology perspective for years to come [17-21]. More research is needed, but as stated above, the field is young and growing fast; we are excited to see where it goes.

LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK

Like what you read? Have any questions or comments? Leave them below and don’t forget to follow us here and on social media and add us to your RSS feed for more weekly content!

OTHER RELEVANT POSTS!

Want to find out what kind of sports technology is right for you? Check out our post on finding the right VBT system for you!

Want to learn more about the basics of VBT? Check out Perch’s VBT Dictionary!

Curious about how different populations can utilize VBT? Check out our VBT for specific populations series!

SOURCES

  1. Verkhoshanskiĭ, I. V., & Charniga, A. (1986). Fundamentals of special strength-training in sport. Livonia, MI: Sportivny Press.
  2. Roman, R. A., & Charniga, A. (1988). Trenirovka tyazheloatleta = The training of the weightlifter. Livonia, MI: Sportivny Press.
  3. Jidovtseff, B., Harris, N., Crielaard, J., & Cronin, J. (2011). Using the load-velocity relationship for 1rm prediction. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(1), 267-70.
  4. Jovanovic M, and Flanagan EP. (2014). Researched applications of velocity based strength training. J. Aust. Strength Cond. 22(2)58-69.
  5. Banyard, HG, Nosaka, K, and Haff, GG. Reliability and validity of the load–velocity relationship to predict the 1RM back squat. J Strength Cond Res 31(7): 1897–1904, 2017.
  6. Cronin, J.B., McNair, P.J. and Marshall, R.N. Force-velocity analysis of strength-training techniques and load: implications for training strategy and research. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 17: 148-155. 2003.
  7. Randell, AD, Cronin, JB, Keogh, JWL,Gill, ND, and Pedersen, MC. Effect of instantaneous performance feedback during 6 weeks of velocity-based resistance training on sport-specific performance tests. J Strength Cond Res 25(1): 87–93, 2011.
  8. Padulo, J, Mignogna, P, Mignardi, S, Tonni, F and D’Ottavio, S. Effect of different pushing speeds on bench press. Int J Sports Med 33: 376-80, 2012.
  9. Sanchez-Medina, L., and J. J. Gonzalez-Badillo. Velocity Loss as an Indicator of Neuromuscular Fatigue during Resistance Training. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. Vol. 43, No. 9, pp. 1725-1734. 2011.
  10. Mann, B., Kazadi, K., Pirrung, E., & Jensen, J. (2016). Developing explosive athletes: Use of velocity based training in athletes. Muskegon Heights, MI: Ultimate Athlete Concepts.
  11. Mann, J., Thyfault, J., Ivey, P., & Sayers, S. (2010). The effect of autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise vs. linear periodization on strength improvement in college athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(7), 1718-1723
  12. Zourdos, M. C., Dolan, C., Quiles, J. M., Klemp, A., Jo, E., Loenneke, J. P., … Whitehurst, M. (2015). Efficacy of Daily 1RM Training in Well-Trained Powerlifters and Weightlifters: A Case Series. Nutricion Hospitalaria: Organo Oficial de La Sociedad Espanola de Nutricion Parenteral y Enteral.
  13. González-Badillo, J. J., & Sánchez-Medina, L. (2010). Movement velocity as a measure of loading intensity in resistance training. International Journal of Sports Medicine.
  14. Wulf, G., Shea, C., & Lewthwaite, R. (2010). Motor skill learning: Motor skill learning and performance: A review of influential factors. Medical Education, 44(1), 75-84.
  15. V.M. (1995) Science and Practice of Strength Training Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  16. Siff, M. C., & Verkhoshansky, Y. V. (1999). Supertraining: Special strength training for sporting excellence : a textbook on the biomechanics and physiology of strength conditioning for all sport. Denver: Supertraining International.
  17. Henwood, T. R., & Taaffe, D. R. (2006). Short-term resistance training and the older adult: The effect of varied programmes for the enhancement of muscle strength and functional performance. Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging, 26(5), 305–313
  18. Fielding, R. A., LeBrasseur, N. K., Cuoco, A., Bean, J., Mizer, K., & Fiatarone Singh, M. A. (2002). High-velocity resistance training increases skeletal muscle peak power in older women. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 50(4), 655–662.
  19. Porter, M. M. (2006, April). Power training for older adults. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
  20. Sayers, S. P., Gibson, K., & Bryan Mann, J. (2016). Improvement in functional performance with high-speed power training in older adults is optimized in those with the highest training velocity. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(11–12), 2327–2336.
  21. Davies, T. B., Kuang, K., Orr, R., Halaki, M., & Hackett, D. (2017, August 1). Effect of Movement Velocity During Resistance Training on Dynamic Muscular Strength: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine. Springer International Publishing.
  22. Jidovtseff, B., Harris, N. K., Crielaard, J. M., & Cronin, J. B. (2011). Using the load-velocity relationship for 1RM prediction. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(1), 267–270.
  23. Young, W. B. (2006). Transfer of strength and power training to sports performance. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance.

This post is going to be a crash course in Velocity Based Training (VBT), we are introducing a lot of concepts, skirting the surface of them, and laying the ground work for what is to come. While this post may seem like it bounces around, we promise all will make sense soon. Stay with us as we explore all avenues that lead to and from VBT!


AN INTRODUCTION

In this current day and age, the addition of an exactitude or a metric of some capacity can make life a lot easier. Because we live in a technology-forward and data-driven world, having the capability and opportunity to offer objective and immediate feedback for previously difficult-to-quantify metrics isn’t surprising. This is especially true in athletics, with the burgeoning field of sports technology and athlete management systems. Additionally, the generation of athletes in college now and younger readily expect technology to coat all aspects of their lives.

VBT

Velocity Based Training (VBT) is almost exactly what it sounds like: a modality of strength training that relies upon speed of movement of a load lifted, versus simply the weight of that load based on a percentage. The speed output is typically tracked by a piece of technology (such as a Perch unit) that can provide instantaneous feedback to the lifter and further govern whether or not the load is appropriate for the goal of the training session. Velocity Based Training allows coaches and athletes to determine the speed of movement in real time and adjust the weight or exercise accordingly.

More and more research is published every day regarding the importance of velocity measures and its correlation with athletes readiness, strength, fatigue and recovery. Implementing velocity based training allows coaches to adjust immediately and with ease. Popularized by Dr. Bryan Mann, VBT has been around since RA Roman and Yuri Verkhoshanskii started experimenting with it in the mid 1980s, and Louie Simmons started incorporating it in the 1990s [1-2, 13]. We’ll get to that history lesson another day.

FIRST, WHY IS VBT VALUABLE?

Traditionally, coaches have used Percentage Based Training (PBT) to dictate the load for their athletes and used preset sets and reps to determine workload of a training session. How this typically works is coaches will test their athletes’ one rep max (1RM) at the beginning of their training season, and base the percentages for the training cycle off of that. Depending on the training phase, time of year, session goals etc, these percentages can range from ≤ 67% max (think muscular endurance) up through 95 to 100% max (think max strength) [4-5, 9, 11]. The problem with this is that the research indicates an individual’s RM can fluctuate by about 18% on any given day [3-4, 11].

Let’s say you prescribed a load of 80% of an athlete’s 1 RM, but the athlete is fatigued due to studying for midterm exams paired with some tough on field practices. This load could feel closer to 98% of her 1 RM. Imagine doing multiple sets of multiple reps at 98%?! If she’s feeling incredible that day then that same prescription feels closer to 62% effort. In one scenario, you’re risking potentially overtraining and injuring your athlete, in the other you’re not providing a large enough stimulus to warrant the adaptation for which you’re training. Ultimately if you’re not measuring lifting parameters and obtaining accurate data, you’re just guessing.

Velocity Based Training leaves much less to chance by dictating loads based on athlete readiness, and helps execute training sessions with precision. Athletes at the collegiate and professional level have inordinate amounts of stressors on them in the way of traveling, family life, sleep quality, school, work and training itself. If you could alter a training session to provide just the right stimulus for your athlete to elicit the adaptations you are looking for, why wouldn’t you?

“If you could alter a training session to provide just the right stimulus for your athlete to elicit the adaptations you are looking for, why wouldn’t you? ”

Velocity Based Training also helps amplify the intent of movement by demanding a consistent standard and providing immediate feedback. It helps train neuromuscular performance (a topic for another day) [14]. It enhances inter and intra competitive environments for individuals and teams and tracks data and progress over time. In a monumental study for VBT, the instantaneous feedback of VBT has been shown to improve sports performance metrics over non-feedback training [6].

TO SUMMARIZE, VELOCITY BASED TRAINING:

  • Offers immediate and objective feedback to augment the intent of a session
  • Can be periodized using velocities at specific speeds for specific and desired adaptations
  • Enhances the competitive nature of athletics in a weight room environment
  • Loads can be adjusted in real time and exactly in order to reflect the velocity zone specific to the session’s objectives, and based on the capabilities of an athlete on a given day, a concept known as autoregulation

VBT ZONES

Despite being a different training modality than PBT, Velocity Based Training can pretty accurately follow percentage based periodization schemes via speed zones. Researchers Gonzalez-Badillo et al. found an extremely high correlation between percentage 1RM and the corresponding velocity zone [12]. Seen here below and taken from Dr. Bryan Mann’s Developing Explosive Athletes are the percentages alongside velocity zones and following Bosco’s Strength Continuum. This will be explained in much greater detail in a forthcoming post [9].

A WORD ON THE SAID PRINCIPLE

The SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) Principle, the concept that the human body adapts to imposed demands, has likely been around since the inception of sports training. In the late 1950s, famous exercise and cardiovascular professor of Physical Education at UC Berkeley, Franklin M. Henry initially wrote of the “Specificity Hypothesis of Motor Learning” which later adapted into the SAID Principle.

How we use this concept with Velocity Based Training is fairly simple: once we can determine where a particular athlete can improve contingent on their unique Force-Velocity Profile (more on that in a later post), and what their particular sport needs are, a coach can individualize a program for them based on velocity zones. We are looking to create adaptations for desired traits (think: strength, power, endurance, conditioning) for athletes. Otherwise said, we are looking to fill buckets (to use a Mike Boyle term), and to enhance and optimize the finite time spent in a weight room for athletes across the board to ultimately yield positive adaptations with regards to sports performance. The concept of bigger is better is on its way out. Enhancing sports performance with appropriate applications of technology and data usage is on the rise.

Generating a Force-Velocity Profile and monitoring methods to improve upon an individual’s unique curve is made much easier via Velocity Based Training systems
Generating a Force-Velocity Profile and monitoring methods to improve upon an individual’s unique curve is made much easier via Velocity Based Training systems

VBT PHYSICS (YAY, NERDS!)

Force = Mass x Acceleration

  • Coaches are often only concerned with mass, and rightfully so as it is easier to quantify than acceleration. With the development of greater technology, acceleration is easier than ever to quantify thus, literally and figuratively completing the force equation.

Power = (Force x Distance) / Time OR Power = Force x Velocity

  • In more recent VBT technology, power is also quantifiable if it is a preferred metric for a coach, and another useful parameter to track.

Velocity = Distance / Time

  • Velocity, in m/s is what VBT originated upon, it can be expressed in either peak or mean and we will get into that in later posts.

Force Velocity Curve = The relationship between force and velocity on a continuum.

  • Typically as force decreases, velocity will increase. Ideally this curve shifts to the right as an athlete becomes more proficient through each training cycle. The curve below on the left is the “ideal” and would shift to the right with training as expressed by the curve on the right. Athletes with variable strengths can express a skewed curve, which leaves room for improvement in obvious areas over others (remember the buckets). Working in all velocity zones periodized over an annual plan is common, with access to this data regularly we can also help an athlete improve in areas that are specific to their sport needs.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Velocity Based Training has been around for awhile, but with recent improvements in technology, it is becoming more accessible and available for use. By incorporating Velocity Based Training in annual programming, we optimize weight room and subsequent sports performance. In this way, we leave much less on the table for athletic development than traditional training modalities. Data can help guide our attention as coaches and practitioners and fill the empty bucket to complete the overall picture of an optimized athlete. There is much to learn, uncharted territory, and certainly room for improvement and further research on the topic. And that is perhaps the best part!

UP NEXT

This post scratched the surface of the expansive topic that is Velocity Based Training. Over the next few months, we will continue to delve deeper into many of the topics outlined above, and many more worth discussing when it comes to Velocity Based Training. We hope to be a one stop shop for you, with basic how-to knowledge, in addition to research reviews, guest blog posts, and tutorials for Perch products.

Please feel free to engage with us on social media, in the comments section below, and via our monthly newsletter. If we cannot answer your question right away, we will be sure to do our research and get back to you ASAP. We look forward to hearing from you in the coming months and years as we build Perch bigger and better every day!

OTHER RELEVANT POSTS!

Want to learn more about the basics of VBT? Check out Perch’s VBT Dictionary!

Curious about what coaches think of VBT? Check out our guest blog post with coach Molly Binetti!

SOURCES

  1. Verkhoshanskiĭ, I. V., & Charniga, A. (1986). Fundamentals of special strength-training in sport. Livonia, MI: Sportivny Press.
  2. Roman, R. A., & Charniga, A. (1988). Trenirovka tyazheloatleta = The training of the weightlifter. Livonia, MI: Sportivny Press.
  3. Jovanovic M, and Flanagan EP. (2014). Researched applications of velocity based strength training. J. Aust. Strength Cond. 22(2)58-69.
  4. Banyard, HG, Nosaka, K, and Haff, GG. Reliability and validity of the load–velocity relationship to predict the 1RM back squat. J Strength Cond Res 31(7): 1897–1904, 2017.
  5. Cronin, J.B., McNair, P.J. and Marshall, R.N. Force-velocity analysis of strength-training techniques and load: implications for training strategy and research. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 17: 148-155. 2003.
  6. Randell, AD, Cronin, JB, Keogh, JWL,Gill, ND, and Pedersen, MC. Effect of instantaneous performance feedback during 6 weeks of velocity-based resistance training on sport-specific performance tests. J Strength Cond Res 25(1): 87–93, 2011.
  7. Padulo, J, Mignogna, P, Mignardi, S, Tonni, F and D’Ottavio, S. Effect of different pushing speeds on bench press. Int J Sports Med 33: 376-80, 2012.
  8. Sanchez-Medina, L., and J. J. Gonzalez-Badillo. Velocity Loss as an Indicator of Neuromuscular Fatigue during Resistance Training. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. Vol. 43, No. 9, pp. 1725-1734. 2011.
  9. Mann, B., Kazadi, K., Pirrung, E., & Jensen, J. (2016). Developing explosive athletes: Use of velocity based training in athletes. Muskegon Heights, MI: Ultimate Athlete Concepts.
  10. Mann, J., Thyfault, J., Ivey, P., & Sayers, S. (2010). The effect of autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise vs. linear periodization on strength improvement in college athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(7), 1718-17231.
  11. Zourdos, M. C., Dolan, C., Quiles, J. M., Klemp, A., Jo, E., Loenneke, J. P., … Whitehurst, M. (2015). Efficacy of Daily 1RM Training in Well-Trained Powerlifters and Weightlifters: A Case Series. Nutricion Hospitalaria: Organo Oficial de La Sociedad Espanola de Nutricion Parenteral y Enteral.
  12. González-Badillo, J. J., & Sánchez-Medina, L. (2010). Movement velocity as a measure of loading intensity in resistance training. International Journal of Sports Medicine.
  13. Verkhoshanskiĭ, I. V., & Charniga, A. (1986). Fundamentals of special strength-training in sport. Livonia, MI: Sportivny Press.
  14. Pareja-Blanco, F., Rodríguez-Rosell, D., Sánchez-Medina, L., Gorostiaga, E., & González-Badillo, J. (2014). Effect of movement velocity during resistance training on neuromuscular performance. Int J Sports Med, 35(11), 916-924

Hello and welcome! If you haven’t been to our website before, or even if you have, we wanted to take a moment and who Perch is; our vision, our mission, and what we hope you’ll get out of engaging with us now and into the future.

Co-Founders from left to right: Jordan, Jacob, Nate
Co-Founders from left to right: Jordan, Jacob, Nate

We are Perch. A Velocity Based Training company located in Cambridge, MA. Proudly founded by MIT student-athletes. And looking to change the VBT game as it pertains to collegiate and professional weight room workflow, and beyond. Uniquely, we are a no strings attached company, which helps create ease of use for both coaches and athletes. With internal and external validity and reliability, our product is only getting better with time.

Additionally, moving forward we are aiming to be both a valid and reliable source of Velocity Based Training educational content. With some of the best and brightest minds in engineering and sports science on hand, Perch is sure to be the next best product and resource in Velocity Based Training and sports performance technology.

OUR VISION AND MISSION

At Perch, our focus is the coach and practitioner. We aim to enhance athletic performance by enhancing coaching performance.

We are building technology that gives coaches a greater level of insight into daily athlete readiness; technology that can help coaches regulate athlete workload, and technology that can help coaches create motivation and intent through biofeedback and competition.

However, we believe that weight room technology will never truly make positive impact on the performance of a coach, until it stops being both a performance enhancer and hindrance. Technology in the weight room can’t come with strings attached. Its effect must be felt, but its presence must be unnoticed.

Everything we do is motivated by one underlying goal: create technology that liberates coaches and athletes to perform at their best, without any interruption to work flow. This is why we persevere through late nights and wrestle with massive engineering challenges; we want to create a faster, stronger, and more intentional future for athletes and coaches everywhere.

FOUNDING STORY

Perch was founded by three student-athletes out of an MIT fraternity (who knew?!) We tried almost every single piece of fitness technology on the market and they all ended up in the drawer. As athletes in the weight room four days a week, We wanted something that could count more than steps and heart rate. We needed something could measure our power output, velocity, and mobility in the weight room, passively track this information, and allow us to share this information with our coaches and fellow athletes. We quickly developed a passion for providing visibility into weight room performance, helping coaches help their athletes.

START-UP LIFE

It started as an idea, but quickly became reality as we built janky prototype after janky prototype. We attended conferences, trade shows, and talked to hundreds and hundreds of strength coaches. Those of you we met at CSCCa 2017 probably remember the hot mess that was our product at the time. We iterated, tuned our algorithms, tested, and repeated. Through all the ups and downs, the rejections and long nights coding, the multiple startup accelerators (MIT DeltaV and Techstars NY), our passion for the problem and the passion of our customers inspired us to persevere.

The “janky” prototype progression of Perch
The “janky” prototype progression of Perch

PERCH’S PRODUCT-ORIENTED GOALS

Born out of MIT, our products are built from the ground up. You hold yourselves and your athletes to the highest of standards, and so too should you hold the technology and equipment providers with which you work.

We are in constant pursuit of performance, and everyday we come into work to do the following:

  1. Build accurate and reliable products, products that give you data that you can leverage to help enhance the performance and motivation of your athletes in the weight room.
  2. Create products that are easy to use and seamlessly integrate into your workflow, saving you time, allowing you to focus on what’s most important and performing your job to the fullest.
  3. Continually improve and grow as a product, company, and as individuals. We are a team of MIT engineers, sports scientist, and former varsity athletes. Our technology does not plateau. We aim to deliver you new updates, products, and information that will help you perform to the fullest.
  4. Deliver actionable insights. We do not believe in collecting data for data’s sake. We aim for every piece of data collected to have a purpose and to help you find that purpose to enhance your and your athletes’ overall performance.
Perch: velocity based training made easy
Perch: velocity based training made easy

PERCH’S EDUCATIONAL ORIENTED GOALS

We believe velocity based training should be a ubiquitous form of training regardless of what device you use. And we are dedicated to creating content and educational material that will help coaches leverage this form of training to the fullest.

We will be posting regularly regarding velocity based training research, strength and conditioning technology, case studies, our research and insights regarding the data we are collecting, guest posts from thought leaders in the area and coaches in the field, and more. In addition, we are relying on YOU to engage with us, ask us questions, push us to learn more and create an even better product. Improving and enhancing sports performance and human performance through technology will always be a team effort. Thank you for joining us on this journey.

Perched on a rack to optimize your performance without interrupting your workout flow
Perched on a rack to optimize your performance without interrupting your workout flow

COMING UP NEXT

We didn’t start this company to ride off into the sunset, we started this company to help athletes perform, help coaches coach, and help everyone live healthier lives.

Now nestled into a co-working space in Cambridge, MA amongst some of the brightest minds we’ve ever encountered, we continue to develop the product and technology. And we are pleased to say it is on the market and ready for your consumption!

In the coming weeks and months, we plan on tackling big topics and big questions for you in this blog space. Be sure to follow along here and on our social media pages! We look forward to growing with you and getting to know you on this journey!


Intentionally Yours,

Perch

 

Check out our first VBT Research Review!