Brandon Golden is an assistant strength & conditioning coach at East Carolina University. He is entering his fourth season working primarily with baseball and women’s soccer. Prior to ECU, Brandon worked at Charleston Southern University, and prior to that he was a GA at St. John’s University in Queens, NY.
Brandon has been educating himself in velocity based training throughout his career via Tendo units and more recently with Perch as well. Brandon has written two guest posts for this blog space and included some helpful VBT resources within them. He currently has a Perch unit at his home gym where he is experimenting with load/velocity profiling for when the team gets back to campus!
PERCH: TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY SO FAR?
Brandon Golden: I went to undergraduate school here at East Carolina. As far as sports, I played basketball when I was young and then played lacrosse throughout. I actually played club lacrosse here at East Carolina when I was in school and coached some high school lacrosse towards the end of my undergraduate career here. After I finished my undergraduate, I went back home to High Point and interned at High Point University for a year and a half, and that was an awesome opportunity to work with them and learn how strength & conditioning works. I was integrated with some teams and had some of my own teams and groups and was programming. The staff there gave me an amazing opportunity to learn all of those things. And then I went down to Mississippi State and worked with Brian Neal with baseball and got to do some fun things there. That’s where my career started to lean towards baseball and more of the Olympic Sports. Then I went back home and worked with basketball at Wake Forest with Ryan Horn. And then I went up to St. John’s as a GA and worked with everybody and loved it. Went down to Charlestown Southern and worked with everybody and loved it. Then I got the job at ECU. So I’m back down here and this is/would’ve been my fourth season here. Velocity is something I’ve used throughout my career, really since I was a GA at St. John’s. But I have really been able to do some cool stuff lately at East Carolina.
YOU’VE BEEN ALL OVER, HOW HAS THAT SHAPED YOUR COACHING PHILOSOPHY?
BG: The cool thing is that I’ve had a lot of people to bounce ideas off of and learn from. At High Point I got tossed in the fire and it was sink or swim. They did a really great job of teaching me how college athletics work. Even – and this is funny – I had long hair when I was younger and Ryan Billings shaved my head in the weight room! He was like “look dude you’re awesome, we think everything you’re doing in the weight room is awesome. But you’re not in college anymore, you gotta cut your hair.” They taught me everything about college athletics. Being able to see what strength coaches do at the college level day in and day out at these various places has shaped a lot of what I do.
I need to be influencing people for what to do, what not to do, and how to treat people. And that is the biggest piece of my coaching philosophy from an interpersonal standpoint.
One of the biggest lessons I got was when I was at St. John’s, there was a coach named Pat Dickson told me “you’ll learn from anybody you come into contact with what to do, what not to do, and how to treat people.” So even if you watch someone do something and think you would never do it that way, you’ve learned from that. You’ve learned how to not handle a situation in this manner or talk to a kid or an administrator in this way. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve taken away from my time at St. John’s that I still use today. I need to be influencing people for what to do, what not to do, and how to treat people. And that is the biggest piece of my coaching philosophy from an interpersonal standpoint. For coaching, my job, as I see it, is to be able to get our student-athletes to perform and be able to do whatever they’re trying to do in their game or their chosen sport. Our soccer girls didn’t come to East Carolina to be weightlifters, and our baseball guys didn’t come here to be weightlifters. They’re all coming to play their sport and be ready to go onto the next level, or graduate and be members of society. So my philosophy is that I’m going to do anything I can methodologies-wise to make sure that gets accomplished.
Velocity Based Training is a huge part of that too because you can meet people where they’re at and whether or not 70% is 70%. I have a bunch of great resources from Perch and people all over the country. And what I can do is plug these zones in and have kids train and they’re getting better and they’re seeing how they’re getting better. They’re not just saying “oh how much weight do you want me to put on the bar? I don’t think I can do that.” But with VBT, I don’t care how much weight is on the bar, I care if we’re in the zone and getting the speeds and qualities we’re trying to train.
TALK TO US ABOUT THE SPORT SPECIFICITY COMPONENT OF THE WEIGHT ROOM?
BG: Sport Specificity is a cool buzzword that everybody likes to talk about, but it is more about energy system specificity. And the ability to focus on the qualities we’re trying to train. Soccer has different qualities than baseball. From a speed-strength standpoint with the baseball guys, I’m able to show them how to produce power at various loads and get strong and be ready to play baseball. And for the soccer girls, this fall we’ll be able to train in season without crushing them. Their demands are different, they have to go out and run and they have different positions and have to compete at that high level of aerobic and anaerobic as opposed to baseball’s needs. So the VBT is much more energy system specific and allows us to train with greater precision.
You talk about someone who is flying across the country and your 70% probably isn’t going to be 70% afterwards. Maybe you fly really well and you’re feeling better after, but maybe you’re stressed and dehydrated and that 70% feels a whole lot harder. For me, I almost feel like I’m cheating when I use VBT. It takes all the guesswork out so I know exactly what quality I’m trying to train, and I’m guaranteeing I’m training that quality if I stay in this zone. For both me and the kids it’s a lot of fun, I explain it to them and they’re fired up because then they’re competing and they’re getting after it in the weight room.
I almost feel like I’m cheating when I use VBT. It takes all the guesswork out so I know exactly what quality I’m trying to train, and I’m guaranteeing I’m training that quality if I stay in this zone.
DOES EXPLAINING AND EDUCATING YOUR ATHLETES ON VBT (AND EVERYTHING ELSE) HELP CREATE THAT BUY-IN?
BG: We definitely use VBT for buy-in. I think with different athletes depending on who they are as a person and what their goals are and what they’re trying to accomplish is key. That helps me be able to say what I need to emphasize for them. For my soccer ladies, they want to stay healthy and not injure their knee or back or whatever the case may be. And honestly you just have to talk their lingo. So say something along the lines of “okay if you’re taking a corner kick or trying to beat a girl to the ball and have to turn on a dime, well if you plant that foot and need your leg to accept those forces and they can’t, bad things are going to happen” so you can talk to them about building a force/velocity profile and make sure that they’re strong enough to produce enough force at the right times. Your brain doesn’t know if you’re in a weight room or on a soccer field, it just knows a force is being applied and it has to adapt or it is going to get hurt. Explaining it using their lingo and having them see on the tablet what we’re talking about, it starts to make sense to them.
Your brain doesn’t know if you’re in a weight room or on a soccer field, it just knows a force is being applied and it has to adapt or it is going to get hurt.
Sometimes they’ll be in a training session and start feeling really good, or maybe they’re not feeling great, and their velocities will reflect that either way. They can start to draw parallels and realize we’re not asking them to put x amount of weight on their back because it is 80%, we’re asking them to hit velocities and train for desired traits. Sometimes guys and girls love lifting heavy, and that’s great. But others really want to see how you’re training the qualities to get them to where they want to be. That’s not to say I don’t believe in training heavy, I do. The VBT actually allows me to train most of my athletes heavier and get them stronger, because I know what they’re deficient in. That’s one thing I want to make sure we’re clear with for the VBT stuff, a lot of people think that we’re just moving light weights for speed. If it is applicable and that’s what is necessary, then yes! Absolutely we’re moving it fast as hell. But if a girl or a guy needs to get stronger, then we’re going to some of those lower ranges and we’re going to get stronger. It just takes the guesswork out of it and training the zones we’re trying to train.
WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO VBT AND WHEN DID IT START MAKING SENSE TO YOU?
BG: I was first introduced to it as a GA at St. John’s. That’s when it started making sense to me. The baseball program there was phenomenal and we would use it with a lot of teams, but one of the other GAs and I would train baseball. St. John’s is in Queens, NY, so for the first third of the season at least we were traveling and flying down south and going every which way. So we had these Tendos and wanted to make sense of the data and what it was revealing. We did some type of jump testing and decided that if they weren’t at 90% or above of their average jumps, we would keep the program as planned. If they were below that, we would alter the program and give them more of a recovery day and make sure to get that strength or speed day back in somewhere once they were recovered. So that was my very first experience with VBT and it definitely helped guide my early philosophy on it.
HOW DID YOU COME ACROSS PERCH ORIGINALLY?
BG: Perch was introduced to us by Vinny Caulluti, our Boston guy and one of the assistants down here at East Carolina. Jacob came down to explain everything about Perch to us and I remember being intrigued initially, and once we went over everything at the computer from the web app to the tablet app side of things, I remember thinking “oh hell yea, this is the real deal.” I was sold, because I knew it would make such a huge difference in what we do with our players here.
The coolest thing for me about Perch is first and foremost the people behind it, you guys are phenomenal. The biggest thing with the technology that I’ve seen so far is the interactive interface on the tablet. I’m also really big on some tempos so the eccentric measures check that box and allow me to do that efficiently. I don’t have to count for guys in the weight room, that pops up on its own. So overall the efficiency of it is phenomenal, I can have the data on the cloud, I can export a CSV file, I can put that data wherever I want it and interpret it. My biggest passion is being around athletes and training them, but I love some of the sports science stuff behind it all and understanding why things work.
WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY ON VBT SPECIFICALLY?
BG: In the off-season it is really awesome for competition. When I first implemented it with the baseball guys, I would have velocity zones for them I wanted them to be in. But it turned out that I was worried about the zones and the specific qualities I was trying to train, and they were more concerned with who could squat 315 at a faster speed. That was cool and I didn’t expect that to happen. I knew they were competitive guys, they competed at everything. But we would have a bench day or a squat day and guys would start talking junk and one of the coaches walks by and chirps an athlete saying “hey so and so says he can move 315 at .9, what can you do?” and the guy on the next rack is saying “I can move it at .95” and we can call them out and bring the whole team up and use it as a competitive thing.
Then I showed them the path of how we were going to implement it and how it was going to help them individually. And they were hooked. They were bought into me first, so obviously that helps, but once they saw the plan and the numbers they were all in. Our pitchers were saying things like “my arm feels the best it’s ever felt in my life” and hitters are saying “I feel like I can hit the ball over the batter’s eye every time.” But guys felt great all the time and they loved training. Baseball is a game that can beat you down sometimes with so many games and a long season, and where we had been going off of percentages in the past we were able to use velocities and they responded well to it and were all for it.
HAVE YOU BEEN BUILDING LOAD/VELOCITY PROFILES WITH YOUR GUYS?
BG: We have load/velocity profiles, yes! I’m the director of the intern program along with our director, John Williams. And John allowed us to bring somebody in who was doing a work study for school credit and I would have a guy squatting, another guy writing numbers down, and our work study guy popping it into excel. Then I was able to create a load/velocity profile out of it. The original plan was to be able to do it in the beginning of the season, the middle of the season, and the end of the season. Obviously we didn’t get to the last two testings this year. The goal was to be able to get on average a 5% increase in power production across the entire team, which I think we would’ve been absolutely able to smash, but I’ll never know until next year.
WHAT ROLE DO YOU THINK DATA IN THE WEIGHT ROOM PLAYS?
BG: I don’t think data in the weight room is detrimental at all. The world we live in, the student-athletes we’re dealing with and even professional athletes, all of it is on the tablet, phone or computer. All of this is now normal, and as far as coaches thinking it is hard, it isn’t. You tap the tablet to click start and it measures it, the bars come up, you hit save, and you move onto the next guy. Another reason I’ve always used it is because it helps be another coach. We have 25 athletes in here at once and if I’m by myself I’m able to watch the movements, but they also get some of the direct feedback every rep too. If the movement quality is proficient, the velocity device will be there to tell them to go up or down, and I don’t have to babysit every rep, I can say “that looked great” and keep coaching. I don’t think it is a detriment to what we’re doing at all, and I wish people would stop saying that because it isn’t true. VBT can help us as coaches do our jobs even better.
If the movement quality is proficient, the velocity device will be there to tell them to go up or down, and I don’t have to babysit every rep, I can say “that looked great” and keep coaching.
I think the hesitation of incorporating technology and maybe VBT specifically is stemming from concern about guys being overly obsessed with the tablets. Coaches don’t want guys hovering around the rack. The first time they see it it’ll be a shiny new object, but a day or two later it just will be part of what we do. Same thing as when we get a new rack or a new bar, people are going to be fired up and excited, but once that fades away, this is just another tool that we use. I think coaches might be somewhat insecure about what the process of bringing a new tool in and establishing it is like.
From a recruiting standpoint, being able to show recruits how we’re going to use this tool is helpful. With Perch, we can show all the graphs and charts on the app and show these guys how we’re going to individualize training for them and help them get to whatever level they want to get to. Everyone wants to hear that and having this tool that can assist with that is helpful for sure.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE OF VBT IS? IS THIS SOMETHING EVERYONE WILL IMPLEMENT?
BG: This is definitely going to be more and more implemented. I’ve been talking to a bunch of people throughout this COVID19 thing and saying the two things I want to learn more about are some Python coding, and I also want to know as much about velocity based training as possible. I think people are going to get a lot more into it, I think folks are starting to dive into some of the velocity loss stuff. Can they understand how to set certain parameters of percentage loss within certain zones and really know when enough is enough and when to move on versus when to keep training and trying to gain whatever quality it is that they’re trying to improve.
HOW ARE YOU PROGRAMMING WITH VBT?
BG: I do a bit of the velocity loss stuff, but I definitely still have sets and reps in there. I have my zones that I want those athletes in, but I foresee in the future being able to say “we’re going to do x amount of sets in this range until there is a 10-15% drop off in velocity and then we’ll move on from there.” That is how I had it planned for the end of the season for our baseball guys. Especially towards the end of their in-season, I wanted to be able to have a single strength movement and with some accessories and basically hit heavy singles or doubles until that percent drop off and then move on.
The cool thing about it is that you can use it in any sport. Its phenomenal. Rate of force development is all what sport is. If you understand how to use VBT and can implement it, you can train any team. If you understand the needs of the sports and can speak that lingo and relate to them as people, no matter the sport the velocity based training will help you.
If you understand how to use VBT and can implement it, you can train any team. If you understand the needs of the sports and can speak that lingo and relate to them as people, no matter the sport the velocity based training will help you.
WITH COVID19 AND ATHLETES BEING AWAY, HOW WILL VBT HELP GUIDE THEIR RETURN TO PLAY?
BG: When our athletes get back, we don’t necessarily know what or how they’ve been training for the last few months, we don’t know what kind of shape they’re going to be in. So velocity based training will be important for us, and it is going to do what it always does. It will help guide from an autoregulation standpoint, it will be another coach in the weight room. During the summers we usually have athletes in the weight room lifting and it enables us to teach them and progress them slowly. We won’t really have the opportunity to do that this year, nor will many other schools in the country. So we’ll have our progressions just like we would ordinarily, but I’ll also have our VBT, and be able to have the speed metric dictate the load. I can keep kids with less experience at different speeds for longer to ensure they are proficient at the movement and have a quality base before I progress them and focus on something else. The VBT will help drive the programming and the autoregulation and really help us do what it always does. Our athletes will be able to come back and get back to their baseline and start progressing super efficiently, because we have this cheat code of VBT that is helping guide the process.
We’ll have our progressions just like we would ordinarily, but I’ll also have our VBT, and be able to have the speed metric dictate the load.