Shooting in the Dark: Maximizing Training Outcomes with Velocity Based Training Metrics by Mark Langley

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[Mark Langley is a Senior at North Carolina Central University and is currently enrolled in the Athletic Lab Coach Apprenticseship ProgramEditorial Comment: We recently installed a PUSH team system at my sports performance training center – Athletic Lab, and became a demo and test site for the company. I’ve been testing the band for the past 2.5 years and have enjoyed it’s evolution from a somewhat limited and occasionally buggy ‘wearable’ to the very useful technology that it has become today. It’s initial releases were somewhat buggy but showed a lot of promise and the companies recent work has been a big step forward. Since our recent installation of the PUSH band team system, we use them daily with our athletes both in group and private settings for daily monitoring, testing, and auto-regulation of training loads – Mike Young]

The PUSH Band is a new wearable technology that pairs with a smartphone or device via Bluetooth. It is capable of interpreting the kinetics of movement and translate it into linear velocity (plain English: bar speed) and power. This wearable is unique because of its implications in strength and conditioning and power development.

In a previous blog I brushed through the PUSH Band’s features in terms of three facets: 1) routine logging and programming, 2) performance testing and projection, and 3) metric feedback and adjustment. Metric feedback and adjustment has perhaps the most useful for high level athletes and makes the PUSH Band unique.

F-V_curveThe premise on which velocity-based training lies is the force-velocity curve. If you were to lay things on a continuum, with force on one end and velocity on the other, you could plot performance outcomes between the two. Performing a 1 repetition maximum squat would be closer to the force end of the continuum. Throwing a fastball would be closer to the velocity end of the continuum. If we want to improve in a particular outcome on either end, or anywhere between, we could train within a velocity range we associate with that outcome. For example, absolute strength is in the range of 0 to 0.35 meters per second. Strength-speed is in the range of 0.75 to 1 m/s, and speed-strength is in the range of 1 to 1.5 m/s.1

The traditional method is to use percentages of a 1 repetition maximum, but using such a method doesn’t allow for much flexibility for the short term and day to day changes in performance status.2 The PUSH allows for a metric that was largely inaccessible. Even at the professional level, training with motion analysis camera systems and force plates isn’t plausible. The amount of work involved would detract from the quality of the training. With PUSH measurement of power and velocity is now accessible in compact and simplistic unit.

By focusing on the velocity of movement and how it relates to outcome, we can dial in appropriate loads. If we want to develop strength, rather than doing 85% of a 1RM performance nine months ago, we can go for a load that is below 0.35 m/s.3 This could be 200 kg one day and 190 kg another. This is a fairly simplistic method of application, but gives us an idea how we can dial in the load according to the velocity we need for the outcome we want.4

PUSH-ALThe application of the PUSH becomes the most relevant when it comes to developing power. We can develop power through the Olympic lifts, but it’s fairly easy to progress load to a point that power is blunted. With so many other moving parts and points of concern in the Olympic lifts, trying to making decisions about velocity can become taxing – especially in a team setting with 20+ athletes. Trying to determine power is moot and impossible. With valid measurements of power, one could dial in the optimal load for power development.

One thing that’s important here is we shouldn’t expect these variables to be fixed. Velocity ranges likely have some elasticity, and that force-velocity relationship could change over the course of longer periods of training. In plain language, someone that always works on speed will likely bias their own performance curve towards velocity. On the opposite end, someone that’s only worked in the realm of absolute strength will likely bias their force-velocity curve towards force.

We’re one step closer to going beyond arbitrary determination of velocity and rate of force development. What occurs in the realm of training should support the performance on the field. The outcome is not always adding more weight. That said, these metrics aren’t going to the end-all, be-all in training. Nothing is going to replace an experienced coach. Furthermore, an aid to help in-session performance doesn’t determine how an extensive training program should progress through a training season.

References:

  1.         Jandačka D, Beremlijski P. Determination of Strength Exercise Intensities Based on the Load-Power-Velocity Relationship. J Hum Kinet. 2011;28(-1):33-44. doi:10.2478/v10078-011-0020-2.
  2.         Jovanovic M, Flanagan E. Researched applications of velocity based strength training. J Aust Strength Cond. 2014;21(1):58-69.
  3.         González-Badillo JJ, Sánchez-Medina L. Movement velocity as a measure of loading intensity in resistance training. Int J Sports Med. 2010;31(5):347-352. doi:10.1055/s-0030-1248333.
  4.         Mann JB, Thyfault JP, Ivey P a, Sayers SP. The effect of autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise vs. linear periodization on strength improvement in college athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(7):1718-1723. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181def4a6.
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