Velocity Based Training Technology Steps Up to the Platform 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]

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 7.32.51 AMLast summer I interned at a federal facility that focused on researching diabetes, obesity, and endocrinology. The funding was ridiculous and there were all sorts of sensors and monitors that could give tomes of data that took months to sort through. These weren’t really useable on the individual level. You wouldn’t find yourself recreationally strapping 8 electromyography sensors across major muscle groups, two separate heart rate sensors for a total of ten electrodes, three accelerometers, and a face mask and tube to measure your rate of oxygen consumption. On the individual level, this is a tidal wave of data where the volume of information makes almost none of it comprehensible or actionable.

At the same time, we had access to several commercial activity sensors, heart rate monitoring devices, and things of the like. As someone that trained in the past on the strength end of the spectrum, these didn’t serve any utility to me. The information is actionable, but only if your goal is to increase caloric energy expenditure through daily physical activity or monitor intensity of a prolonged endurance event. There wasn’t a sensor for someone that picks up heavy things and puts them back down several times.

The PUSH band is outfitted with an accelerometer and gyroscope sensor that pairs via Bluetooth to a smart phone or iPod. The band is worn on the forearm for most exercises, staying out of the way during the execution of the movements. Once an athlete profile is created with barebones information (height, weight, age, gender, email), an athlete can track linear velocity of a lift, force, power, work, volume, and repetition duration (as a whole, lowering of weight, and lifting of weight). This information is slimmed down to the important parts though in the mobile platform, giving you power and velocity – which is likely the most important bits of information – the actionable parts.

The PUSH Band is unique that it fits a performance training purpose other than endurance and something more immediate than a lifestyle purpose. It has the ability to track performance of resistance training and can provide some modicum of projection to help guide future performance. These features can be defined in three basic facets: 1) routine logging and programming of exercises 2) performance testing and projection 3) metric feedback and adjustment.

Routine Logging and Programming

push2This feature is the digital version of your paper and notebook. After choosing an exercise from a list of supported movements, you choose a weight, hit a button, and complete the set. You can review the set completed in terms of average velocity and power or peak velocity or power. All this information, as well as the other factors mentioned earlier, are logged to your profile and synced to the PUSH portal at the end of the session.

If you’re not sure how to accomplish a training objective, you can use PUSH assist. This feature will make assessments on your performance from set to set to determine whether you should continue adding weight, if you should complete more reps per set, or what have you. Like all things, this comes with a grain of salt. If you know you’re only doing sets of 3 reps to develop power and you’re within 4 kg of your 1-repetition maximum, you might be better ignoring a suggestion to add 5 kg and complete 5 repetitions. It’s a tool for the tool box, not the gospel of how to lift heavy things.

Programming is an interesting feature where coaches can develop training plans and assign them to a schedule for an athlete to complete. Not only can routines designate exercises, but can also choose order, whether or not they’re meant to be superset with another exercise, rep and set count, suggest load, and even rest time. A comments box allows for additional instructions. This is great for an athlete that has to correspond for training plans, travelling athletes, or in situations where their coach can’t be there to designate the session on the fly.

Performance Testing and Projection

velocity-basedCurrently the PUSH supports a submaximal 1 repetition maximum (1RM) test of squat, bench, and deadlift, as well as vertical jump. These are three good benchmarks for absolute strength and one for power. What’s great about the 1RM test is it’s all submaximal, so the risk is lower than it would be for lifting a weight you’re not absolutely sure won’t crush you.

This submaximal 1RM protocol goes off of change in velocity from set to set as load is progressed. So if 45 kg moved at 1.2 meters per second and 50 kg moved at 1.0 meters per second, it can stand to reason that if it progressed another 5 kg the relationship would be fairly close to linear – excluding for individual variables like training status, technique, et cetera. This is all used to calculate things out to a minimum velocity threshold. In plain English, that is the minimum velocity required to complete a lift one time. When done right, it can be fairly accurate and the method is supported by the science. 1 Because it’s submaximal, this can be tested more frequently to get a gauge of development – whether you’re trying to develop strength or make sure you maintain it while you develop another attribute (such as muscular endurance, power, or whatever your primary or secondary training goal is). Like all estimates though, it is still an estimate, with roughly about 5% of deviation when tested properly.

Feedback and Adjustment

push3This is likely the single most important feature. If we take measurement of velocity and power at face value, we can use it to determine an optimal training load. If we’re working towards power, we can determine whether or not the load is appropriate for maximal power. Outside of power training though, it can help determine whether the right load is being used for the training objective. Speed-strength correlates well with training in one velocity range, absolute strength in another, and so on. 2 Rather than going off how you feel, which doesn’t give a whole picture of preparedness for a session, you can adjust until your velocity falls within your training range.

Likewise, this feedback might tell you something about how you’re completing the lift. Maybe your focus is off or you need reset. Or better yet, maybe having knowledge of your performance might be enough motivate your lift into the next load progression. Feedback is important and it does have actual potential to increase your performance. 3

If we analyze performance of exercise in terms of kinematics and kinetics, or the appearance and manner of movement versus the metrics of movement, this is giving you the kinetics. Nothing is going to substitute for a good coach, but if you pair your performance to another way to generate metrics in a meaningful way and good coaching, you’ve added a force multiplier to your training.

If you want to learn more about the PUSH band, check out trainwithpush.com or stop in at Athletic Lab.

References:

  1.         Jovanovic M, Flanagan E. Researched applications of velocity based strength training. J Aust Strength Cond. 2014;21(1):58-69.
  2.         Mann B. Developing Explosive Athletes: Use of Velocity Based Training in Training Athletes. 2nd ed.; 2013.
  3.         Randell AD, Cronin JB, Keogh JW, Gill ND. Effect of instantaneous performance feedback during 6 weeks of velocity-based resistance training on sport-specific performance tests. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(1):87-93.
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