In the latest years I’ve experienced the establishment of VBT (Velocity Based Training) thanks to its extreme simplicity. For the majority of the exercises involving Bar or Dumbbells movement, Velocity has become the main and most efficient feedback method: it is great during the exercise both for motivation, to increase awareness, to auto regulate loads and reps prescribed. Yet I still feel a little nerd when I talk or I write about this.. probably numbers and programs are still scary to many.
As a matter of fact yet too few lifters are following complete training programs.. even less coaches can create a complete and tailored training program. In this article I would like to provide readers with a simple example of a Strength program, this was so practical that we employed it with our Beast Strength Lab customers with a great degree of success. It literally killed the programming for the season. This program was the foundation used with Volleyball, Basketball, Rugby, American Football, even Powerlifting in some case.
This program relies on 2 sessions per week that should be executed 72h away from each other. I didn’t specify any exercise… just because the same template well adapts to Squat, Deadlift or Bench Press, these are just the Velocities at which Maximum Strength is expressed. For this same reason, I didn’t mention any % of 1RM, if you are interested, I can explain further how to convert the Velocities prescribed into the exact training Percentages. Just to give you a general idea, the intensity is higher in the early sessions (I’m talking always above 75%) while the second session of the week has much more volume and intensities between 50 and 75% 1RM. The same Training Program can be duplicated if you are using a weekly split, with workout sessions involving the lower body and other sessions involving the upper body. Eventually you are going to have 4 total sessions per week. For those who know, there is an obvious similarity with the Conjugate Method.
So, there you go, just like with a good recipe! In the Session Description you will find the Load prescribed in terms of Velocity, a set x rep scheme, rest time, total number of repetitions.
Week 8 is used to evaluate the results obtained by the lifters, although there will be plenty of opportunities to do that during the weeks as I will explain later. Also Week 8 might be a deloading week (1 session instead of 2) or it might coincide with the beginning of a second cycle, repeating the previous weeks. It is never optimal to repeat the same Training Programs over and over in time, it is true this is a generic template that can be applied with some small variations, maybe in the Exercise, just to give the body a different stimulus. Furthermore, I am aware society demands for immediate satisfaction, here and now, I know most will object they don’t even have the full 8 weeks to complete the entire Cycle… in this case the same concepts that inspired this training program can be used to create a smaller 3/4 weeks only mesocycle, but I am more stubborn than you and I will not give you this satisfaction here and now.
How to determine the Optimal Load
First of all, make sure, whatever the exercise, whatever you do, you hit the right depth and the technique is sound. Technique and Movement quality are always priority. Now, to choose the correct load for your Workout session you want to use the Velocity for the fastest or the two fastest repetitions in your early set. We are talking about Maximum Performance here, so it is correct to use the best loads.
You will probably coming from some warm up set and if you have no experience with previous sessions, you probably will need to guess your initial weight and then correct.
Talking about Week 1 of the program, you might have no clue what to put on the bar, try 80% 1RM and move from there correcting with Velocity. You want to be quite picky and only accept for a narrow margin to increase or decrease the load, .05 m/s below or above the target Speed is a good example.
Practical example, during the Week 1, if you tried 80% 1RM and you’re still above .55 m/s, increase the load 5% and viceversa. Aim for precision, the required margin must be narrow also to differentiate between consecutive workouts. Always keep in mind, a 10% difference in bar load is required to obtain a .1 m/s velocity differential.
Velocity Loss throughout sets will be quite natural as your Central Nervous System and maybe your Energy System will fatigue, preventing form best performance. If you think VL has become excessive (>15% compared to first set for example), you can either increase your rest time or decrease the load for the remainder sets. This leads me to the next point.
How to determine Set and Repetition Number
The suggested number of repetitions for each workout is taken by the Prilepin table, always a fundamental tool when programming, as a matter of fact Dr. Prilepin eventually found those values measuring Velocity Loss..
When assessing Repetitions, just use Velocity Loss inside the set: the Speed for the last Repetition of the Set should be inside 20% of the best one. Now, I really want you reader to remember and understand this is a Relative (%) value, not absolute. It will save your life when approaching very high load (> 90% 1RM) For this reason, the lower the Target Speed, the lower the margin accepted and obviously the shorter the set will be. This kind of VL will ensure you a good amount of stimulation to the Central Nervous System and also will leave you a good buffer for the remaining sets.
Again, some examples: Week 1 starts from 0.5 m/s, this should result in an approximative 0.1 m/s difference (20% Velocity Loss) between the first and the last repetition, it will be quite similar for the sessions in the first 3 weeks.
In the successive 3 Weeks, values should be very very close instead, since the prescribed velocity decreases: anything below 0.35 m/s is very close to the 1RM so you will have a very short buffer, basically you want to stay between 0.35 and 0.3 m/s when doing triples and even closer when lowering to doubles.
If you can’t keep this pace, don’t worry, just shorten each set of a repetition and maybe add one more final set.
The key here is to understand and be aware of what we are trying to improve: Max Strength is different than resistance to Max Strength. In the first case it is essential to stay very close to the best reps (Velocity Loss are very very minimal), in the second case, it is important to create even a small state of fatigue (Velocity Loss are bigger). My suggestion is to give a look to Cluster sets, note to myself, write an article about it.
How to evaluate the Feedback and understand Improvement
To evaluate Max Strength improvement it is a good idea to estimate the lifter’s 1RM at the beginning and at the end of the 8 weeks, maybe via Load Velocity Profile. If you are a Powerlifter for example, this is a very consistent method. Also you could obviously just test your 1RM.
In some other cases thou related to Strength and Conditioning, it might be more beneficial to have a wider and more holistic approach to evaluate the results of the training program, using more parameters than Max Strength.
Most of the times you are looking to be Stronger and Faster, this is why by Holistic I mean using different parameters that will consider different type of Strengths, for example Explosive Strength and Max Power Capability.
This is another strategic reason why the first session of the program is chosen to be .5 m/s, it is a value just in the middle of the Velocity Continuum for Classic movements like Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift.
We thought the Program to be Strategic in this way and we wanted to provide multiple opportunities to monitor different type of Strengths:
1 – Since Session 1 repeats twice (e.g. Week 2 and 3 at 0.4 m/s) your first opportunity to show improvement will be to aim for a heavier load moved at the same speed. By using a higher load in week 3 compared than week 2, this will be a good answer to the question how are you responding to the program.
2 – Simply by comparing the loads in weeks that require the same Velocities you will have a good long term indicator of the effects of training on different Strengths. For example, Session B during Week 2 and 5.
Beside the initial and final session there are multiple occasions that provide data benchmark, if you pay attention to the data, you will have plenty of indications and suggestion to integrate in the future training programs!