One of the biggest struggle concerning lifting, that every athlete experienced, is understanding the right weight to lift.
How can we know which is the correct weight and also how much a wrong weight affects results?
Simplifying the reality (that involves several different ways of training according to the different training methods that we can see applied from the coaches of all over the world) there are only two aspects that, a beginner of the weight room, must to deal with: rep and weight.
A correct weight means a correct approach to improve your performances. Everything concerns with the percentage of the 1RM (which is the max load that you can lift for every exercise): every weight matches with a percentage, and training target is connected with range of percentages (ex: lifting more than the 80% will make you train the absolute strength); using the wrong load will make you improve other muscular capabilities than the one you want to.
Now that we know how much loads affect results, there is another important question that we have to solve: how can we know which is the right weight?
Once again we can rely on Velocity Based Training: looking at the speed at which you move the bar, you’ll easily understand if it’s the right weight or not.
For those who are not used to VBT, the tab 1 shows the velocity zones for strength.
Velocity Based Training (VBT) is focused on the speed at which you move the bar; the Tab 1 shows the “velocity zones”, linking the percentage of your 1RM (thus, the weight you use while lifting) to the different capabilities that you can train.
TAB 1: velocity zones for strength (provided by J. Bryan Mann, MS, PhD, CSCS, University of Missouri, Columbia)
VBT is the most immediate way to understand if you’re lifting the proper load.
Let’s go deep into a specific exercise as “Lunges with Trap Bar”, training goal: strength-speed.
The training target is set on 0.8 m/s and now the athlete needs to find the weight that he/she has to use. In Tab 2 we can see the first 3 set of the entire workout.
Without any info, this athlete had to perform 2 sets before to find the correct increase in weight, tiring and losign time.
In fact, looking at the average speed of the first set, which is clearly higher than the set parameter, is required an increment the weight, but here it comes the second struggle: how much? (And how can we find it immediately, without adding several set to our workouts?)
Loads and velocity are linked by a direct relationship that the Tab 3 figures out into a graphic.
Regarding Tab 3, we could deepen a little bit just playing with numbers.
We figured out that the linear relation between the velocity and the loads implies that a growth of the loads of a X percentage matches with a decrease of the velocity of X/2 %.
Applying this reasoning to calculate the correct weight, you just need a decrease in the speed of 11% (approximately) at which responds a growth of the loads of 22%.
In fact: 30kg*1.22 = 36.6 kg.
Summing up what we have just analyzed we could avoid all these issues in calculating, by entrusting on technologies during our training session.
Without technology no-one could ever know at which speed he/she was performing and high performances need objectives measurements, not opinions and suggestions on the correct way of training.
That’s why every professional athlete (and sport societies) invests in technologies applied to strength and conditioning.
Gains are just the results of serious, hard and effective training and today everybody has the chance to train professionally thanks to strength trackers and technological tools for fitness.