The Ultimate Quest for so many Athletes… and one of the biggest evolutional challenges the Human Being ever faced.. to become faster. So, “to become faster” is a very generic sentence with a lot of different meanings and usually the goal is set to be much more specific, for example Run Faster. If Velocity Based Training needs to establish itself on a wider base, it must have success in helping many athletes to feel and to actually become faster.. whatever this sentence means to them.
The question I am trying to answer: Velocity Based Training works. How much?
Let’s look at history .. when Velocity and Power Feedback was provided to the New Zealand National Rugby Team, it successfully helped the team, getting more Strength, Power and Velocity gains during their Lifting Program. This is a quite popular study nowadays.
Just to explain to the newcomers, Velocity Feedback is a very simple number that is displayed after each repetition and it represents the Speed of the bar during the concentric phase of each lift, this kind of feedback is usually shown immediately after each rep.
Back to the Rugby players, half of the team was training in the traditional way, without any feedback and obtained less results even with the same Lifting program. They just didn’t get the extra motivation and intensity coming from the Velocity: those who read feedback during their set had 15% better results.
Source: Effect of instantaneous performance feedback during 6 weeks of velocity-based resistance training on sport-specific performance tests. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(1), 87-93.
This is just the the simplest history case that comes to my mind trying to answer the question. When I first read this research Article I was in the process of creating the first prototype of Beast Sensor and the results appeared to me quite obvious, lifting with feedback makes it just like any “game” or “challenge” where you get some kind of score or feedback and for some reasons you are never satisfied, so you try again and again. Then Real Life manifested to me..working and demoing Beast Sensor on myself and to a lot of athletes from all levels.. No matter the weight, the bar was always moving at the same speed. Full Acceleration through the complete range of motion. It became crystal clear how this simple action (or I should say lack of action) was finally evident thanks to this kind of feedback. Almost everybody we tested, from Volleyball players to Rugby to Track and Field, they just needed to accelerate the bar as much as possible, and through the whole lift. This completely changed their training in a matter of weeks. And it was just because of this simple but effective information provided at the right time. Do you know how you can tell this is producing the right effect? After 2-4 weeks of training you are going to need to accomodate resistance and add elastic bands to the loads because you realise when you are going full acceleration through the lift, most of the times the bar is detaching from your shoulders in the final part of the movement. It was not happening earlier. It will happen when you go through full acceleration. This happens all the time with our Strength Lab customers, especially with tall athletes like volleyball players. This is a sudden, small change of behaviour in training yet it is the most effective one!
Ok, let me get back to track and answer the initial question: quantify the improvement given by Velocity Based Training. The Research on the All Black players already provided us with a good number but, even if it is quite hard to synthesize a single answer…there is more to it.
Different features of Strength and Conditioning will improve once VBT is implemented and the full spectrum of the features will dramatically improve the quality of your Lifting Programs and the Results you can obtain.. for a longer time! To those who insists and still want a number.. my answer is, if you are a beginner, VBT is ensuring 40-50% more Speed and/or Strength in 12-18 months. Let me explain. You are going to get 20% more results in the early weeks just because of the “All Blacks Effect”: increased motivation derived from feedback. I’m saying 20% and not 15% just because.. well, the All Blacks are exceptional athletes and there is a certain threshold of motivation and commitment you already need just to make that team, and that threshold is pretty damn high so I consider this medicine will be even more effective on “normal” people. Next, it is my personal opinion you can expect another 20-30% improvement on top of that, in the first 12-18 months of training. This is a personal judgement, based out of my personal experience that I will immediately outline.
At a first thought, these numbers are not astronomical and could be reached simply by being consistent with all lifting sessions. The problem is Consistency almost never happens, Athlete nor Gym Meathead.. or Average Joe. Velocity Based Training helps.
Think about this: an optimal state of training means you can train and cash your results each week for 56 weeks in a year. So this makes a 1% increase every week possibile. 1%. Let that sink. Week 1 your Squat 1RM is 150 kg. Week 2 will be 152.5 kg (just because few people today owns 0.5 kg fractional plates). By one month this is increasing to 160 kg. Thanks to the always inspirational Instagram family where you are headed.
So these are results in the Weight room, but going back to become faster, in particular to run faster, how much can Velocity Based Training make you faster and how much of this is transferring to the real Running task? And if the weight room is creating and increasing potential for final performance improvement, how can we make sure to convert?
Obviously many factors are contributing to increase your Speed. In essence, running Speed for example is the product of the meters covered with each step and the steps taken each second (aka Stride frequency). With constant Stride Distance (or Amplitude) the highest the Frequency, the faster you’ll be (just think about Road Runner here). With Constant Stride Frequency, the longer your Stride, the sooner you will cover the same distance, hence, the faster you’ll be.
For as simple as this Model can be, the different qualities influencing on these two parameters are just a lot and of different nature. Let’s just take the two that are considered the most frequently and should act on both Stride Amplitude and Frequency.
- Force applied to the Ground within each step
- Time necessary to apply such Force into the ground, often summed up as Ground Contact Time.
Just widening your picture here, Ground Force and Ground Contact Time are the same parameters responsible in many other different gestures. Many Athletic performances are constrained by features: we should define most sport context with the ability to apply Maximum Strength RELATIVE to the time available. This is the reason behind any Coach or Athlete must consider Relative Gains: the Winner is the one who applies more force in the conceded time, not the most Absolute Force.
Lucky for us these Physical quantities are quantifiable and trackable and Velocity Based Training is the simplest, safest and most effective method to support your Training. Let’s finally see a practical situation.
We’re using Concentric Phase Velocity (Speed of the bar while going up, for the beginners) to make sure that:
- the Chosen weight allow us to lift at context specific speed. The context is the athletic movement that needs to be improved with its speed, its muscular contractions, its coordination (see Verkoshansky and the principle of Dynamic Correspondance). It doesn’t necessarily have to be “absolutely” fast but the intent of the lifter must be maximal acceleration. Remember, Strength is measured in Speed.
- Velocity Feedback allow us to Autoregulate the Load in the Lifting sessions and during the course of the Training program. Just to understand what I am saying, “to Autoregulate” means to adapt the load prescribed by the Training Program via a feedback that describes the daily readiness of the athlete. This technique is great to target optimal loading, prevent overloading or underloading, keep pace and consistency with the Training schedule and most of all, stay away from Overtraining and injuries.
- Also Improvements are quantifiable with simple and Basic Physics Concepts, see below. If the Velocity is the same in two different repetitions, the difference in the weight itself determines the improvement (provided that the same maximal intent of acceleration and range of motion are kept in the two lifts). Else if the weight lifted is the same but Velocity is increasing then the resulting difference in Velocity itself will determine improvement. Last note for this logical delirium, since performances and readiness levels are really varying and unstable, look for a solid 15% improvement in Load or Velocity performances and check that these performances are consistent within consecutive weeks before you unbottle your champagne!
Case 1 is the same velocity comes from similar acceleration (when Range of Motion is constant). More Mass is moved hence more Force.
Case 2 is Same Mass was lifted but more Velocity (which is provided by more Acceleration). This also equals more Force applied.
As you may have noticed reading this article , there is another important feature, provided by the increased knowledge and the awareness acquired by a Coach adopting this kind of Tracking devices. To be able to Quantify and apply different Physics Concepts allows to go in depth analysing our choices and the gestures with more key informations and increased awareness. Tracking helps use basic physics concepts that may be difficult to quantify otherwise. Once again Tracking promotes knowledge and awareness of what is happening and what should be happening during the exercise. Thus, Tracking also provides the Coach and the lifter with the perfect choice regarding the many choices that must be taken during Programming. As an example, let’s take a look once again to the previous example: it is possible that an improvement in Lifting Speed will not carry on to the same improvement in Running Speed. This gives the coach an opportunitiy to reconsider the athlete’s weak points and how to reorganise the training sessions. In my opinion this ultimately the most important value provided mid to long term by implementing Velocity Feedback into the Training Sessions.