Velocity vs. Percentage Based Training


When I competed in kickboxing I used to train every day, sometimes twice a day, although I had to study and, later, I had a full time job. Being a student-working athlete requires the most commitment and it is the most stressful to the mind and to the body, even if my coaches designed for me and my teammates a good periodization, peaking at the most important tournament of the year. I was so motivated that there was no sacrifice that I was not willing to do. When you are in that state of mind and you have not the knowledge about training and physiology, it is very easy to overreach and hit the overtraining syndromes. Athletes are used to train also when they feel sore, tired or they don’t really feel like to train, so they develop a great ability to overcome (or ignore) the negative signs that come from their body. That is a huge risk for an athlete, because all the results and the improvements coming from his work could be thrown away. This happen also if you are following the most detailed training program ever done, because there are too many factors that change during the time and cannot be preplanned.

Sleeping, hydration, nutrition and psychological state, for instance, change every day and their variation can greatly influence your performance. Furthermore training volume impacts everybody differently. It means that also your Best Performances float depending on your daily condition and it becomes difficult to use them as a reference in Periodisation. Of course 1RM is a great tool to understand the state of strength of a subject but testing 1RM early in the micro cycle and fix the relative intensity for several weeks of training (Percentage Based Training approach) could lead to big mistakes. other than an even bigger waste of time and energies.

That being said, Percentage Based Training and 1RM appears like a limited approach for all these reasons:

  • 1RM floats daily depending of all the factor I mentioned;
  • It could be tested with different methods: increasing weight since you cannot perform more than one repetition without a technical fail or fixing a given weight and do as much repetitions as you can and then calculate 1RM by math. Both methods can result in less physical energies and increased stress to your nervous system, affecting negatively the following workout;
  • Somebody says that looking on a PR to set a training program works as motivation to give your best in every session, but it can also be misleading if it has been the result of a particularly good day.

A training program works only if it fits you and that is the point and the topic of this article: how coaches and athletes can manage training loads on daily variation? The answer is a form of periodization that adjusts day-by-day following the adaptions of the athlete, this approach is named Autoregulation.

Several studies have been done about Autoregulation and during years many methods have been created.

Verkhoshansky talks more generally of “Cyberneting programming and periodization” 1)Supertraining (Paperback) , where the original preplanned program is regularly modified by subjective and objective feedback from the concurrent performance state, by assigning a value to the perception of the load to the subject, using a numerical scale called “RATE OF PERCEIVED EFFORT” (RPE). The registration of it in each set will guide the next set. It is a quantified extension of the  feelings of the athlete and his coach intuit. The perception of the load drives the choice of Loading or Deloading.

Bryan Mann’s studies about “AUTO-REGULATION PROGRESSIVE RESISTANCE EXERCISE” (APRE)2) “The effect of autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise vs. linear periodization on strength improvements in college athletes” (The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research) demonstrated greater improvements in strength in the APRE group compared to LP group.

All these approach are great but lacks the objective feedback that a true Cybernetic Programming requires.

Velocity Based Training represent the last frontier about autoregulation approach and fully complies the requirement of Cybernetic because speed represents the Objective Metric needed to give the full vision of the Athlete Status.  VBT is based upon the principle that intensity is directly correlated with the mean speed of the concentric part of the lift:very briefly and very simply any given intensity has its own speed and therefore you can just substitute intensity or relative load with mean speed 3)“The effect of movement velocity as a measure to control resistance training intensity” (J. Gonzalez-Badillo, M.C. Marques, L. Sanchez-Medina) .

Velocity Zones

The movement velocity become the key parameter to set the exercise intensity. The slower the velocity achieved against a given (absolute) load, the greater the intensity. Velocity-based resistance training represent a more accurate and rational system of autoregulation, because it refers to objective parameter that are specific and not a pure subjective estimation of the perception of the load, compared to other system like RPE and APRE. Nevertheless it offers a much more stable and reliable metric to program your training sessions compared to 1RM.

With VBT method velocity become the reference to set the training target, taking the place of 1RM and, thanks to BEAST, it has never been easier. You can see the speed of your lifts and test your conditions in real time, since the first rep and check the course of your performance. Furthermore every training session is recorded on the web portal avoiding you to take note about exercises, weights, repetitions, sets, speeds etc. by your self.

Technology will never replace human sensations, experience or intuition. It is a just a tool that can well support you in the learning process of yourself.

References   [ + ]

1. Supertraining (Paperback)
2.  “The effect of autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise vs. linear periodization on strength improvements in college athletes” (The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research)
3. “The effect of movement velocity as a measure to control resistance training intensity” (J. Gonzalez-Badillo, M.C. Marques, L. Sanchez-Medina) 
Martina Marson

by Martina Marson

From kick boxing to free style wrestling, through functional and strength training. Beast Sensor addicted. Training is my job, my passion and my life.