Build Powerful Muscles With Velocity-Based Training

Understand the benefits and limitations of velocity-based training.

Velocity-based training (VBT) is far from a new concept; however, it's been gaining popularity in recent years. Unlike percentage-based training, in which you work off a percentage of your one-rep max, VBT focuses on the speed of the bar.

Benefits of Velocity-Based Training

VBT allows you to train to a specific adaptation by finding its corresponding value on the force/velocity curve. If you move the bar more slowly than the target speed, you need to decrease the weight. If you move it faster, you need to increase the weight. Here are the target bar speeds associated with trainable goals (in meters per second), along with the corresponding weight percentages:

  • Absolute strength — .15-.35 m/s; 90-100%
  • Power — .45-.75 m/s; 30-80%
  • Speed strength — 1-1.5 m/s; 30-60%
  • Max speed — >1.5 m/s; <30%

As you can see, the percentage values are quite broad and have more room for error than the corresponding speed values.

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Another benefit: rather than guessing how you feel on a particular day, bar speed determines your capacity on the day. For example, if the bar moves more slowly than you expect on a particular workout, you know you're fatigued and may need to scale back your training or focus more on recovery.

Also, velocity-based training creates competition, something athletes love.

Limitations of VBT

I have not had success using VBT for assistance lifts. I found the best response using VBT for core lifts, using a progressive day-to-day or week-to-week increase in load with assistance-type movements.

Another aspect of programming VBT is training for mental toughness. If the goal of the session is to push to an uncomfortable place, you will not often hit optimal speeds for the lift. Don't try to hit particular speeds when your goal is to push to the max mentally. If you're fatigued, you will fail and give up with more in your mental tank.

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How to Measure Bar Speed

Until recently, devices made to measure velocity have been very expensive. As with most new devices, as the technology gets better understood and reproduced, the cost goes down and products are made available to more facilities. Today, products from GymAware, Push and Tendo are more affordable, not only to large facilities but on a consumer level. Not all VBT devices are created equal. Research the cost and functionality of VBT devices based on your reason and goals for using VBT in your particular setting.

If you are new to velocity-based training, my advice is to get a consumer model device for under $200 and start experimenting with your own training.

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