1RM and velocity based training: a complete guide

Since the start, VBT has been used to estimate 1RM strength in the gym. Here is everything you need to know.

VBT and 1RM. 1RM and VBT.

Since it’s inception, the number one use of VBT devices has been to calculate an athletes’ 1RM from a series of sub-maximal sets. This may be velocity based training’s most well researched utility.

This has proliferated to the point that is seems like VBT is almost synonymous with estimating 1RM. Any marketing for VBT devices or any guide to using VBT will have estimating 1RM at the top of its list.

I certainly believe there are huge benefits and applications for velocity based 1RM testing protocols (we will cover these shortly). But there are also fundamental limitations to be aware of and plenty of room for innovation.

This is going to be a substantial article. I’ve endeavoured to get down just about everything I think is worth knowing about the theory and practice of using velocity in 1RM estimation, its best uses, and some suggestions on how to make it even more valuable.

Here is an outline if you want to skim ahead to the sections that interest you most:

  • Background and limitations on 1RM testing (non-VBT approach)
  • Protocols and principles for using VBT to estimate 1RM (e1RM)
  • Limitations to the e1RM
  • Applying e1RM in training
  • Future directions for e1RM, profiling and tracking progress in the gym

Background on traditional rep max testing

1RM is the abbreviation for one repetition maximum. This number (in kilograms or pounds) represents the heaviest weight an athlete can lift for a single full repetition on a given exercise. Any heavier and the lifter would fail to raise the weight.

The entire sport of powerlifting is built around maximising and then expressing the highest possible 1RM on three barbell lifts (squat, bench press and deadlift).

Powerlifting - A sport built around maximising the 1RM
Powerlifting - A sport built around maximising the 1RM

In strength and conditioning and even general fitness settings, the 1RM (also sometimes a 3RM or 5RM) has been adopted as a method for measuring an athletes strength levels at any given moment, tracking progress in their gym work or as a number to base programming decisions off - as used in percentage based training.

Typical 1RM testing protocols

To find a true 1RM, by definition, an athlete has to progressively prove they can lift heavier and heavier loads until they find the load that they cannot lift, i.e. the point of failure for this movement. There are various specific protocols to do this, from a full day powerlifting competition through to weight room testing days, or even informal AMRAP (as many reps as possible) tests done during regular training to find an RM for varying rep ranges.

In essence they all have an athlete gradually add more and more load to the bar, resting for 3-5 minutes between attempts until they cannot complete a full rep. The last successfully lifted load becomes the 1RM.

A typical reps recommendation based on % of 1RM. The exact %s can vary by exercise and experience.
A typical reps recommendation based on % of 1RM. The exact %s can vary by exercise and experience.

1RM applications

Once a 1RM value is established, beyond just ego, there are plenty of ways this can be applied in training.

The most common is to base all future sets, reps and loading decisions around this 1RM with percentage based training (%BT) program design. In %BT, multi-week strength blocks are formulated in advance working backwards from the 1RM value, deriving load and repetition combinations based on well-established percentages of 1RM that correlate with harder or easier training prescription (such as with Prilepin’s chart).

This is then cycled with frequent 1RM retests to calibrate the training prescription relative to the athletes progression.

Prilepin's programming chart. Recommendations for lifting volumes at given intensities
Prilepin's programming chart. Recommendations for lifting volumes at given intensities.

This %BT approach represents an “all-in” commitment to the 1RM, with the load lifted on testing day serving as judge and jury for all that will happen in the sessions that follow a testing day. More mild applications also exist, such as simply using 1RM tests as a motivational tool to celebrate progress and keep training exciting, helping lifters push their limits and break psychological barriers or calibrate self-confidence, or as a measure of progress to help with program adherence and adjustments.

In powerlifting 1RM is king, and so all training is done with the aim of improving and even manipulating the lifts to become stronger and more efficient to increase the value of the 1RM.

This doesn’t mean training has to be based on 1RMs or percentages as described above (there are many ways to improve the 1RM without directly basing training off a fixed 1RM), but the goal is still ultimately to increase the weight on the bar when it comes to stepping on the platform.

Limitations of non-VBT 1RM testing

Regular 1RM testing certainly has drawbacks that you should be aware of before you make it part of your training calendar.

Collecting true 1RMs is time consuming, can take away from your opportunity to develop your athletes, is potentially distracting, and in some settings has the potential to become a source of injury risk.

1RM testing has inherent risks

Depending on who you ask, the 1RM testing process can be risky. Exposing athletes to loads that they may not be able to lift. It is common to see athletes lifting beyond their technical limits when amped up for 1RM testing, and compromised form can be a potential contributor to injury risk.

By definition, to find a genuine 1RM an athlete must push beyond the point of failure, a limit that may expose and test weaknesses with few guardrails.

1RM testing can be risky if done poorly. These risks can also be mitigated.
1RM testing can be risky if done poorly. These risks can also be mitigated.

These risks can be mitigated; checked egos, good coaching, safe gyms and excellent spotters reduce the risks of a testing day significantly, but they still exist.

1RM testing is time consuming

Rest between genuine maximum efforts needs to be long. Testing 1RM necessitates multiple high intensity reps for each exercise. Even a single rep of this type of work is incredibly taxing on the nervous system. Subsequent reps need to be done in a fresh state to give us meaningful data, so the rest times tend to become lengthy.

It isn’t just the time cost within a session that can be a problem. Setting aside an entire training session every 4-8 weeks for a testing day can be a significant distraction to the momentum of an athletic development program.

In the real-world, athletes miss sessions, gyms are busy, schedules are tight, and coaches are under the pump. Every single time an athlete steps in the gym is a golden opportunity to do great work, make progress, and improve resilience.

In an S&C setting like a high school, college, or private facility, giving up one out of every ~6-weeks for a testing day means sacrificing 16% of your planned training sessions. Layer in a handful of missed sessions to illness, injury, scheduling conflicts, or (lets be realistic) hangovers, and we can easily be losing upwards of 20% of an athlete’s possible lifting weeks a year. These interruptions accumulate and can slow down progress.

I have to ask myself as a coach whether there is enough genuine benefits in performing regular 1RM test at the cost of 16% of my opportunity to effect an athlete’s performance with regular training sessions.

PIC pie chart (missing 1/6 sessions due to testing, compared with 100% training)

1RM fluctuates with readiness

Readiness is now a well understood phenomenon and shorthand for how different training, recovery, psychological, and lifestyle variables can lead to daily and even hourly fluctuations in physical performance, including strength levels.

H Dorrell, 2020 showed VBT programming to deliver superior results compared with a percentage based approach
H Dorrell, 2020 showed VBT programming to deliver superior results compared with a percentage based approach.

It is therefore possible that using a 1RM from one state of readiness as the basis for a %BT prescription covering multiple weeks can lead to some under or over dosing of training in a plan.

Let’s take 3x5 @85% of 1RM as an example prescription. One week, an athlete may be 5-10% stronger than they were on testing day thanks to higher readiness and adaptations. On this day the programmed 85% load is actually more like 77% of their strength capacity that day. They are now now working hard enough, leaving good quality work in the tank.

Alternatively in another week this same athlete might have 5-10% worse readiness than on their most recent testing day, so 85% now feels like 92%. The planned 3x5 is now almost physically impossible, with each set significantly harder than intended.

Testing day arousal inflates 1RM

Don’t get me wrong, testing days can bring about incredible benefits for culture, competition, camaraderie and more. At Core Advantage, the gym where I coach, we integrate in-gym combines every 6-weeks. All our athletes will gun to set new personal bests on a 10m sprint, vertical jump, 5-10-5 agility and isometric strength levels (along with their normal programming). These are my favourite weeks in the gym, the energy is electric. (And you thought I was going to tell you never to do testing didn’t you!)

Testing day energy is gold for its ability to boost performance, helping athletes squeeze out new best efforts. This can lead to a sizeable bump in recorded 1RMs, perhaps 10-15% compared with a less-motivating training environment.

This example video from Cal football hits the balance of pushing their teammates to crush it, but safely and with clean, hard-work.

If you are using testing for motivation and competition, then no harm. But if you use this inflated 1RM to inform programming decisions for the next training block it might be setting unrealistic progression targets when the day-to-day training energy settles in and suddenly all the programmed percentages feel well above comfortable.

Shouldn’t we be able to take this testing day energy and keep it at that level for all my training sessions?

I doubt it. Trying to emulate testing day energy all season long, with elevated arousal levels for two hours, 3-4 days per week (on top of team training and games), would simply be exhausting. Artificially driving this arousal is a fools errand, even in the most hard-core of programs.

Technique adjustments under max efforts

Technique used on genuine 1RMs are often different to the technique for submaximal sets, which are the bread-and-butter of most training.

This technique slip is common enough for us to qualify different levels of failure: “technical failure” being the point when technique crosses an acceptable threshold, and “complete failure”  where even with a technique adjustment the lifter still fails.

Different coaches will have different tolerances for technique slip, but regardless this creates more questions around the relevance of your 1RM as a pillar of programming decisions. Does a 1RM performed on testing day with atypical technique and an atypical environment (high arousal, longer rest, rounded spine, wonky shoulders etc) honestly reflect an athlete’s strength levels?

Let’s say an athlete lifts 100kg with great technique, but on 110kg they have a really horrible shoulder and elbow position. Yes they get the weight up, but it’s probably not a great way to be doing all of their benching with an elbow position like that. But now the whole team is hyped, back-slapping and ringing bells with a 110kg 1RM on their card!

So now their % based bench program is created working backwards from this high-arousal, ugly 110kg - setting all their training loads 5-10% above their technical limits.

Managing the limits of testing is good coaching

Ok so 1RM testing has it’s limits. But that’s not to say a good coach with competent lifters and a structured approach to 1RM tests can’t make them a safe and effective part of their programming and training!

In my opinion it takes talent, vigilance and meticulous planning to make the 1RM test an effective part of any training program.

But great coaching still can’t account for the most fundamental limitation of 1RM testing; that daily fluctuations in readiness will lead to under and over prescription of loads when using a fixed %BT approach.

Inevitably (this is blog about VBT after all!) one of the most efficient ways to solve these issues I have found is velocity tracking. The shortcomings of 1RM testing and %BT are what attracted me to using VBT in the first place.

With in-training velocity monitoring we can track the relationship between load and mean velocity to continuously calculate an estimated 1RM (e1RM). This is achievable without doing a single extra set outside the planned session.

That is a win-win in my book.

How does the VBT estimated 1RM work?

Estimated 1RM (e1RM from now on), is an athlete’s calculated maximum strength levels derived from a series of sub-maximal sets with velocity data; all without the need to perform an actual maximal repetition.

The e1RM is well-proven to be accurate and consistent, (although not perfect). When implemented well it can be accurate enough to use for progress tracking, gauging readiness or even to inform daily training loads in %BT programming (I call this percentage based training 2.0).

To find an e1RM value, we need to use some basic mathematics and have an understanding of two core concepts: the load velocity-profile, and the minimum velocity threshold.

I have an e1RM calculator that does the heavy mental lifting automatically. Grab it for free by signing up for my newsletter, you can join at the bottom of this article.

The load-velocity profile

The load-velocity profile is a linear (ish) graph that shows the relationship between the loads we lift, and the mean velocity we are able to generate for a given exercise.

The load velocity profile in VBT
The load velocity profile in VBT

Each athlete will have a subtly unique profile, and the profile will have different characteristics for each exercise (back squat vs bench press) and even for variations (full depth squat vs 1/4 squat, narrow grip vs competition bench press). The shape of this profile is also likely to change over time as an athlete develops their lifting skill and gets stronger. Lastly, the load velocity relationship is best utilised on classic strength movements, working with mean, or propulsive velocity values; it has less benefit on ballistic movements such as the Olympic lifts (for these I use a power profile instead).

The load power profile in VBT
The load power profile in VBT

Minimum velocity threshold

The second element of the e1RM equation is the minimum velocity threshold (MVT). This is the velocity that corresponds with a lifter’s 1RM. It’s literally the slowest speed at which a lifter can successfully complete a rep for the given exercise. Think of this as the end of the line for your load-velocity profile. In practical terms this represents your ability to produce enough acceleration on the weight to overcome gravity, any slower and the rep would be a fail.

An estimated 1Rm using VBT. This is done by calculating (or estimating) the minimum velocity threshold (MVT) for a lifter and exercise.
An estimated 1RM using VBT. This is done by calculating (or estimating) the minimum velocity threshold (MVT) for a lifter and exercise.

Just as the shape of an athlete’s load-velocity profile is unique, the MVT value is unique to each lifter and exercise. It is also likely to change over time - becoming slower as an athlete gets stronger - indicating better neuromechanical efficiency, force production and ability to maintain technique and tension under heavier weights. Incredibly strong powerlifters are able to complete deadlift reps as slow as 0.06m/s while for for a more intermediate lifter an MVT of 0.25m/s is much more typical. This represents a significant difference in e1RM calculated when the MVT value is individualised!

Guideline MVT values for standard strength movements.
Guideline MVT values for standard strength movements.

Test protocols for finding the e1RM

Ok so that’s the low-down on what goes into an e1RM, but how do we actually test for it?

There are a few different protocols (a bunch actually) for finding the e1RM, but they largely follow a similar formula:

*All % of 1RM values quoted below are rough estimates (no need to measure 1RM just to then perform an e1RM test!)

  • Complete 3-5 sets for 1-3 reps across a range of loads for the lift/variation.
  • Every rep should be completed with high intent. Aim to move each weight as fast as you can.
  • Sets should range from 30% - 85% of the individual’s expected 1RM.
  • Collect best-rep mean or propulsive velocity for each load (in m/s) with a velocity tracking tech (such as MetricVBT).
  • Rest 2 minutes between the light sets (<65%), extend this rest out to 3-4 minutes on the heavier sets (>65%).
  • Be strict on technique, no bouncing or flicking of the bar, no heels leaving the ground to artificially inflate velocity. Any reps that you aren’t happy with technically, discard them from the profile and use the next fastest rep from the set - review video if you are self coaching.
  • BONUS TIP: I avoid sets below 30% and above 92% of the expected 1RM because this is where velocity becomes non-linear and can skew the resulting e1RM

Once the best rep velocities are collected for each weight, plot these on a chart, and add in the linear trend line.

The VBTcoach Velocity Logbook and e1RM calculator, free resources when you sign up to the Newsletter
The VBTcoach Velocity Logbook and e1RM calculator, free resources when you sign up to the Newsletter

Once the trend line is applied, you will need to plug in your MVT value, apply a little algebra  (y = mx + b), solving for the value of the load at our MVT value (x). If maths or spreadsheets aren’t your strong point, get my free Google Sheet doc by joining the VBTcoach newsletter at the bottom of this blog and just punch your numbers in to get the right score quickly! (Soon this 1RM feature will be included in the MetricVBT app).

Alternative approaches to finding e1RM

There’s a growing list of alternative approaches to e1RM testing and application which are worth considering. Here are a few.

Curved load-velocity profiling

One novel approach that I quite like and find really interesting is from Steve Thompson (see references). Steve and his team aimed to solve for the non-linear elements of the profile by instead using a quadratic (?) load-velocity profile which allowed the subjects to jump on their lighter sets. By doing this Steve posits that the resulting load-velocity profile is more reflective of athletes’ capability.

The load velocity profile isn't always linear, especially in the extremes
The load velocity profile isn't always linear, especially in the extremes

This method is a little more involved and might not work for all exercises or contexts, but it could be a clever way to sneak in some explosive loaded jump training into your warm up sets while also finding an accurate e1RM value to track progress or program from!

Train-as-normal data collection

The most commonly described e1RM protocols suggest a specific testing session for data collection. While this has the benefits of being submaximal and more efficient than an actual 1RM testing session, sacrificing a normal session for testing is still a lost training day. Instead we can look at integrating e1RM profiling into the normal flow of training.

If we zoom out a little when looking at e1RM protocols, they looks a lot like a normal strength training session, with the data collection lining up nicely with a standard ramped warm-up set series. My approach is to simply collect the data needed for a profile passively during the course of normal training. I have the lifter complete their regular warm-up sets, collecting best rep mean velocity from each set along the way.

For intermediate and advanced lifters, their warm-up weights and ramp progression are likely very consistent; 1-plate, 2-plates, 3-plates, ramp up set, work sets. After the fourth set I punch these values into the e1RM calculator and voila! I have an e1RM to work with.

The train-as-normal approach is the best option when you are looking to apply this e1RM in a percentage based training (%BT) scenario. The daily e1RM becomes very low friction and becomes instantly applicable - with better warm-up set performance being rewarded with better top weights. In fact good studies have shown that %BT with a daily e1RM leads to superior results compared with training based on a fixed 1RM.

Dorrell et al, 2020, VBT vs percentage based training
Dorrell et al, 2020 (same study as earlier)

Limitations to the e1RM

There are still some limitations to the e1RM. I have touched on some already, but it’s worth covering them in more detail before we go on to explore the practical applications of e1RM.

The imperfection of the linear load-velocity profile

I mentioned earlier that the load-velocity profile is linear*-ish*. While a linear trend line fits quite nicely most of the time, it becomes less linear at the extremes.

On sets under ~30% of 1RM, there is an upper biomechanical limit to how fast strength exercises can move. This is due to the short range of motion and the need for a lifter to decelerate the bar in the later stages of the lift as they work to avoid leaving the ground or flying off the bench. Because of this, no matter how strong you get, incredibly light sets are unlikely to get much faster than a certain level. This ceiling varies, but for me on the bench press my 40kg set is pretty fixed at 1.0-1.1m/s even as my 1RM continues to go up and the velocity of my moderate and heavy sets rise considerably.

Progress on bar speed tends to be limited on very light sets. Notice the steeper rate of improvement with the 80kg set over these 10 weeks
Progress on bar speed tends to be limited on very light sets. Notice the steeper rate of improvement with the 80kg set over these 10 weeks

On the heavy end of the profile, the relationship becomes non-linear again. The velocity for reps above 95% of 1RM usually fall off the linear prediction for most exercises.

As an extra layer of complexity, with strong lifters this drop off can actually be reversed! Their 1RM velocity actually pushes further and further out above the linear prediction, as they seemingly just keep getting better as more weight is added to the bar!

The non-linear elements of a Load-velocity profile can be exercise specific
The non-linear elements of a Load-velocity profile can be exercise specific

This extended profile is particularly evident on deadlifts and sumo deadlifts. I think this is likely due to the lift being concentric-first and a different sticking point pattern compared to squats and presses.

So what is the solution?

Obviously it depends how in the weeds you want to get, and how important an accurate MVT or e1RM is for you. For the vast majority of use cases and contexts (including %BT applications), the linear profile and a ball-parked MVT value (suggestions in the next section below) will get the job done. For high level powerlifters and incredibly strong professional athletes - track cyclists and sprinters come to mind - you might need or want to explore some of these finer details if you intend on using the e1RM in your programming. Steve Thompson’s approach might be a good starting place for this.

The individual nature of a true minimum velocity threshold

There is a bit of debate about the individuality of the MVT value. Some practitioners consider this a fixed value that is constant across lifters and over time, while others (myself included) think of it as a an individual and dynamic value.

There are a range of well-established MVT values in the scientific research, and while they are mostly pretty reliable, individual factors, exercise variations, training history, genetics, experience, limb lengths and more can all impact the actual MVT an athlete will be able to complete their 1RM at.

I don’t think it really matters too much what exact value you use for the MVT, as long as it is roughly accurate (± 0.05m/s), and that you are consistent. If you try to constantly change the MVT every time you test e1RM then it will be impossible to determine whether any changes in e1RM are due to improvements in an athletes strength or due to the moving MVT. I would avoid changing an athlete’s MVT used in calculations any more often than once per 12-month period.

The table below provides an extended list of MVT values that I like to work with, these have proven pretty reliable for me. You can use an MVT from those below or you can find your own MVT by doing an actual 1RM, 2RM, or 3RM and collecting the mean velocity for the final repetition of the test set (please, do not do this MVT test on the first day back training - it will not be valid or useful).

1RM velocity values
Typical MVT values by exercise. These can vary for individuals.

This method requires a maximal test - although potentially much less frequently - which is exactly what we are trying to avoid with e1RM calculations in the first place! 😞

How do I handle these uncertainties?I just use the ballparked MVT values, changing only every 12-18 months (even if a milestone is passed more frequently). My goal is simply to highlight progress, not prescribe loads. Along the way I explain to my athletes that it isn’t an actual e1RM just a measure of their progress on an exercise.

This is still a young science, so there are kinks to be worked out!

Estimation error due to non-standardised protocols

Another challenge in finding valid e1RM scores is the impact of load selections. Ideally every test would use the same % of 1RM  values (40%, 60%, 70%, 80% for example) to standardise the test, but that requires knowing your 1RM… defeating the purpose of performing an e1RM test in the first place. 🤦‍♀️

Instead I think sticking with standard fixed loads (60kg, 100kg, 140kg, 160kg for example) is probably the most practical solution. This allows you to follow the same warm-up sequence and you can simply shift the final load up by +5kg (160kg → 165kg) if you get stronger and need a different sequence to ramp up for your top weights.

Ego attachment to an estimated measure of strength

The final limitation to e1RM is a psychological one. For all the benefits of knowing and tracking an athlete’s 1RM or e1RM, it has one key failure point: the athlete now knows the actual potential weight they might be able to lift.

This sounds strange, but for some athletes, knowing their max is actually more harmful than it is helpful. For the athlete who loves to train hard and aims to max out every session, being shown their 1RM becomes a challenge; “the formula says I can lift 160kg… well let’s find out if I can beat that!”.

None of these limitations are deal-breakers for the e1RM. Just like with 1RM testing, good coaches will be able to find solutions to create consistency and work-arounds or guidelines for their athletes. It is still important to be aware of these so you can adjust your training plan accordingly. Alternatively, you always have the option to simply not work with any 1RM or e1RM value, instead focusing on velocity zones, RPE, linear periodisation or any other number of programming strategies.

Applications for the e1RM

There are a number of ways to integrate an e1RM value into your training and programming. In fact, because you can get an updated score every single training session, there are even more benefits and potential use cases for an e1RM than there are for the classic testing-day 1RM.

More efficient strength testing and percentage based training

The most obvious way to use e1RM is as a direct substitute for 1RM testing.

Instead of interrupting training with a testing day at the end of every training block or mesocycle, e1RM can be calculated each day from just 3-4 warm-up sets in a regular training session. This turns every workout into a testing opportunity, collecting data during the normal flow of training to find an accurate and appropriate strength level to determine the day’s training loads or simply track progress and fatigue.

I call this “percentage based training 2.0”; finding the e1RM in the exact moment it is going to be used to calculate work set intensities. This autoregulates training stress and allows you to modify your programming much more dynamically, dialling back load in response to fatigue accumulation, or pushing athletes up at a faster rate if they are adapting and responding well to their schedule.

Progress tracking

Higher frequency data collection allows you to capture a higher resolution picture of how your athletes are responding to their program. This can be done at a one-by-one level or at a team-wide level. Are they getting stronger most weeks? Is performance dropping off due to fatigue, monotony, plateauing etc? What effect did that tournament/road-trip/double-header have on our strength and power?

Seeing this information update with every session allows you to intervene sooner and with greater confidence if needed to highlight team-wide trends in performance and adaptation to training, or even spot individual outliers.

When it comes to progress tracking with e1RM the accuracy of your MVT value is not as absolutely critical as it might be in say percentage based training. As long as the MVT is kept stable and the data collection protocol are relatively consistent any meaningful change in e1RM can be attributed up to changing performance levels from the athlete.

Some coaches and researchers are even pushing for the idea of using an MVT of 0.0m/s to track progress instead of the velocity at 1RM. They call the score calculated from this Vzero the theoretical load that would occur when velocity hits 0.0m/s. This doesn’t actually reflect any actually possible lift or isometric potential but instead adds a layer of abstraction to strength scoring and standardises the number across groups of athletes.

Vzero, a novel approach to replace e1RM and mitigate the MVT issues
Vzero, a novel approach to replace e1RM and mitigate the MVT issues.

The future of e1RM and profiling

The state of e1RM and VBT applications got to where it is today through lots of experimentation both formal and informal, so don’t be afraid to tinker with the methods described above to find what works for you. Personally, I think there is still plenty of scope for further innovation around calculating and utilising e1RM, and velocity/power profiling more broadly.

Current protocols for e1RM data collection use a single session’s data to generate the profile, which means each e1RM calculation a distinct and siloed value constrained to a single training day.

With only 3-5 data points from a given day, each set has an outsized influence on the athlete’s performance profile (and potentially your programming decisions), relative to that sets much more minor place in the bigger training picture.

This siloed session-by-session approach creates volatility, inadvertently emphasising outlier sessions, highlighting the best and worst sessions (or even individual sets) within a progress chart over time. In reality, each training session is just a single brick within the larger structure that is long term strength and power development.

In my opinion, we need a reformatted calculation for e1RM that grounds this profiling in the larger training context for that athlete. Ideally this would be a dynamic, evolving score, that applies a weighted rolling average to our training data. This approach to profiling should take into account the lifters entire training history for an exercise to highlight short and long term trends rather than just the outlier sessions.

I have been working on a method to do this using an exponentially weighted, rolling average approach to calculating e1RM (and all other profiling scores). This would help coaches and lifters measure their adaptations in the gym with incredible simplicity, greater accuracy and relevance, and a high degree of confidence that the score is indeed reflective of their progress and/or fatigue over time. This single metric for each athlete and exercise would respond to improving performance by gradually increasing, or drift lower as fatigue accumulates or the quality of training output dips.

Less spikes and dips and more trends and patterns.

My working title for this metric is a performance index and it would have a variation for strength, power, and even hypertrophy depending on your goals. The performance index formulas are still in development, being calibrated with real world training data. I will be writing an article diving deeper into this concept very soon I hope!

Make sure you join my newsletter below to be notified when I publish new articles, and get plenty of other exclusive VBT resources including my e1RM calculator.

References and resources

  • Gonzalez-Badillo JJ, Sanchez-Medina L. 2010. Movement velocity as a measure of loading intensity in resistance training. Int J Sports. Med 3: 347–352.
  • Dohoney, J, et al. 2002. Prediction of one repetition maximum (1-rm) strength from a 4-6 rm and a 7-10 rm submaximal strength test in healthy young adult males.
  • Jidovtseff, B. 2011. Using the load-velocity relationship for 1RM prediction.
  • Picerno, P. 2016. 1RM prediction: a novel methodology based on the force–velocity and load–velocity relationships.
  • Lake, J. et al. 2017. Comparison of Different Minimal Velocity Thresholds to Establish Deadlift One Repetition Maximum.
  • Balsalobre-Fernandez et al. 2017. Load-Velocity Profiling in the Military Press: Effects of Gender and Training.
  • Ruf, L., et al. 2018. Validity and Reliability of the Load-Velocity Relationship to Predict the One-Repetition Maximum in Deadlift
  • Garcia-Ramos, A. et al. 2019. Reliability and Validity of Different Methods of Estimating the One-Repetition Maximum During the Free-Weight Prone Bench Pull Exercise.
  • Garcia-Ramos, A. et al. 2019. The Load-Velocity Profiles of Three Upper Body-Pushing Exercises in Men and Women.
  • Hughes et al 2019. Using a Load-Velocity Relationship to Predict 1RM in Free-Weight Exercise: A Comparison of the Different Methods.
  • Perez-Castilla et al. 2019. Validity of Different Velocity-Based Methods and Repetitions-to-Failure Equations for Predicting the One Repetition Maximum During 2 Upper-Body Pulling Exercises.
  • Lake, J et al. 2019. Comparison of Different Minimal Velocity Thresholds to Establish Deadlift One Repetition Maximum.
  • Dorrell H, et al, 2020. Comparison of Velocity-Based and Traditional Percentage-Based Loading Methods on Maximal Strength and Power Adaptations.
  • Weakley, J., 2020. Velocity-Based Training: From Theory to Application. Strength & Conditioning Journal.
  • Steve W. Thompson, et al, 2021, A Novel Approach to 1RM Prediction Using the Load-Velocity Profile: A Comparison of Models

Unleash VBT.
Dominate your training.

Register to unlock a whole stack of free velocity tracking and training resources, guides and programming tools.

Perfect for powerlifters, strength and conditioning coaches, personal trainers, and committed gym junkies alike.

Claim your free content