A continuum for velocity based training application

A guide to the many real-world applications of velocity based training

Don't know where to start with VBT?⁠⁠

Overwhelmed by choices and decisions about how to use VBT in your training?

The following guide should be of some help.

Keep reading to learn the many different ways VBT can take your training and programming to the next level.

Getting started with velocity based training

One of the beautiful things about velocity based training is its versatility.

Instead of being a single universal programming methodology, VBT covers a wide range of tools that expands the ways athletes and coaches can approach their training. Just like a well equiped weights room or a GPS system can enhance the training process, tracking velocity and other metrics with VBT technology gives you the power to calibrate training decisions in real time and further enhance your outcomes.

Fundamentally, there are five broad categories of practical VBT application, all with plenty of overlap to each other.

A broad overview of the ways velocity based training can be utilised

The categories start with beginner applications working from the lowest friction uses of VBT and continue through to the most sophisticated and advanced applications of VBT in real world training environments.

There is a range of factors to consider when applying VBT, I tried to consider all of the following into the continuum:

  • Ease of use
  • Time cost⁠⁠ to apply
  • Level of forward planning needed⁠⁠
  • Staff cost ⁠⁠(time and $$$)
  • Data management and presentation
  • Equipment required⁠⁠

Try not to think of these categories as being exclusive or binary methods but instead like the ingredients used when creating a meal. Just like the most delicious meals usually contain more than 1 ingredient, great programs incorporate multiple strategies, tools and methodologies together, driving outcomes and athlete buy-in without overwhelming the athletes with unnecessary complexity.⁠⁠

The example applications included in each level are just that, they are examples. The methods that follow are far from an exhaustive collection, so feel free to get creative, iterate and modify how you use the VBT toolkit!

Level 1: Real-time feedback

Providing real-time objective feedback during your training sessions is scientifically proven to turbo charge the training process (1, 2, 3). Use this feedback to drive motivation, increase lifting intent and foster competition.

Feedback of results can increase performance in real time...

... over 6 weeks of training...

... And increase transfer to sports specific athletic tests.

Start here:

At it's most basic you don't have to do anything with the data after each session, simply work in real time with the data throughout a single session, encouraging athletes to lift a little faster each set, or beat the person training next to them.

  • Display results on a TV screen or iPad in real-time, encouraging athletes to beat their last efforts.
  • Encourage your training group to find their own ways to compete on these numbers.
  • This works great for jump testing or as a way to increase training intent on warm up sets.

Then try this:

Make this real-time feedback system a little more sophisticated by creating leaderboards for your athletes. Keeping track of a few key milestone numbers and scores on your favourite movements. Feel free to create new challenges on a monthly basis or continue the same competitions all year round. The important thing is less about keeping and maintaining meticulous data records and more about driving better training outputs in real time, as often as possible.

Some of our favourite simple metrics to compete on:

  • Velocity on a 1x bodyweight trap bar deadlift
  • Velocity on a 0.5x bodyweight bench press
  • Peak power in Watts per kilogram of bodyweight (W/KG). This is great on any exercise, particularly ballistic lifts and jumps.
  • Peak velocity on a countermovement jump
  • Most push ups above 1.0m/s in a row

And level up by:

Contextual feedback is the holy grail when it comes to feedback. It helps answer the most important VBT question that is so often left unanswered:

What do these numbers actually mean?
  • Start saving your athletes velocities across all weights for a given exercise as a benchmark for your athletes to compare themselves to each session.
  • Aiming to beat last sessions velocity or stay above the rolling 30 day average for velocities serves as a great yard stick to be constantly improving.

One of our free coaching resources is a mobile-friendly spreadsheet for logging all your lifting data to help your athletes understand their daily lifting velocities within the context of their last session and their rolling averages. Get your free copy here.

Level 2: Zones and targets

In the world before VBT, lifting performance was quantified by how heavy was it, and how many did you do.

Velocity tracking allows us to precisely and objectively understand the quality of effort on each and every rep. Velocity targets and zones can become a novel way to hunt progression beyond just staking plates on the bar.

Start here:

Set arbitrary velocity targets for your athletes to reach or maintain.

  • Set a velocity and try to hit it. "Your goal is to hit 100kg for six reps staying above 0.85m/s"
  • Pick an exercise and continue increasing the load until you hit a given velocity range. "Let's do 3x3 at a velocity of 0.4 - 0.5m/s". In this scenario the velocity dictates the load and not the other way around.
  • Velocity capping. Do not let an athlete increase load until that velocity has been surpassed. "Once you hit 3 reps on 1.5x BW for a 0.45m/s mean velocity then we can progress the weight."

*Be warned that using velocity zones to target specific training qualities (strength-speed as an example) can quickly become impractical and granular, adding plenty of friction and complexity for little benefit to actual physiological adaptation. More to come on this in the future.

Then try this:

Peak power targeting. Continue increasing the load until the peak power curve starts to plateau or turn negative.

Peak power is a polynomial curve for most exercises.

  • Working sets are then aimed at performing the maximum number of watts in each and every set. "Let's hit ten total reps at above 235W"
  • Great for movements like cleans and loaded jumps or throws where peak power loads can actually feel heavier than many lifters would instinctively self-select.

Go next level by:

Individualised velocity targets and programming. There are a few ways to use this method, but the basic concept is that an athletes daily load and progressions are dictated by that individuals lifting context.

One great application of this that also incorporates some autoregulation elements is to use a traffic light system for progression:

  • Green: If warm ups are all >95%* then progress as planned
  • Orange: If warm up sets are 85-95% repeat the last sessions numbers
  • Red: If warm up sets are <85% deload by reducing reps and/or loads**

*The exact %s used can be based on last sessions velocities at the same weight or with a 30 day rolling average.

**You might also need to play with the exact thresholds for your training context, if you have this autoregulation system dialled in well, you should be progressing more weeks than you go backwards.

You can create your own traffic light system from our VBT training logbook in the free coaches resources.

This is a good training day, green lights across the board relative to last sessions numbers and the 30 day rolling average
This is a less than ideal training day. Orange and red lights for velocity on almost all sets.

Level 3: Performance testing

A traditional hallmark in so many athletic training programs is the testing day.

Every given number of weeks athletes take a session away from their training to max out on key lifts and determine how successful their last training block has been or how hard they worked in the off-season. A great culture builder and reward system for hard workers, testing days certainly have their pros and cons for application.

With velocity based training, this semi-regular testing day approach is still definitely an option, but VBT also opens up a whole world of low friction ongoing testing strategies.

By using VBT as part of the standard training process coaches can simply collect velocity data from every single training session as it occurs to calculator performance, set training goals, monitor progress, and adjust training interventions as required.

Team sports keep score during scrimmage, golfers count strokes during practice rounds, so it makes sense that we should keep track of lifting scores in more sessions than not?

Start here:

Pick a given exercise and regularly test performance on this movement/metric combination.

  • Peak power at a 25% of bodyweight jump squat/trap bar jump
  • Max velocity on a countermovement jump
  • Mean velocity on a 100kg squat
  • Mean velocity on a 1x Bodyweight deadlift

Then try this:

Any session where you complete 3 or more sets across a range of loads can be used to create a load velocity profile. From that profile, you can make any number of extrapolations out to specific key performance scores.

  • 1RM predictions. Working on a blog that will go much deeper on all things 1RM, stay tuned!
  • Vzero estimations. The same fundamental principle as the 1RM prediction but instead of using a minimum velocity threshold (which can be troublesome) it uses a velocity of 0m/s for the calculation. I have a theory that this number could serve as a good placeholder for your IMTP maximum strength numbers.

Go next level by:

The load velocity profile itself can be used to create an overall picture of your session performance, taking into account velocity across every set to give a single calculation of overall lift performance.

  • The curve score is a complete picture of an athletes performance on a given exercise across all loads. This provides context on technical efficiency, strength and power on a movement while also tracking progress over time. This number can be applied to any exercise and can be measured as an absolute value or divided by bodyweight to create a relative score. The best part of this number is it can be improved not just by lifting heavier weights, but by trying to increase your velocities across all sets from the second you start tracking.

Level 4: Autoregulation

In many ways, autoregulation is the holy grail for VBT.

The ability to make granular training decisions - in real time - has the potential to be an absolute game changer if applied well. The downside is that it can be incredibly time consuming to implement with any consistency, with the burden of data management quickly becoming an inhibitory factor on training if done poorly.

Start here:

In set fatigue monitoring. Using velocity fatigue within a set is a great way to avoid the unnecessary stress of regularly training into failure. Velocity stop points become great ways to keep your sets focused and optimise load for any given session.

  • 10% fatigue, is an ideal goal for any power based training such as jumps or olympic lifts. This fatigue can be focused on watts or velocity output
  • 20% fatigue is a common strength stop point, keeping sets to ~8RPE
  • 40% fatigue is more commonly associated with technical failure for most movements so stopping sets at 35% can be a tactic if avoiding failure is your goal

Fatigue points over a 10RM set. What is the sweet spot in fatigue will be dependant on the goals and time of season

Then try this:

Using the traffic light system mentioned in the zones and targets section above is itself a form of autoregulation

Go next level by:

Combining RPE and VBT

  • In session micro-adjustments.Based on performance each and every set, adjust the load or volume of future sets and make granular loading decisions.Works brilliantly when combined with RPE systems.

Dynamic programming. Adjust training loads and volumes in real time based on readiness determined by velocity, RPE or a combination

Level 5: Programming and periodisation

Long term planning and program manipulation based around a combination of velocity and non-velocity methods.

To do this you would need to have general and specific periodisation goals and objectives in mind before taking your understanding and experience with any of the above VBT methods to weave these into the plan as a way to enhance your training outcomes.

  • Incorporate one or many of the previously covered methods into a forward looking plan to strategically optimise performance.
  • Adjust autoregulation or fatigue thresholds, target strength or power adaptations and control training volumes across the training calendar.

Velocity based training is so much more than training speed-strength and performing dynamic effort sets. Instead start thinking more creatively about what it is you want to reinforce or calibrate in your current training set up, there is a good chance a well chosen VBT strategy could go a long way to helping.

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