Mid-2022 has not been a good block of training for me.
Earlier this year I finished up a killer six months of work under the watchful eye of Charlie from Melbourne Strength Culture (great powerlifting coaches, check em out).
I was in a great spot to build on these gains over the southern hemisphere winter…
…only to have it turn largely to mush.
I can lay the blame on a super busy period that included the public launch of the MetricVBT app, a grumpy shoulder, too many meetings, and a dose of the spicy cough. Needless to say things aren’t quite where I hoped they would be as mid-winter rolled around!
So, as I go through a bit of a re-build phase to gain back my lost strength, I thought it would be interesting to consider how I leverage velocity tracking.
1. Load on the bar
Not being much of an athlete any more, I largely lift to stay in good coaching shape and for longevity purposes. In service of that, I dabble in power specific work but the heart of my gym training is about getting and staying strong.
With that in mind it is logical that my primary focus is getting the weight on the bar back to where it was at the start of the year. To do this, I am having a bit fun with some linear-ish programming, aiming to add 2.5 - 5kg on my key lifts every workout for as long as that can be sustained.
Right now that means my programming locks in those weight increases every session. Soon enough I will start running into limits, at which point the “ish” part of linear-ish will become much more relevant and I will apply some readiness tracking to my training.
2. Readiness compared to my 30-day average
I use a 30-day average for velocity (best rep mean velocity) on each weight across my warm-up sets as a way to determine real-time readiness and fatigue levels.
I call this approach traffic light training, the idea being to flag a session as being a green, yellow or red depending on bar speed and readiness. This then determines progression for that days top weights.
Green light. If most of my sets are above the 30-day (or just close enough to it) then I am set to go after it and I push the weights according to the linear plan.
Yellow light. If warm-up set velocities are a little bit down (say 2.5-5% below the average) that’s a mild warning and I will repeat the weights from last week, maybe with a rep or two less on the top sets.
Red light. If today’s velocities are really down (like 5-10% below average or more) then I am likely pretty fatigued, so going hard isn’t the best plan. In this situation I will reduce volume, or even cut the top weight back just a bit. This might mean a planned 3x5 becomes 2x3, or 120kg becomes 112.5kg, or if things are really bad, I might cut both load and volume!
Given I am not training super intensely, doing massive volumes, or training for a competition, I expect red light sessions to be pretty rare, although I’m sure that might change as I get back towards my best ever loads lifted.
3. Curve score
The curve score is an overall performance measure for a session. It accounts for both load and velocity on every set and creates a single number to show the level of my performance for that day.
Already a few weeks into this re-build phase and I have seen decent progress in my curve score. My squat moving from around 200 (arbitrary units) most sessions to now closer to 218-225, trapbar deadlift is similar, going from 295-330 in the same time span.
I should be able to get these back up to 250 / 350 in a short amount of time through a combination of lifting heavier on the top end and and moving faster on the submaximal sets. (I haven’t started applying this to my upper body training as my shoulder is still only just now allowing me to lift normally.)
4. Velocity loss and bar chart
I have a bit of a habit of under-working on my hard sets. Often I label a set RPE-8 when its probably more like RPE-6.5.
This is where velocity loss comes in handy. Currently I am chasing at least 20% fatigue, ideally more like 25-30% on all my work sets.
Velocity loss isn’t precisely matched with RPE, but the higher the velocity loss value the higher the RPE tends to be, so given I am a poor judge of my own RPE, I use velocity loss to calibrate my effort. If percentage fatigue is 20% or smaller then I add more weight or push for more reps on the next set.
Along with the velocity loss value I will also look at the shape of the velocity bar chart each set reviewing the decline across each set. I am looking for a gradual drop in velocity at every rep. If not, the load is likely still not challenging enough.
Practical velocity based training
Hopefully this is a helpful insight into some ways you might integrate velocity into your training. As my program evolves and I get back to a higher level of strength, or if the training emphasis changes (a power block for example) then the metrics and points of focus will likely change a little too.
All of the techniques I mention above are done in session, reviewing the data after every set. There is no need to do complex data review after my workouts to make the most of VBT.
I have streamlined my approach by using the MetricVBT app along with the VBTcoach velocity logbook, a free Google sheet you can use to log all of your velocity training data. When you get your copy of the logbook you can also get access to an Apple Shortcut that automatically pushes the training data from Metric into the logbook using a simple “Hey Siri” request.
You can get the same simple setup for velocity tracking with a free copy of the logbook by joining my newsletter here. You will also receive a copy of the Apple Shortcut for free along with instructions to activate this on your device.