Here's how to get started with velocity based training (VBT)?

Velocity based training (VBT) is a powerful tool that can help you take your strength training to the next level. By measuring the speed at which you move during your exercises in the weight room, VBT provides objective data about the quality of your training, allowing you to make informed decisions about how to optimise your workouts for greater gains, less burnout and fewer injuries.

What is velocity based training method?

At its core, velocity based training is a method of quantifying the quality of your lifts by measuring the speed of the bar during each repetition. The key concept behind VBT is that the speed of the bar is directly related to the effort you're putting into the lift, as well as your level of fatigue and overall readiness to train.

By tracking velocity, VBT allows you to:

  • Measure the quality of your training
  • Adjust your loads and sets based on real-time feedback
  • Monitor your progress over time
  • Optimise your training for specific goals, such as strength, power, or hypertrophy

The invention of velocity based training

The term "velocity based training" was likely first coined by Dr. Bryan Mann, a strength and conditioning coach and researcher from the US who has been at the forefront of the VBT movement since the 1990s. However, the concept of measuring bar speed has been around for decades, with early pioneers like Dr. Dan Baker in Australia also contributing to the development of VBT methods.

With the growth of applications made possible with improved technology, software and coach innovation, the term velocity tracking has gained popularity as a more accurate description of the broad applications and use cases fro VBT in your training.

VBT encompasses much more than just measuring the speed of the bar. Modern VBT systems can also track metrics like eccentric tempo, range of motion, and power output, providing a more comprehensive picture of your training quality.

The benefits of velocity based training

One of the main benefits of VBT is that it provides objective insights into the quality of your training. By measuring the speed of your lifts, you can get a clear picture of how much effort you're putting into each rep, as well as how fatigued you are in the moment and how well you're recovering between sessions.

This information can be invaluable for guiding your training decisions.

For example, if you notice that your velocity today is slower than usual, it may be a sign that you are not fully recovered from your recent training stressors and may need to reduce your loads or take a deload week to allow your body to recover. On the other hand, if your velocity is steadily increasing week on week, it's a good indication that your training is on track and you're making progress in both strength and power.

Why track barbell velocity?

Tracking barbell velocity is one of the most effective ways to measure the quality of your training. By monitoring the speed of your lifts, you can:

  • Ensure that you're training at the right intensity for your goals
  • Identify weaknesses in your technique or strength
  • Monitor your progress over time
  • Adjust your training on the fly based on real-time feedback

In short, tracking velocity allows you to optimise your training for maximum results, whether your goal is to build strength, power, or muscle mass.

VBT is GPS for the gym, like Strava - but for lifting weights

Another way to think about VBT is that velocity based training devices and apps are akin to what GPS systems arefor your strength training. Just like how runners use GPS to track their trainign volume, distance, pace, and route, lifters can use VBT to track their training volume, velocity, power output, and other key metrics.

However, it's important to note that VBT is not a replacement for other training methods or tools.

Just like runners don't base all their decisions on pace alone, lifters shouldn't rely solely on velocity to guide their training. Instead, velocity, tempo, power and fatigue metrics should be integrated into your programming structure along with other methods, such as percentage-based training, RPE, and autoregulation, to create a well-rounded and effective training program.

How to measure bar velocity

There are several different ways to measure bar velocity, each with its own pros and cons. The most common methods include:

  • Linear position transducers (LPTs): These are devices that use a string attached to the barbell and measure its displacement over time, allowing you to calculate velocity and power output. LPTs are highly accurate but can be expensive, cumbersome and require upkeep and a dedicated setup.
  • Accelerometers: These are small devices that attach to the barbell and measure its acceleration, which can be used to calculate velocity and power. Accelerometers are more affordable and portable than LPTs but some products have suffered with poor reliability and may be less accurate.
  • Computer vision smartphone applications: These systems use high-speed cameras to track the motion of the barbell, allowing you to calculate velocity and power. Camera-based systems can be highly accurate but may require a more complex setup and analysis.

Metric VBT: The no-hardware barbell velocity tracker

In the more recent history of velocity based training has been the development and rise of smartphone-based bar speed tracking apps. These apps takes advantage of the powerful computer inside modern smartphones along with the integrated high resolution camera.

One such app is Metric VBT, which uses your phone's camera to track the speed of your lifts and provide real-time feedback.

Metric VBT is free to download and use with a basic membership, making it an accessible option for lifters of all levels. As the co-founder and inventor of Metric VBT, I may be biased, but I truly believe that this app has the potential to revolutionise the way we approach strength training.

You can find a complete list of commercially available VBT devices and bar tracking apps in this blog →

How to implement velocity based training

If you're ready to start implementing VBT into your training, here's a step-by-step guide to get you started:

  1. Choose a VBT system: Decide which type of VBT system is right for you based on your budget, training goals, and equipment setup. If you're just starting out, a free smartphone app like Metric VBT lowers the barrier to entry and can be a great option if you are just looking to experiment.
  2. Set up your equipment: Follow the instructions provided with your VBT system to set up your equipment and calibrate your sensors. Make sure everything is working properly before you start your session.
  3. Establish your baseline: Perform a few sets of your main lifts (e.g., squat, bench press, deadlift) at a moderate intensity and record your velocity data. This will give you a baseline to work from and help you set appropriate velocity targets for your training.
  4. Incorporate VBT into your training: Use your velocity data to guide your training decisions, such as adjusting your loads, sets, and reps based on your performance. You can also use velocity to monitor your progress over time and ensure that you're staying on track.
  5. Review and adjust: Regularly review your velocity data and make adjustments to your training as needed. If you're consistently falling short of your velocity targets, it may be a sign that you need to adjust your programming or take a deload week.
video analysis is a great tool to help coaches and athletes, but don't let the technology get in the way of the training process.

Setting up your VBT system

The specific steps for setting up your VBT system will depend on the type of equipment you're using. However, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your equipment is properly calibrated and functioning correctly before each session.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for attaching any sensors or devices to your barbell or body.
  • Ensure that your setup is stable and secure, and won't interfere with your lifting technique.
  • Test your system with a few light sets to make sure everything is working properly.

Interpreting velocity data

Once you start collecting velocity data, it's important to know how to interpret it and use it to guide your training decisions. Here are a few key metrics to pay attention to:

Mean Velocity (m/s)

The average speed of the barbell during the concentric phase, measured in m/s. Mean velocity is a reliable indicator of performance and can be used to estimate 1RM.

Range of Motion (cm)

The distance the barbell travels from start to finish, measured in cm. Tracking range of motion (ROM) ensures consistency and helps identify technique issues.

Eccentric Tempo (sec)

The time it takes to lower the barbell during the negative (eccentric) phase of each rep, measured in seconds. Monitoring eccentric tempo helps maintain control and optimize muscle tension.

By monitoring these metrics and using them to guide your training decisions, you can optimise your workouts for maximum gains and minimise the risk of overtraining or injury. Learn more about analysing your VBT training data here →

Applications of velocity based training

VBT can be used in a variety of training contexts, from strength and power development to hypertrophy and endurance. Here are a few examples of how VBT can be applied:

  • Strength training: Use velocity data to ensure that you're lifting heavy enough to stimulate strength gains, but not so heavy that your technique breaks down or you risk injury.
  • Power training: Use velocity data to optimise your loads and sets for maximum power output. Aim for high peak velocities and minimal velocity loss within each set.
  • Hypertrophy training: Use velocity data to ensure that you're maintaining adequate tension on the muscle throughout each set, while also avoiding excessive fatigue that could compromise your technique or recovery.
  • Rehabilitation: Use velocity data to monitor your progress as you recover from an injury and gradually build back up to your previous levels of strength and performance.

There is no single "perfect" program when it comes to utilising velocity tracking technology and its data in your program. With dozens of practical use cases and examples for how to use velcoity in the gym, you can pick and choose what suits your training style and goals best!

Velocity based training to level up your lifting

Velocity based training is a powerful tool that can help you take your strength training to the next level. By measuring the speed of your lifts and using that data to guide your training decisions, you can optimise your workouts for maximum gains and minimise the risk of overtraining or injury.

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced lifter, incorporating VBT into your training can help you achieve your goals faster and more efficiently. So why not give it a try? With the availability of free bar speed apps like Metric VBT, there's never been a better time to start tracking your velocity and taking your training to the next level.

Screenshots from the Metric VBT barbell velocity tracking app
Metric VBT a free bar speed tracking app.

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References and resources

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Elevate Your Training with Metric VBT

Maximise your workout effectiveness by monitoring key metrics like velocity, power, range of motion and tempo with just your smartphone.

Metric VBT automatically calculates your 1RM from bar speed data, along with bar path tracking, RPE logging and a full workout builder.

Metric is the perfect lifting app to refine your technique and enhance your strength.

Download it on iOS today.

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