Unit 3 – Integrating Technology (Load Management Systems)
By definition Velocity Based Training (VBT) “is simply a method of training which uses a piece of technology to track the speed of an exercise.”
VBT at its core is a load management system that uses the velocity of a movement to prescribe load.
As a strength coach when progressing an athlete often times we have been taught to progress in accordance to PBT (Percentage Based Training) or RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion).
Since the beginning of strength and conditioning many have either ignored load management entirely or quantified load management by subjective methods (PBT or RPE).
To start we will go over subjective load management systems. To finish we will discuss how with VBT we can objectively develop athletes with proper load management.
Percentage Based Training (PBT)
The most traditional load management system is percentage based training (PBT).
Unlike VBT, which objectively measures load management, PBT does not take into account any daily load management.
Percentage based training uses a percentage of an athlete’s 1 repetition max (1RM) to establish a prescribed load for an athletes training sessions.
A 1 repetition max (1RM) is the highest load an athlete is capable of performing for a specific exercise.
The athlete’s 1RM can be established by either working up to a “True 1RM” meaning the athlete progresses to their heaviest load until failure or you can use a “Repetition Max Chart” which is the estimation from multiple repetitions of a load below that athletes 1RM.
Above is an example of a “Repetition Max Chart” used by many to project an athletes 1RM.
There are two problems with the repetition method. First, an athlete can be really good at moderate loads with high repetitions, but bad a heavy loads with low repetitions. This means that the 1RM estimation will be an overestimation and will lead overtraining the athlete during each training session.
This chronic overtraining my lead to decreased performance and overtraining syndrome (excessive fatigue).
When an athlete is overtrained there are increased risks of fatigue in the PBT model thus increasing the risk of injury.
When an athlete is undertrained they may be inadequately prepared for competition thus ultimately placing them at higher risk to exposure to fatigue during competition which in return places them at greater risk of injury.
The graph above shows a projected 1RM on consecutive training days. As you can see if an athlete were to test on any single one of these days their 1RM would be different.
There are multiple equations for the 1RM estimation that can be used in the repetition max chart. All these equations slightly vary and will provide a different max for the same athlete.
This chart shows the methods mentioned above and the maxes projected by each. To create this chart we took calculations from each method, applied the same weight/ rep scheme and compiled the results. This graph is a great representation of the variance found in calculations used for a repetition max chart for PBT.
Because the PBT method projects load for programming, the PBT method does not take into account the fatigue of the athlete on a daily basis. This leaves PBT as an inadequate method for developing athletes long term in strength and conditioning.
Problems with PBT (summarized)
- When establishing a 1RM with PBT an athlete is tested on a single day. This single day of testing provides the framework in which all future training will be based until the next testing day. This leaves an athlete training on a set progression regardless of that athlete’s daily fatigue level.
- Due to this methods progression being based on a single day of testing we will also often see a misinterpretation of an athlete’s strength level. An example of this is if an athlete is fatigued on the day of testing, their overall projected 1RM will be lower than the athletes actual peak 1RM. This can lead to over or under training in each of the subsequent training sessions.
Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
The next load management system is Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).
Unlike VBT, which objectively measures load management, RPE is a subjective method to determine daily load management.
This method uses the athletes’ “feeling” of how hard a movement is.
Simply stated, if the load feels heavy the athlete will go lighter and if the load feels light the athlete will go heavier.
Based on an RPE score provided subjectively by an athlete, the preceding sets and loads will be adjusted accordingly.
This system attempts to take into account the athletes fatigue level for that training session.
Due to this method being subjective there can be a wide variance between intrathlete (an individual athletes perceived exertion level) and interathlete (the perceived exertion between different athletes).
In other words one athlete can say that the movement was a 10 (very hard) but in reality it was a 7 (Intraathlete). This will ultimately lead to undertraining an individual athlete for that day.
Taking 2 seperate athletes and telling them they both are to exert a 7, the corresponding exertion level will vary athlete to athlete (Interathlete). This universalized load management can leave 1 athlete undertrained and one overtrained.
Overtraining will have residual effects for the next days training sessions. If this continues to happen this could lead to overtraining syndrome or injury due to a fatigued athlete.
Undertraining will have residual effects for the next days training sessions. If this continues to happen this could lead to an athlete being adequately prepared for competition which can lead to decreased performance.
RPE is a step up from PBT but due to the subjective nature of RPE there is still more we can do to get the most out of athletes daily.
Problems with RPE (summarized)
- RPE, due to its subjective approach, becomes hard for a coach to specifically identify if the athlete is working at the correct load prescribed. When a coach is unable to specifically identify the proper load for an athlete it becomes easy for that coaches programming to over or under train that specific athlete.
- RPE attempts to take an athlete’s fatigue level on a daily basis but is inadequate due to the variance of feelings an athlete could experience through different loads. This variance in feelings can lead an athlete to making set to set adjustments ultimately leading that athlete to grossly over or under training.
Velocity Based Training (VBT)
As mentioned in the opening of our unit, VBT at its core is a load management system that uses the velocity of a movement to prescribe load.
Load can be the weight or resistance applied to a movement. VBT by definition tracks the speed at which you are capable of moving a specific load.
For speed we utilize the calculation of Velocity.
Velocity is a calculated by taking distance an object travels and dividing it by time.
Velocity (m/s)= distance(meters)/time(second)
The more distance an object travels in a shorter amount of time the higher the velocity.
VBT is the most objective approach to load management.
By taking objective velocity measurements rep to rep and set to set we are able to identify fatigue levels of the athlete consistently for all training sessions.
The velocity of movement dictates whether the athlete increases or decreases the load for the next set. This is termed autoregulation and we will discuss this further in a future unit within this module.
Due to VBT having objective data there is no gray area on the load for the preceding sets. If the velocity produced is higher than the desired velocity an athlete can add load. If the desired velocity is lower than an athlete can decrease the load.
This takes the guesswork out for the athletes and coaches when prescribing specific loads.
The goal when using VBT as a load management system is to get the most out of each repetition during a training session.
VBT is the most objective way to determine load daily for both coaches prescribing training and athletes executing a specific regimen.
To ensure development of any athlete is maximized we must look objectively to progressions that best serve that athlete on a day to day basis. In our next units we will discuss how with VBT you can get the most out of an athlete’s training and objectively ensure long term development.
We want to take a moment and thank Speed4Lifts for their sponsorship of this unit. Speed4Lifts has been an industry leader in VBT. Throughout this section we will highlight this technology to aid in the education of Velocity Based Training.
Dorrell, H. F., Smith, M. F., & Gee, T. I. (2020). Comparison of velocity-based and traditional percentage-based loading methods on maximal strength and power adaptations. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 34(1), 46-53.