Velocity Based Training – Applied practice

I had been interested in wearable technology and Velocity Based Training for a while due the ability to quantify movement in the training setting. I am in contact with Mladen Jovanovic regularly who is one of the ‘go-to’ guys for VBT, and after chatting with him and reading a lot of the material which he along with others published, I became more interested in utilizing this technology for my athletes. I attended an ASCA workshop which Dan Baker presented where he used the Push Band and was automatically sold on it due to the ease of setup and instant feedback on the iPhone or iPad.

Being a one-man show (not in a team setting), where I’m writing track programs and S&C programs for quarter-milers, I obviously couldn’t cover the cost of multiple Push bands so we just share the band for various aspects of the training. I really do love the idea of using the band to prescribe training loads via velocity ranges from the F-V curve (see further down), but the practicality of doing this full time for each strength session is unrealistic; but we do use it this way in ‘spurts’ which I’ll come back to later.

The main way we have been using the Push band has been as a monitoring tool for neuromuscular fatigue (NMF) pre-training. Neuromuscular fatigue is obviously high on the radar for all track athletes (and should be for ALL athletes), especially those who go 100-400, but the ability to quantify this in a semi-professional setting, aside from a wellness chart is challenging. There are numerous studies (Cormack et al.) citing the high correlation with CMJ metrics and NMF. Although most of these studies had access to a greater range of metrics, I believe the ability for the Push band to measure peak/mean velocity is still a strong indicator of fatigue. My athletes use the band on Tuesday’s and Saturday’s along with giving a pre-training readiness score out 10 (in a similar manner to the Borg scale). I decided to run with a pre-training readiness score so I can immediately see how the score relates to the Peak Velocity value (results which appear on the app are mean/peak velocity & power); rather than the athlete manipulating the RPE post session. In the first week they performed 1 x CMJ, and then a 3 x repeated CMJ. However, after the first week I omitted the single CMJ as I felt the repeated jumps gave me a better indicator of overall reactivity and coordination in preparation to sprint. It also allowed me to visually see how they coordinate the movement, flight time, sound at contact, foot placement etc; something which you can’t see from a single CMJ. Below is the structure of how we do it on both days:

Tuesday – This follows a low intensity tempo session in flats.

Saturday – This follows a rest day.

Athletes will perform their warmup consisting of:

  • Run thrus (strides). During this time we implicitly discuss readiness to train scores in a ‘how was your day?’ type of approach
  • Dynamic Mobility
  • Hurdle Mobility
  • Accelerations (in this cycle in flats)
  • Take a small drink break. Then perform the CMJ’s. On the Push App, we select the ‘Jump Squat’ exercise with 0kg, and use a broomstick on the shoulders to control the arm movement (Video 1)
  • Begin session

Video 1. Using the push band to monitor NMF in the warmup.

I have played around with the timing of the jumps, but after moving through the majority of the warmup  in 25-30mins, they are all generally ready to go. We could do it before the accelerations but since we discuss the scores following the jumps, I don’t want the athlete psyching themselves out of the session if their scores are ‘low’.

Now we have been using the tool for six weeks, the athletes are starting to understand the trends in their own performance and establish connections with their readiness scores. After we analyse the scores we do have a small discussion about the values which appear but I have yet to change the training load for the session from these results; but it has lead to the athletes showing more body awareness during the session. However, it is ‘nice’ for me to see athletes struggle in workouts when the scores have been lower than usual as it creates coach/athlete dialogue about the why of the result and where to from here e.g. therapy, load adjustment etc.

With only having a small sample size, some of the trends/outliers/anecdotal evidence I have observed in the past six weeks are below:

  • Lower Peak Velocity (PV) on a Saturday for those who work fulltime M>F, compared with those who work part time.
  • Increased PV on a Tuesday after doing a pool recovery session on a Monday instead of a tempo running session.
  • Highly decreased PV for an athlete on a Saturday who flew out and back (90mins each way) to Sydney on previous day.
  • Younger athletes have less variation in PV than older athletes.
  • Lower PV values for all athletes as they move through cycle from Week 1-Week 4. Even in our deload week the values did not respond until the following week.

Figure 1. Collated data from the past 6 weeks using the Push band twice per week / peak velocity and power (yellow cells indicate value = one standard deviation below average).

readiness

Figure 2. Collated data from the past 6 weeks using the Push band twice per week (bars = peak velocity (m/s); solid orange line = peak power (w ). Trend lines are also observed).

trends

In the weight room setting (aside from general weekly use) we used the Push band in our testing week (power focus) for ascending loads on a trap bar jump squat and the bench press to measure peak & mean velocity (see Figure 3, 4 & 5).

Figure 3. Data received for Trapbar jump squats (Fig. 4) on the Push app (2 athletes).

1push

 Figure 4. Load-Velocity Profile – Trapbar Jump Squat

trapbar

Figure 5. Load-Velocity Profile – Bench Press

benchpress

As all athletes will test across the same loads, it is easy enough to swap the band after each athlete completes the lifts (and now with the ‘realtime’ feedback available on the app – it is great for athlete motivation when they can see the value after each rep – see Video 2). So far we have only used it in testing once, but it will be great to have performance quantified when an athlete can move the same load faster than they did in the previous cycle.

Video 2. Realtime velocity feedback on the bench press using the Push band + app.

When we do use the band during our weekly workouts, as a part-time coach, it is nice to be able to manipulate the loads depending on the mean velocity produced in the lift (rather than just eye sight), and adjust for the particular focus of the meso/microcycle, as per the suggested force-velocity loads on the curve (Figure 6). Right now, we complete two Total body sessions during a week, Wednesday morning is a strength focus, Friday morning is a power focus. As an anecdotal rule, I know that on a Friday, once my athletes start to drop off in mean velocity, heading below 0.7m/s, the load is too heavy for the outcome of the session and therefore I can adjust accordingly to keep them in the desired range.

Figure 6. Suggested velocity ranges for developing specific aspects of strength.

forcevgraph

Source

Right now the athletes are in a heavy loading phase, both on the track and in the weight room, so to have a reliable and valid tool to monitor each athlete has been a beneficial ‘value-add’ to my program.

The post above shows a few different ways which I have been utilizing Velocity Based Training for my track athletes to monitor their readiness, track their strength testing and adjust daily strength loads.

I would love to hear from others who are using VBT for their athletes!

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