Building strength: is velocity-based training the future?


Our very own Steve Thompson (senior lecturer and strength and conditioning coach) recently shared his expertise on velocity-based training for strength athletes with Output Sports. We caught up with Steve to learn a little bit more about velocity-based training for strength athletes, and to also understand why it is becoming increasingly popular amongst regular gym-goers.

What exactly is velocity-based training (VBT)?

VBT is a relatively recent term that encompasses several different methods designed to aid traditional prescription, programming and monitoring practices for resistance training (also known as weight-based exercise). Simply, VBT relies on the measurement of movement velocity (typically barbell) throughout testing and training sessions in order to help dictate and regulate aspects such as load (kgs) lifted on the barbell, volume (reps and sets) performed and readiness to train. Theory suggests that this added layer of data can help to optimise an individual’s training, taking into account improvements in strength as well as fatigue build-up.

So, there are advantages to be gained by incorporating VBT into a training programme?

VBT is new and exciting. It can provide individuals with a fresh focus for their training, or if nothing more, help to revitalise existing practices. VBT offers several advantages to athletes, S&C coaches and regular gym-goers. Simple velocity targets can create healthy competitive environments with oneself or peers, helping to drive intent within a session and hopefully improve adherence/buy-in across the course of a training intervention. Similarly, when used as a programming aid, the tracking of barbell velocity can help to ensure the correct load is being lifted in relation to the specific adaptation required and the tiredness levels of an individual, reducing the chance of those “sluggish” sessions.

Steve Thompson

Steve Thompson

Output Sports recently featured an article you wrote about VBT. Do you think VBT is undergoing a growth in mainstream awareness?

VBT frequently features in elite sport settings. However, something that was originally designed almost exclusively for elite-level athletes and organisations with endless budgets, has now, through advancements in technology, become more accessible to the general public. Despite this, knowledge and understanding on the most effective strategies to utilise VBT, even within elite sport settings, is still lacking. There is a distinct disconnect between applied practice and research, which can create an even greater chasm to the general public or those without access to training support and/or peer-reviewed literature. I therefore decided to write the article to help disseminate the knowledge I have gained through my research to educate those wanting to implement VBT into their own training.

In terms of inclusivity, how easy is it for the general population to get involved?

Advancements in technology has made VBT a much more inclusive and accessible option for gym-goers. Only a few years ago, available devices were limited to units that cost upwards of £2000. But now, the average price of this specialist equipment typically comes in around £200-300, with some smart-device applications available at £9.99. Individuals, however, should always seek to find out the reliability and validity of such technology to ensure the data they are collecting and using is of acceptable quality. Obviously, the main drawback to VBT is this reliance on technology, which can often alienate those on tighter budgets.

Finally, do you have any tips or suggestions for those about to begin VBT?

The most important consideration for anybody wanting to get in to VBT is their understanding of the theory and how it can be applied to their own training. Secondly, figure out an appropriate budget to spend on the technology and pick a device that offers the most affordable, user-friendly and reliable experience possible. Finally, don’t be afraid to try things out and get some of it wrong. All training is a learning curve, something that can take time to perfect.

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