Can Velocity Based Training Replace Good Coaching?

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Can Velocity Based Training Replace Good Coaching?

by Coach Travis Mash

I have been studying velocity based training for the last three months just about every day. That’s what I do when I am interested in a topic. I check out the research, and then I look up my friends in the industry that I respect that are actually using what I am interested in. Then I read what they have to say, and then I call them or go see them. That’s exactly what I did here.

Velocity Based Training is a tool for coaches and athletes to use. It’s not really a method like the dynamic method for example. It’s a tool that can be used for to better quantify any method that you might use. VBT can do a lot more than just that like:

• Keep athletes safe
• Guarantee intent of training
• Teaching effort

These are just a few, but we will use these three benefits of VBT to make my point. A good coach desires first to keep his athletes safe. No matter what the goal is, safety has to be first. In the weight room, two of the biggest injuries in the weight room are wrists and lower backs. How do these injuries happen? A lot of wrist injuries occur when a lifter goes too heavy on a clean, and ends up with his elbows on his knees. A good coach knows when the bar speed is slowing, and will therefore cut the athlete off. Once in a while, a coach makes a mistake, and then boom a lifter breaks a wrist or sprains a wrist.

One time in my career, we had a major injury in my gym. I wasn’t there, and a younger coach let an athlete continue one set too many. It was a terrible day in the history of my gym. If we had used VBT, we could have put a minimum on our athletes. For example, we could have said that the minimum bar speed for a clean is 1.5 m/s. That would remain the same whether I was there or not. This would give a younger coach a quantifiable number instead of having to use their gut. Over time this can help speed the development of the coach as well. They will start to relate speed with a number. What takes most coaches years of experience can be taught if a few months of training.

You can do the same for squats and deadlifts. If you are a high school coach, you will definitely want to listen to this one. The last thing that you want to do is see a young athlete hurt their back. Is there really a reason for a high school athlete to try a maximum deadlift? That’s debatable, but I recommend putting a limit on the velocity. For example you could have them max out, but with at least a .5 m/s velocity. You could test them in this way avoiding grinding with slower velocities putting more stress on the athlete’s back. Of course a good coach knows when to cut off an athlete, but when you are coaching 30 athletes at the same time all by yourself in a high school, it’s hard to watch every single athlete max out. Setting this minimum immediately makes all the athletes watching become a coaching assistant.

Guarantee Intent- We all know by now that there are different qualities of strength. Let’s call them zones of strength. Here’s the way Coach Bryan Mann labels them:

Absolute Strength- .3 to .5 m/s and somewhere over 90%
Accelerative Strength- .5 to .75 m/s and somewhere between 65-90%
Strength Speed- .75 to 1.0 m/s and somewhere between 45-65%
Speed Strength- 1.0 to 1.3 m/s and somewhere between 25-45%
Starting Strength- 1.3 and greater m/s and somewhere less than 25%

All of us that coach have a reason for programming the way that we do. Some of us want our athletes going heavy very often. Some of us want to focus more on higher velocities. Personally I like a combination of the strength zones focusing more on the ones that relate to the sport I am programming for. How do we know that the athlete is actually training within the zone that we want?

A lot of us use percentages to control training intent. The problem is that an athlete’s 1RM can range 18% each way on any given day. That’s a 36% swing. Coaches like Don McCauley can see that in the way his athletes are moving, and he can make changes based on what he sees. He has two decades in the sport training the best athletes that the United States has to offer. It’s unreasonable to ask a coach with two years of experience to be able to do the same thing. Velocity can help all coaches quantify their training intent.

Teaching Effort- this is a big one. Heck this is hard for me at times. I can tell an athlete to push as fast as they can, but some simply don’t grasp the concept. I’ve had an athlete performing a speed squat only to push faster when verbally prompted. That shouldn’t happen. If you are pushing as fast as possible, you shouldn’t be able to push faster on command. VBT is a way to show the athletes with a number on a screen. Soon an athlete starts to relate speed with the number. Therefore they start learning the concept of speed.

They will learn that .8 is moving pretty fast probably with a descent amount of weight. They will learn that 1.0 to 1.3 is really starting to generate some major speed and power. They know that anything faster than 1.3 is freaking moving man. It’s an amazing tool that I wish had been around when I was coming up as an athlete.

So does velocity based training replace good coaching? Obviously the answer is no, but it sure does help in a lot of ways. It shortens the training curve of less experienced coaches, and it helps advanced coaches teach their assistants and their own athletes. It’s just a tool, but it’s pretty darn amazing.

Right now VBT has been used primarily in the strength and conditioning world. Coach Spencer Arnold and I are bringing it to the rest of the barbell world. Next week we are dropping our latest e-book “Bar Speed” all about velocity based training. We are teaching:

• Weightlifting Coaches and Athletes
• Powerlifting Coaches and Athletes
• CrossFit Coaches and Athletes
• Athletic Performance Coaches and Athletes
• Even SuperTotal Coaches and Athletes

We are going to teach all of you everything that we have learned about velocity based training. We also have laid out full programs for each division and explained them to give you a better idea. I am excited about the programs because they are different from the ones that I normally write. I think that you will all enjoy them as well.

I can’t wait to release this book, as the programming inside will be different from anything that I have ever published. This book will help coaches and athletes:

• Define daily intent
• Keep the weight room safer
• Teach effort
• Prevent over-training
• Guarantee that all qualities of strength are being trained

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