Category Archives for "Bodybuilding"

Barbell Athlete Assessment with Quinn Henoch – The Barbell Life 316

Dr. Quinn Henoch spends his days assessing and rehabbing barbell athletes who are in pain.

He also knows a lot about helping athletes to be more strong and mobile – so that they can perform better and avoid injury in the first place.

And what I love about Quinn is that he has a wealth of knowledge specifically about the barbell. Let’s face it – those of us who love lifting are going to experience very different issues from what many other therapists are used to.

So get ready for this podcast if you want a simple and effective approach to assessment and mobility.



It's finally here... Learn about technique, programming, assessment, and coaching from a master. For strength coaches and for athletes, these 53 videos (7 hours and 56 minutes of footage) will prepare you to understand the main lifts for maximum performance and safety. Get ready to learn...


  • What’s wrong with some assessment models – and why the FMS might be bad for powerlifters
  • Evaluating “software” and “hardware” in an athlete
  • Using landmine presses and single-arm DB lifts to enhance mobility
  • The way he views the overhead squat
  • How to still train in the midst of injury and pain
  • and more…

Unorthodox Squatting with Ben Patrick – The Barbell Life 315

Ben Patrick went from a 19-inch vertical and chronic knee pain – to over a 42-inch vertical and perfect knee health.

And the way he accomplished it all was through some rather unorthodox squatting techniques.

So listen in today to hear about fixing your knee pain… and driving up your vertical leap in the process!

Protocols for Aches and Pains, Muscular Imbalances & Recovery

Work Harder. Train Longer. Prevent Injury.

Prevent injury, reduce pain and maintain joint health with Travis's specific corrections for your individual muscular imbalances.


  • The philosophy behind “knees over toes”
  • Fixing unilateral issues and strengthening the Achilles
  • Doing jump work AFTER playing
  • Strength and stability in different areas of the jump
  • His crazy Nordic progressions
  • and more…

Diving into Heart Rate Variability

First, let me make the boldest statement on Earth.

If you want to major in Exercise Science, I don’t think there is a better school in America than Lenoir-Rhyne University. Dr. Alex Koch and Dr. Keith Leiting, the two lead professors at Lenoir-Rhyne University, love the strength world and have spent their lives engulfed in the research.

This week during my summer school class we discussed Heart Rate Variability (HRV). I was excited to dive into this topic because I haven’t looked at HRV in any depth. Plus, I am considering using HRV as one of the daily testers for my weightlifters.

Our guest lecturer for the week was Dr. Mike Landram. Dr. Landram was a student of Dr. Koch’s at Truman State circa 2005, and went on the earn his M.S. in Exercise Science from Appalachian State University. Then he made us all jealous by earning his PhD from the University of Rome in Rome, Italy. Can you imagine how awesome that was? His lecture was fantastic and truly educational.

The article we looked at was an in-depth meta analysis that looked at all the different frequencies of HRV, the suggested indicators of each frequency, and how true each indicator actually is. To say I learned a lot is the understatement of the year. First, here’s the article I am referencing for the most part:

“Heart rate variability”
Harald M. Stauss
Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 285: R927–R931, 2003; 10.1152/ajpregu.00452.2003.
Department of Exercise Science, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242
AJP-Regul Integr Comp Physiol • VOL 285 • NOVEMBER 2003 •


Now let’s look at what I learned. The first thing I want you guys to understand is the difference between the time domain and the frequency domain when it comes to measuring and analyzing HRV. First, the most common is the time domain. The time domain is a simple look at a given amount of time (for example, four minutes), the time between the individual beats, and the amount of variance of the beat-to-beat times. There are a few different formulas to measure the variance in the heartbeats with rMSSD being one of the popular ones.

The time domain is the one we hear about the most. It’s a simple look at HRV during a short interval. This will give you an idea of what’s going on, but there are too many variables that can affect HRV during a four-minute cycle. Remember the cardiovascular system is directly connected to the brain. The heart is one of the main ways that the autonomic nervous system maintains homeostasis. The brain is continually receiving and discerning information. For example, when you are in a bad situation, adrenaline is pumped into the blood to give you the strength to handle the stressors. The adrenaline dump increases the heart rate. The problem is that all stress causes this to happen, so stress at home and at work will cause this system to overwork. All of this is from the sympathetic nervous system, which is like the turbo booster portion of the ANS. The parasympathetic system works to counter the heart rate increase.

The point is there are a lot of variables that could possibly shake up one’s heart rate variability. However, the frequency domain looks at HRV over a longer period. The frequency domain is looking at the relative occurrence of particular frequencies: high frequency, low frequency, very low frequency, and ultra low frequency. The amount that each occurs can help determine parasympathetic vs sympathetic nerve activity. However, this method isn’t always perfect. With frequency a mathematical equation is used to determine the waves within the waves so to say. There are variations that occur at short cycles, and variations that occur over several hours. With frequency, the measurement is in hertz, which is a way of looking at whatever is occurring at a per second time interval. With HRV, it’s normally a low hertz because nothing is entirely happening in one second unless you are overly excited.

Morgan Snatch

Let’s look at what the article told us:

1. ULF (Ultra Low Frequency; > 5 hour cycle length) ULF are variations that are happening at around 0.0033 Hz or about once every five hours. This frequency is associated with the circadian rhythm.

2. VLF (Very Low Frequency; > 25 seconds) This frequency is occurring at a power spectrum of 0.04 Hz and is related to and affected by temperature regulation and the humoral systems. If you’re cold, your heart rate slows down. If you’re hot, it speeds up. The interesting trait of this frequency is the connection to the immune system. Once again this is the reason that HRV is looked at so closely nowadays.

3. LF (Low Frequency; > 6 seconds) This frequency is directly linked with sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous activity. Basically, this frequency will tell you if your autonomic nervous system is working efficiently. The ANS’s ability to work efficiently is directly linked to your body’s ability to maintain homeostasis – or more directly put, a person’s ability to recover from exercise. Even more importantly, this is an indicator of the body’s ability to maintain life.

4. HF (High Frequency; 2.5 to 6 second cycle lengths) This frequency is synchronized with one’s respiratory rhythm, and it is primarily controlled by the cardiac parasympathetic innervation. That’s why there is a breathing guru on every block. It’s because of breathing’s ability to positively influence the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that keeps us calm, keeps our immune systems ready, and allows us to focus and make prime executive decisions. However, if the guru has no idea about the strong respiratory pattern of cardiac vagal motoneurons in the nucleus ambiguous, then consider finding a better guru.

Putting It Together

Let me summarize my findings, so you can make a decision on whether or not to use HRV. First, HRV is a great predictor for cardiovascular disease and early death. More variability indicates a strong ANS capable of maintaining homeostasis. Less variability is an indicator of the ANS’s inability to maintain balance in the body. However, regular participation in cardiovascular exercise and/or resistance exercise (I recommend both) over an extended period of time can decrease your resting heart rate by increasing the heart’s size, the contractile strength, and the length of time the heart fills with blood. The reduced heart rate results from an increase in activity of the parasympathetic nervous system – and perhaps from a decrease in activity of the sympathetic nervous system.


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HRV is also a great indicator of an athlete’s ability to recover from the stressors of training. The ANS and humoral systems are both ways that the body adapts both in the short term and long term from the stress of training. I believe that a bit more data is needed, and I believe this to be a bit more individual than some would lead us to believe. However, tracking the data and associating the data with performance over a long period of time could be invaluable. I am looking forward for HRV to be one of the many variables that we track at Lenoir-Rhyne University – along with velocity, CNS readiness, ECG, attitude markers, and hopefully muscle fiber makeup and neurotransmitter dominance. Standby!

Here are all the questions I answered after reading the research and digging myself out of the rabbit holes it kept sending me in:

1. Define heart rate variability, as is you were explaining the concept to a layperson.

Your heart doesn’t beat evenly. If your resting heart rate is 60 BPM, you won’t find that there is exactly one second between heartbeats. Your heart is directly linked to the autonomic nervous system with the sympathetic nervous system speeding the heart up and the parasympathetic slowing it down. HRV is also linked to circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycles) and respiration. Therefore your heart is constantly reacting to stimuli in your environment based on the commands given by the ANS. The amount of variance is directly related to health. A larger heart rate variance indicates a healthy body able to react to negative stimuli and yet relax afterwards. A low variance is directly linked to cardiovascular disease. Stress, pain, and chronic inflammation and disease are all linked to lower HRV. Therefore, controlling stress, proper breathing, and focusing on overall good health are all ways to ensure a higher HRV.

2. Describe the relationship between heart rate variability and general health.

Since low heart rate variability is a reliable predictor of cardiovascular disease, I’d say HRV has a very solid relationship with general health. HRV seems to be a solid indicator for the body’s ability to fight off disease, especially where cardiac disease is a concern. Low HRV is a solid indicator of stress and pain as well.

3. Describe the relationship between heart rate variability and exercise.

HRV has become prevalent in several sports as a way to predict an athlete’s readiness and ability to recover. HRV, as we learned in the article, is also tied to the endocrine system, which is also regulated by the ANS. A low HRV shows athletes and their coaches the ability of the athlete to recover from exercise. If your ANS is tanked, the athlete doesn’t have the ability to respond to the stresses of exercise. Exercise at the end of the day is a stress stimulus that the body responds to with the ANS to recover and get stronger. If one has a low HRV, I would recommend diet and sleep improvements, low intensity exercise, and breathing meditation to slowly alter their HRV to a higher variability.

4. Can heart rate variability be modified by exercise training, and if so, how?

It appears that moderate low-intensity exercise can improve heart rate variability over time without causing lasting stress from the sessions themselves. It makes sense that if HRV is tied to such systems as the ANS and the respiratory system, then improving these systems through exercise could in turn improve heart rate variability over time.



It's finally here... Learn about technique, programming, assessment, and coaching from a master. For strength coaches and for athletes, these 53 videos (7 hours and 56 minutes of footage) will prepare you to understand the main lifts for maximum performance and safety. Get ready to learn...

HRV is easier to monitor now than ever before. If it is at all possible, I firmly believe you should learn more about it – whether you are a coach or an athlete. Once again I want to thank my amazing professor, Dr. Alex Koch for developing the most impactful curriculum ever imagined at Lenoir-Rhyne University. If you want to major in exercise science, LRU is the best – especially for future strength coaches. If you want to become a weightlifter at LRU, email me at Thank you for reading and let me know any questions you might have.

The Latest on Hypertrophy

I decided to go to summer school because I want to expedite the process of my goal to obtain my M.S. in Exercise Science along with my PhD in Human Performance. Don’t feel sorry for me – my seminar class has been a blast so far!

The Science of Hypertrophy

The class has been incredible. In week one, I had to read two research articles regarding hypertrophy and watch a lecture online also regarding the latest in hypertrophy. The research was co-authored by my main professor, Dr. Alex Koch, who was also the lecturing professor in week one. The class is so much fun I decided to pass on the highlights to all of you to hopefully help you in your pursuits in coaching and/or your own training.

The research was published in the German Journal of Exercise and Sport Research.

The research article was “Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy: Molecular and Applied Aspects of Exercise Physiology” by Victor Hugo F. Arantes, Dailson Paulucio da Silva, Renato Luiz de Alvarenga, and Augusto Terra (of the Biometry Laboratory, School of Physical Education and Sports, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Alexander Koch (from Exercise Physiology Laboratory, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, USA), and Marco Machado, Fernando Augusto Monteiro Saboia Pompeu (of the Laboratory of Physiology and Biokinetics, UNIG Campus V, Itaperuna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).

Before We Start

A big heads up! If you simply want to know the latest in hypertrophy training, you can skip down to the fourth question “regarding exercising programming.” I will have the bullets for you broken down into the different strategies. If you want to know the science behind the answers, read the whole article.

  • I want to define hypertrophy for all the people reading this who might not know. There are two types of hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is referring to the fluid of a muscle fiber’s sarcoplasm – especially the glycogen storage. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the hypertrophy I will be referring to here today, which refers to an increase in the number of actin and myosin myofillaments. An increase in the number of myofilaments equals an increase in the size of the myofibrils they occupy, and ultimately equals an increase in the muscle’s cross-sectional area. The force a muscle can exert is related to its cross-sectional area rather than the volume or length. Simply put, we are talking about getting our muscles as huge as possible.
  • Rather than hormonal triggers, the article discusses that most myofibrillar hypertrophy comes from a multitude of mechanical mechanisms within the individual muscles. There is no doubt hormones aid in recovery and muscle mass, but that type of hormonal trigger is referring to the chronic state of one’s endocrine system and has very little to do with the acute state immediately following resistance training. I wouldn’t completely ignore the acute release of hormones because, based on some research from Bryan Mann, there are still some recovery benefits which are very important to overall results of an athlete’s macrocycle.
  • I want you guys to understand the difference in transcription and translation. Transcription takes place in the nucleus, and is the synthesis of mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid which performs protein synthesis directed by DNA) from DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid, which holds your genetic coding that controls protein synthesis). Translation happens in the cytoplasm, and is the synthesis/creation of a protein in ribosomes created from the code written on the mRNA strand. Since myofilaments are the actin and myosin protein filaments, both transcription and translation are taking place.

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Hypertrophy for Strength, Performance, and Aesthetics.

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Digging into the Study

Here are some of the questions I had to answer, along with my answers:

1. The paper disputes “hormonal theory of skeletal muscle hypertrophy,” which was the prevailing scientific thought from the 1980s until very recently. Briefly summarize what hormonal theory is.

This theory suggested the acute elevation of testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1 that immediately follows resistance training was the main mechanism for hypertrophy. It appears the main problem is the elevated levels don’t stay around long enough (only 30 minutes or so) for long-lasting hypertrophy to take place.

2. What is the mechanistic target of rapamyosin (mTOR), and how does it relate to muscle growth?

mTOR is a main regulator of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle. When there are plentiful supplies of glycogen present, mTOR is going to be a major component of hypertrophy. When energy supplies for ATP are limited, its inhibition will actually cause atrophy to conserve energy.

This very statement is the reason trainers and coaches need to understand basic physiology. You can’t just train hard and heavy and expect results. ATP is needed for basic cellular function, so the body isn’t going to let you burn it up because you want to do some crazy workout after staying up all night and not eating. The body will actually inhibit the release of mTOR, and boom, you’re going the wrong way.

3. Describe the influence of the following factors on mTOR activity:

  • Nutritional factors: The paper doesn’t speak a lot about nutrition other than amino acids stimulate protein synthesis through the mTOR gateway. Furthermore, a couple of other natural compounds, ursolic acid and tomatidine were shown to have positive effects on protein synthesis. Although the article doesn’t state the effects on mTOR specifically, the research I looked at independently of this article stated both compounds positively effect mTOR signaling.

    There is one other factor regarding nutrition that can be induced from this article. Early in the article the author states the inhibition of mTOR is able to slow down or block other anabolic kinases preventing skeletal muscle hypertrophy. When exercising in a caloric deficit, mTOR is inhibited to conserve glycogen for ATP production. Therefore if your goal is hypertrophy, it would be recommended to not exercise in a caloric deficit or immediately supplement with added carbohydrates post-workout.
  • Hormonal factors: IGF-1 and growth hormone are shown to influence the muscle growth pathway up to a certain point. This anabolic function occurs through the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway. The author made it clear exercise-induced increases in IGF-1 or growth hormone did not increase the phosphorylation of PI3K (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase), which is a catalyst during translation. Exercise-induced hormonal increases also had no effect on ribosomal protein S6 Kinase beta-1 (p70S6kinase), which is an enzyme that signals protein syntheses to take place in the ribosome.

    As far as testosterone – even though it’s well-known to induce substantial increases in skeletal muscle hypertrophy, exercise-induced testosterone is simply too short term (around 30 minutes). Recently it was discovered that “besides its effect through the androgen receptors, its effect on protein syntheses is dependent on the PI3K/Akt pathway.” This is the pathway for mTOR as well as other mechanisms for hypertrophy like the inhibition of myostatin, glucose metabolism, and transcription. However, higher levels of testosterone induced from exercise had no effect on mTOR levels or p70S6kinase. Therefore, acute fluctuations of testosterone induced from exercise had no affect on intracellular anabolic signaling.
  • Mechanistic factors: In your descriptions, please identify specific chemicals and their actions on the mTOR pathway.

    “The mechanical force produced by muscular contraction and captured by mechanoreceptors also produce protein synthesis,” but this is where the plot of the story takes a major turn, because this signaling takes place independent of the PI3K/Akt pathway and amino acids which are associated with IGF1 and testosterone. This process is at least partially associated with phospholipase D – an enzyme associated with the Z Line, the boundary at each end of the sarcomere, which is a critical site for mechanical force transmission. “Mechanistic factors also create activity of the zeta (ζ) isoform of di- acylglycerol kinase. Phospholipase D and the zeta (ζ) isoform of di-acylglycerol kinase are responsible for the release of phosphatidic acid, a lipid second messenger which is capable of causing anabolism through mTOR.” Phosphatidic acid also stimulates hypertrophy through p70S6K.

    The other aspect to be aware of regarding mechanistic factors is the transmembrane receptors in the costamere and myotendinous junction, which are responsible for focal adhesion kinase stimulation and phosphorylation/signaling of Akt, mTOR, and p70S6K. Based on the findings it appears the mechanistic factors create hypertrophy through different pathways than previously thought of such as hormones.

4. Regarding exercising programming, what does the evidence presented in this paper recommend as the best strategies to develop hypertrophy in terms of:

  • Exercise volume (sets x reps)
  • Intensity
  • Frequency
  • Rest periods
  • Eccentric-only training vs. concentric and eccentric
  • Speed of contraction

For each of these named program variables, provide the paper’s recommendations as well as a brief accounting of the evidence the authors use to support their recommendation.

    Volume – The answer is more complicated than a simple prescription. There was notable hypertrophy discovered with resistance exercise at only one set by Mitchell et al. (2012). However other studies showed differences in one and three sets depending on the muscle – for example Starkey et al (1996) reported that the medial thigh muscle only experienced significant difference in hypertrophy at three sets, so in that case one set wasn’t enough. Other studies showed more than double the increases in hypertrophy after multiple sets with ten sets being the maximum. However (Barbalho et al., 2019) showed no advantage to going over ten sets.

    The wise thing to do would be to start with one set and as hypertrophy slows down simply add a set in all the way up to ten sets. There are other variables not considered in the studies like multiple exercises per body part, which would likely create even more hypertrophy.

    Intensity – This is an interesting mechanism of hypertrophy. Most recently we have learned lower intensities at around 30% can invoke similar hypertrophic gains as higher loads between 75-80%. Burd et al. (2010b). In most studies volitional fatigue is one of the key factors to eliciting hypertrophy especially with the lighter loads. Most research will show greater muscle activation with the heavier loads (Schoenfeld, Contreras, Willard- son, Fontana, and Tiryaki-Sonmez, 2014; Jenkins et al., 2015a) FYI, two of these gentlemen are my friends. Schoenfeld believes the lighter loads led to greater Type I fiber gains, but that’s not proven.

    The important key in choosing intensity would be the understanding of your population. If you are coaching athletes, especially in a contact sport or one requiring massive amounts of power, muscle fiber recruitment – especially in the Type II fibers – is crucial. However if you were coaching a general fitness population or especially a geriatric population, I would recommend lower intensities as they are shown to signal similar hypertrophy gains. (Burd et al., 2010b) “discovered that lower loads require significantly greater total workout volume to induce the phosphorylation of anabolic kinases.”

    (Carroll et al., 2018, 2019) most recently showed that staying at a relative intensity from 65-90% as opposed to absolute failure will still induce substantial hypertrophy and in some cases superior. For athletes this might be the way to go because excessive volumes of muscle damage could be avoided allowing more adequate recovery and reducing the risk of injury.

    Frequency – Most of the studies showed very little change in muscle hypertrophy regardless of training frequency when volume was the same. There are individuals who appear to experience more hypertrophy from higher frequency. However, most studies have concluded frequency is of little value regarding skeletal muscle hypertrophy. (McLester et al., 2000; Candow and Burke, 2007; Gentil et al., 2015; Ribeiro et al., 2015; Saric et al., 2019). Based on a few studies including (Damas et al., 2019) in certain individuals higher frequency was able to produce more skeletal muscle hypertrophy. It’s for this reason frequency be chosen based on:

    • Lifestyle (work, schedule, family, etc)
    • Training age
    • Biological age
    • Available time to workout
    • Training goals

    Once again if the trainee is a novice, training a body part once per week is plenty for hypertrophy gains. Advanced individuals might consider maximizing frequency for an efficient way to increase total volume and to see if higher frequency elicits a better overall response.

    Rest periods – All the data points to longer rest periods if hypertrophy is the goal. Most studies compared three minutes versus one minute. Simply put, the longer rest periods allowed the trainees to perform more total volume to volitional fatigue or near failure leading to the “activation of anabolic kinases by intrinsic factors muscle contraction (mechanotransduction).” Buresh et al. (2009)

    Shorter rest periods induce more circulating growth hormone and testosterone, which led to coaches prescribing these short rest intervals to produce hypertrophy. However studies like this one (Miranda et al., 2007; Senna et al., 2009) clearly shows greater anabolic kinases from the longer rest intervals.

    Eccentric-only training vs. concentric and eccentric – It appears this mechanism of hypertrophy has the most room for growth. On one hand it appears that when eccentric contractions only are compared to eccentric and concentric contractions as in Eliasson et al. (2006)’s study only the maximal eccentric contractions elicited p70S6K and rpS6. In addition, force development was greater in maximal eccentric than in submaximal eccentric and maximal concentric contractions. So eccentric it is, right? Nope.

    In the outcomes recorded by Cadore et al. (2014), Farup et al. (2014), and Rahbek et al. (2014) “they recorded similar muscle growth when the eccentric and concentric workload wasn’t the same.” As well, Moore et al. (2012) demonstrated equal workload with the eccentric and concentric workloads and the hypertrophy was still the same. This is attributed to satellite cell content, which is only produced by concentric contractions. Based on the evidence dynamic contractions (eccentric and concentric) are most optimal for hypertrophy. This conclusion is backed up by this study (Schoenfeld, Ogborn, Vigotsky, Franchi, and Krieger, 2017).

    Speed of contraction – This is an area I hope to dive into much deeper with velocity based training. It appears based on the studies (Shepstone et al., 2005) that higher velocity eccentric contractions produced greater hypertrophy gains especially in the Type II fibers, making this finding even more important to athletes. However there was no difference in mTOR and p70S6K phosphorylation in the higher velocity and lower velocity sets when the workload was equal leading researchers to attribute the growth to greater acute “Z-line streaming” (myofibrillar remodeling) (Shepstone et al., 2005). Some speculate the higher velocity sets lead to higher volumes, which in turn leads to greater stimulation of the intrinsic factors of muscle contraction, such as the mechanotransduction pathway.

I hope this little article gives you some insight regarding training for hypertrophy. I knew I picked the right school when hypertrophy was the first topic. Dr. Alex Koch and Dr. Keith Leiting are both incredible professors who happen to love strength training. I can’t imagine studying under anyone else in the country. Thank you Lenoir-Rhyne University for giving this old guy a new trick to learn, and especially thank you Dr. Alex Koch for making this happen for me.


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Your Questions Answered – The Barbell Life 308

Gaining muscle. Coaching groups. Finding coaching clients. Starting powerlifting later in life. Getting a stronger low back.

These are just some of the subjects that listeners have asked about – and we get to talk about them today on our podcast.



For Coaches and Athletes

Strength and Conditioning, Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Technique, Programming, Business, and the Art of Coaching


  • Getting into the coaching business
  • Mobility for wrestlers
  • Improving in the Olympic lifts if your home gym has low ceilings
  • Gaining muscle, gaining strength, or both?
  • Strengthening the low back for the deadlift
  • and more…

Getting Started with Velocity Based Training

I want to say I have had a blast using my Flex Unit from GymAware.

We all know the GymAware unit is the gold standard for measuring velocity in the strength and conditioning world. If you are a coach at a major university or coach hundreds of athletes per day in a big time private facility, you are going to want to look into GymAware. However, if you don’t have unlimited funds or you train out of your garage, there needs to be a way to measure velocity to ensure you get the most out of your training as well.

GymAware now has the Flex Device using laser technology to measure and analyze:

  • Velocity
  • Power Output
  • Range of Motion
  • Bar Path

For only $500 it was a no brainer. I’ve only had mine for a few weeks, but I have put it to work.

If you are just now getting into the velocity based training world, this article is for you. I am going to tell you where to start, and give you an idea of some directions to go with it.

Develop a Force-Velocity Profile

Over time there are a lot of data points to look at, but in the beginning you will need to develop a profile to make educated decisions about your training or the training of your athletes. Should you focus on speed work or spend more time going heavy? How do you know? The truth is you don’t know until you find out, so let’s find out how to find out.

First you have to pick a movement to test. Obviously I recommend using a movement you are going to use in training – particularly the bigger compound movements, such as back squat, deadlift, clean, jerk, snatch, bench press, bentover row, or something along these lines. Then the process is fairly simple. You will start at 50% and perform 1-2 reps working all the way up to a maximum using 5% jumps. Let’s look at an example of back squat as the movement being tested:

Back Squat 1RM 500 lb

%    Load   Velocity
50%   250lb 1.10 m/s
55%   275lb 1.00 m/s
60%   300lb 0.87 m/s
65%   325lb 0.78 m/s
70%   350lb 0.71 m/s
75%   375lb 0.65 m/s
80%   400lb 0.59 m/s
85%   425lb 0.51 m/s
90%   450lb 0.40 m/s
95%   475lb 0.32 m/s
100% 500lb 0.25 m/s


Mash Elite's Guide to Velocity-Based Training

By measuring bar speed (simple to do with your smartphone), you can guarantee each and every training session is as effective and safe as possible.

So what do these numbers mean? What do you compare them against? Well my man Bryan Mann blazed the research fields, and came up with these parameters. These columns show the quality of strength, percent of 1RM, and velocity zone.

Quality     % of 1RM   Zone
Absolute        90%+    < 0.5 m/s
Accelerative     65-90%   0.5-0.75 m/s
Strength Speed   45-65%   0.75-1.0 m/s
Speed Strength   25-45%   1.0-1.3 m/s
Starting Strength   0-25%    > 1.3 m/s

If you compare the example profile to the chart, you will find the athlete’s velocity landed perfectly in the suggested velocities or slightly exceeded them. That tells me they need to spend quality time in all the strength zones. I would probably set this athlete up on a traditional Westside-ish program with a dynamic day and a max effort day. The goal is to find out if the athlete leans more toward the velocity end or the force end of the spectrum. Let’s look at another example:

Back Squat 1RM 500 lb

%    Load   Velocity   Results
50%   250lb   0.73 m/s   Slow
55%   275lb   0.71 m/s   Slow
60%   300lb   0.67 m/s   Slow
65%   325lb   0.63 m/s   Low end
70%   350lb   0.58 m/s   Low end
75%   375lb   0.53 m/s   Low end
80%   400lb   0.49 m/s   Slow
85%   425lb   0.45 m/s   Perfect
90%   450lb   0.40 m/s   Perfect
95%   475lb   0.32 m/s   Perfect
100% 500lb   0.25 m/s   Perfect

Now this athlete would be considered perfect in the absolute strength category. However when they venture into those lower percentages, the velocity doesn’t spike like it should. This athlete surely spends a lot of time going heavy but very little on moving moderate weights as quickly as possible. Spending some quality time in the strength-speed and speed-strength zones will benefit this athlete in the other zones. If you are a strength and conditioning athlete or if you coach strength and conditioning athletes, this athlete will benefit in the power department with some focus on velocity. Remember – power is all about having a balance between force and velocity.

This little test will make sure you are coaching your athletes in the strength zone that will benefit them the most. Besides the force-velocity profile, there is a lot more the data can teach you about each individual athlete. In this next session, we are going to look at a few of those.

Applying the Data

Unfortunately not all movements are created equal.

Just because you are fast in one movement doesn’t necessarily mean you will be fast in all movements. Some movements are slow because of efficiency problems, and others will be slow due to injuries and neurological responses. I recommend performing a profile for each of the movements you anticipate performing in your day-to-day program. I will give you an example where we gathered conflicting data:

Deadlift 1RM 540 lb

%    Load   Velocity   Results
50%   270lb   0.68 m/s   Slow
55%   295lb   0.62 m/s   Slow
60%   325lb   0.56 m/s   Slow
65%   350lb   0.52 m/s   Slow
70%   380lb   0.49 m/s   Slow
75%   405lb   0.45 m/s   Slow
80%   430lb   0.38 m/s   Slow
85%   460lb   0.32 m/s   Slow
90%   485lb   0.32 m/s   Low end
95%   505lb   0.30 m/s   Perfect
100% 540lb   0.24 m/s   Perfect

This is the deadlift of the same athlete who tested so well in the back squat in our first example. As you can see, this same athlete is strong with a solid ability to grind through repetitions. However, they aren’t able to generate speed at all in percentages within the accelerative strength zones and up. This athlete will benefit greatly with some quality time spent in the strength-speed and speed-strength zones.

I will program two days of pulling for this athlete with one day of strength-speed work and the other speed-strength. I am playing with some potentiation work (Mash Method/PAP) which seems to really be working well – I will report more on that in a few weeks after spending quality time researching. This athlete will be able to get stronger and more powerful with little to no time spent with heavy loads, which means there will be more time for other elements of their training. Heavy lifting is fun, but it takes a toll on the body. The human body is only capable of performing so much volume before breaking down. That’s a big reason why developing force-velocity profiles are so important – especially for Olympic weightlifters and strength and conditioning athletes.

Think about it for just a second. If a weightlifter can get stronger and teach the body to be more powerful without squatting and pulling heavy, it means there will be more time for quality work on the competition lifts. If you are constantly squatting and pulling heavy, the body is going to require more recovery, which means possibly backing off of the competition lifts.

If you are a football player, you don’t want to get beat up in your training. You want to be able to go out and run routes and sprint. If you are a basketball player, you want to hit the basketball court. That’s why ‘optimal load for the individual’ is going to be the most important phrase for all good strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and strength sport coaches.

Best Practices

To wrap up this concept of Force-Velocity profiling, here are a few best practices:

  • Retest every 4-6 weeks. Simply make it a part of your max effort work, and spread out the tested exercises if you can. The key is making sure you are trending in the right direction.
  • I recommend tracking speeds at 80-85% and collecting that data. You will be able to allow daily velocities to dictate the direction of the session. I will explain more about that in a later article.
  • Use mean velocity for the slower strength movements and peak velocity for the Olympic lifts. The Olympic lifts are variable because some athletes go slower off of the floor, and the speed during extension is the only speed important for making the lift.

Training the Individual

There’s a movement toward individualized programming taking place right now throughout the world. Why do you think America is doing so well in the sport of weightlifting? It’s because coaches like Spencer Arnold, Kevin Simons, and several others understand this concept. This is the very reason I am spending my entire PhD getting a better understanding of physiology and athlete testing. This will be the way progressive coaches will push the needle, while complacent coaches will slowly be left in the past.

For the next four years I will be writing articles like this on a daily basis – informing all of you about the cool projects and research I am performing. I am not the coach who wants to keep it to myself as to create an advantage. My athletes are definitely going to have every advantage at Lenoir-Rhyne University – with an amazing facility, athletic training, hot and cold tubs, Rapid Reboots, velocity based training, Omegawave, force plates, nutrition coaches, an intra-workout nutrition bar, and some of the best minds in the industry. However, I want to be a catalyst for a change in the industry that will see athletes around the world performing at levels once thought impossible.

I am confident two of those ways will be with velocity based training with my friends at GymAware and with athlete testing with my friends at Omegawave. I want to demonstrate the importance of training the individual versus group training. I also want to show the importance of training the athlete where they are on a daily basis versus mapping out some dogmatic plan that doesn’t consider the variable stressors in life. I believe this approach to training will help avoid overtraining and therefore avoid unnecessary injuries that stem from a tanked endocrine system.



FLEX measures lift performance with laser accuracy and gives powerful real-time feedback through your smart device.

Improving Performance

Let me be clear, this style of training isn’t just about avoiding injury and overtraining. It’s about optimal performance that leads to winning:

  • If my athletes can train longer without injury or overtraining, they are going to get better.
  • If my athletes can perform their maximum attempts when their body is primed for maxing out, they have a better chance of making the attempts and learning from the process.
  • If my athletes have a highly functioning cerebellum, they have a better chance at perfecting their movements. There’s definitely a detailed article coming soon on the state of the brain and learning movement patterns.
  • If I know their autonomic nervous systems are shot, then I know high volume is a bad idea.
  • I can get a good idea about a lot of this from simply tracking the data of the velocities at 80-85% in each of my athletes.
  • Besides that, you absolutely need Omegawave to quantifiably make decisions.

I am sure some coach will read this and then go into some tirade about how they know the state of their athletes day in and day out just by looking at them. All I can say is – do whatever you want, but I like to quantify things. Team Mash Elite’s 27 athletes on Team USA in the last five years lets me know we are on the right path. Not to mention we did that in a little town – Lewisville, NC – so don’t tell me it’s about all the great athletes in my backyard. It’s about our unwavering pursuit of knowledge, so our athletes can have every advantage offered. My athletes trust me, so they deserve the best possible version of me. Your athletes deserve the same thing.