Gabriel Mvumvure, assistant coach for sprints and hurdles at Brown University, presents the home workouts and exercise diagrams that he provides his athletes to maintain mobility, speed, and power while they are on breaks away from the school’s program.
Freelap Friday Five with Harry Banyard
Harry Banyard is a lecturer in Exercise and Sports Science at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. He has completed his Ph.D. in velocity-based resistance training and was previously the athlete development manager for the West Australian Football Commission. Banyard enjoys all things strength and conditioning, including training elite junior athletes and maximizing human performance in the gym and on the field.
Freelap USA: Velocity loss is popular in VBT, but many coaches in strength and conditioning only use bar speed in the Olympic lifts (clean and snatch). Could you share theoretical ideas to help with those exercises in regard to monitoring barbell speed and bar path?
Harry Banyard: Coaches will likely monitor bar speed to encourage their athletes to give “maximal concentric effort” and chase personal bests. So, there’s not much to that—just set up their velocity monitoring tool and off you go. On the other hand, the primary purpose for monitoring the magnitude of velocity loss is to guide the number of reps to be performed in a set. Therefore, if a coach is to use velocity loss thresholds, it depends on the exercise, phase of training, and desired target energy system.
If an athlete is training in a hypertrophic phase, they would likely perform reps to near concentric muscular failure, so when their velocity verges on their minimal velocity threshold, they can terminate a training set. If they are in a power phase or preferentially targeting fast twitch fibers, they can utilize tighter velocity loss thresholds with smaller decreases in allowable velocity loss so that they are training with velocities as close to their maximal velocity capacity for a given load. Notably, Olympic lifts have load-velocity profiles with gradients that are far less steep than core foundation lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift, etc.). Olympic lifts also require an all-or-nothing level of effort from an athlete in that, unless an individual produces a certain high velocity output for a rep, the rep won’t be completed.Velocity loss thresholds for Olympic lifts must be much tighter than core foundation lifts, says @BanyardHarry. Click To Tweet
Therefore, velocity loss thresholds for Olympic lifts must be much tighter than core foundation lifts. The larger, more traditional velocity loss thresholds in the core foundation lifts (i.e., 20%, 40%, etc.) might not be appropriate for Olympic lifts since the magnitude of velocity loss (e.g., 40%) may exceed the critical velocity required for the successful completion of a rep. So, if you were to use a velocity loss threshold in an Olympic lift, you could use tighter thresholds like 5%, 10%, or 20% velocity loss from the athlete’s max velocity for a given load.
Freelap USA: Concentric mean velocity is the measurement of choice in much of the research. Can you share why eccentric velocity is tricky to measure as well as hypothetical pros and cons of this metric?
Harry Banyard: It depends on the exercise, but I don’t think measuring eccentric velocity is tricky as such because most devices will report it for you. The trick is to get eccentric velocity reliable so that you can target specific adaptation. Eccentric contractions and eccentric velocities are important for enhancing stretch shortening cycle movements, strength adaptations, and coping with breaking forces in change of direction cuts, etc. We looked at eccentric velocity in the back squat without placing any constraints on our athletes, and it was highly variable.
However, you can increase the reliability of eccentric velocity by utilizing a metronome to constrain the athlete to one-, two-, or three-second eccentric contractions depending on the adaptation required. In addition, with acceptable resistance training loads, some coaches may even look to instruct their athletes to perform the eccentric contraction as fast as possible to enhance ground reaction forces and the subsequent concentric force output.
Freelap USA: Fatigue in lifting is often hard to determine due to the honest effort required and other factors. The research looks shaky in being able to truly monitor barbell speed and fatigue, so what should practitioners do regarding fatigue management with athletes in the weight room?
Harry Banyard: Fatigue is an interesting discussion point because an athlete requires significant stimulus to create adaptation, but most coaches would wish their athletes to perform the “optimal” amount of resistance training that requires the least amount of lifting for the most amount of adaptation. Monitoring barbell velocity can assist a coach in determining their athlete’s optimal training volume and load intensity. A prerequisite for VBT is that the athlete must provide maximal effort for every rep, and if that is the case, then you can use objective VBT methods to train. Two VBT methods can help guide appropriate training volume or training load intensity.Two VBT methods can guide appropriate training volume or load intensity: sessional velocity loss thresholds and load-velocity profiles with training loads adjusted to hit a target velocity. Click To Tweet
One method to guide resistance training volume is sessional velocity loss thresholds. By monitoring the first few reps of the first training set (usually the fastest reps), the athlete will perform as many reps in a set until a predetermined velocity loss is met. The strength coach should establish the predetermined velocity loss threshold depending on the training goal. For example, if training to enhance maximal power, then 5%, 10%, or 20% velocity loss thresholds are likely chosen, as it is desirable to train near the maximal attainable velocity for a given load and preferentially target type II fibers.
The second method is using load-velocity profiles where the training load (load intensity) can be adjusted to achieve a target velocity in the training session. Load-velocity profiles are reliable and unique to each athlete and each exercise. When an athlete is fatigued, their movement velocity will substantially decrease compared to their baseline load-velocity profile, and, if required, the coach can modify the training load accordingly.
Load-velocity profiles can also be extremely useful during athlete rehabilitation so as to individualize the load progression according to an individual’s rate of recovery. Current research suggests that meaningful changes (an increase in strength or resultant fatigue) in velocity occur around ±0.06 m/s (mean concentric velocity) compared to someone’s maximal attainable velocity for a given load.
Freelap USA: Consistent barbell displacement in strength training enables fair comparisons of the performance of the movement. Would you share a list of requirements to train properly with the right protocol and technology?
Harry Banyard: To utilize VBT to its fullest, athletes should perform exercises with consistent full range of motion based on their technical capabilities. The eccentric phase should utilize consistent, reliable eccentric velocity (maximal or constrained [one-second, two-second, three-second, etc.]), and the concentric phase should be performed with maximal effort. Studies have shown that mean concentric velocity (MV), mean propulsive velocity (MPV), and peak velocity (PV) are all reliable, so you can monitor training with any of these velocity variables. You would typically use MV and MPV for traditional non-ballistic lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift), whereas PV and MPV are mainly used to monitor ballistic exercises (bench press throw, countermovement jump, Olympic lifts).
In terms of devices, research suggests that the best velocity monitoring technologies are 3D motion capture systems or linear transducers. New technologies are constantly evolving and improving, but they need to be properly validated.
Freelap USA: The Romanian deadlift is a popular exercise. With your research comparing it to other movement patterns, what should coaches do differently now to maximize holistic development? How does this research affect training and program design?
Harry Banyard: I don’t think they should do anything differently as such; I think all three exercises are important for holistic athlete development. Therefore, I would still incorporate all of the exercises, time permitting.Our research suggested that the squat was more efficient than the hip thrust and RDL for training both the hip and knee flexors at high loads, says @BanyardHarry. Click To Tweet
Our research article compared the muscle activity profiles of the squat, hip thrust, and RDL, and we suggested that the squat was the most “efficient” exercise of the three for training both the hip and knee flexors at high loads. Thus, if you are time poor and have to pick one exercise to perform with the lower body, the squat may translate better to athletic performance and movement patterns that require hip and knee extension within the same movement.