Velocity Based Training and PUSH Band technology

Cause it’s VBT (Oi! …Oi!)

While we might be channelling AC/DC in the title, this doesn’t mean ‘VBT’ stands for Victoria Bitter training. If anything, it’s quite the contrary – unlike VB, we are improving on our methods by dropping some coin on cutting edge technology in order to complement the knowledge we have cultivated through the vast years of further education held by the coaches at Hammer.

In my New Year’s/ GVT blog, I mentioned the plethora of new technology available to people that can actually hamper focus and performance by providing inaccurate and invalid data. Ultimately, skewed results may lead to the ‘falling off the cliff’ effect common to those chasing the quick fixes and results. So, to counter these inaccuracies, I want to take the time to describe and explain the technology we are adopting within the facility to provide further accuracy and safety in our testing protocol and provide something a little different to your run of the mill training facility.

I know what you are thinking:

Hammer is spending money on technology when you don’t even have air-con?

Well, for two years Hammer has been a facility with the necessities to get results for clients and its biggest draw cards have always been our coaches – the knowledge and attention to detail of all that work in our facility, despite the inappropriate banter, is second to none (in my humble opinion anyway); and our culture, especially amongst our clients, which makes it such a unique facility to train at. So while we don’t have 55-inch TV’s, juice bars, saunas (who needs one when you train in a warehouse anyway) or fully-branded weight plates, those two factors have always been paramount to our ethos; I have always wanted to have a gym with a fantastic culture, encompassing friendliness, fanatical work ethic and considerate gym etiquette and I can confidently say that we have achieved that.

As gym culture to me is the most important characteristic, second was always to have a mixture of new technology with old-school, proven and tested methodologies. No gimmicks; actual technology that is validated by independent research and technology that will make my job easier as a coach and most importantly, improve our clients experience and performance.

The GVT blog was explicit in my view that I value consistency in training and ensuring that I keep people on the paddock, so to speak. The more time clients spend training the better it is for the business and the results and attitude of our clients. Maintaining consistency extends beyond the training methodologies and technique within the facility and includes assessing factors that may hamper clients inside and outside of the gym environment; factors such as neurological and muscular fatigue, emotional exhaustion and poor nutrition are all factors that affect a client’s ability to train day in, day out. Not being around a client 24/7 means that we aren’t always aware of those external factors and while we have dabbled with excel spread sheets and wellness scales in the past year to good effect, I think I have finally found technology that can be integrated effectively into our facility that provides just as much objective data while simultaneously improving the back-end data recording.

Now, we have used the PUSH Band in our testing battery for almost 18 months. However, over time the technology has improved and in doing so, the PUSH Band has incorporated very exciting attributes which has impressed me enough to incorporate its use across the gym more fulsomely.

PUSH it – time to geek out

For the uninitiated, the PUSH band basic function is to record velocity of the lift. Once the function of prohibitively expensive linear transducers that were the realm of universities and some NFL teams, with large strength and conditioning budgets, the PUSH band uses clever wireless technology to record velocity of lifts.

Worn on the forearm and paired with your iOS device, the PUSH Band combines the latest technology with industry-leading algorithms to provide you with actionable workout analytics that will take your coaching to new levels.

While measuring velocity as a function of a lift isn’t exactly new, using the naked eye to do so in the past hasn’t allowed for the quantitative recording that the PUSH Band performs, providing real time client visual feedback and data points. By providing measurable targets, it can allow client performance increases by upwards of 10%.

Stay with me here; remember, this is what we pride ourselves on – namely, knowing the science and not just parroting some Instagram expert.

I have spoken before of the force-velocity curve and quite simply, it forms a large part of our long-term periodisation plans here at Hammer. Put simply, the heavier the load, the slower it can be moved; the true can be said for the contrary – the lighter the load, the quicker it can be moved. While strength is considered the most essential of attributes, all manner of methods of the force-velocity curve must be addressed in order to attain maximal strength. This involves the mix-method approach by using a combination of strength work, strength-speed work, power, speed-strength work and velocity work. Would you look at that, here is the curve, in all its graphical glory:

Now, while the graph looks kind of cool and scientific, we were speaking about what the PUSH Band measures and to put it into perspective, these are the velocities for those respective aspects of the force-velocity curve that we will expect to see on the PUSH Band:

  • Strength = 0.15 – 0.3m/s;
  • Strength-Speed = 0.7 – 1m/s;
  • Power = 1.1 -1.3m/s;
  • Speed-Strength = 1.4 – 1.6m/s; and
  • Speed = >1.7m/s.

Further translating those numbers across types of lifts prescribed in your training phase will mean the following:

  •  Strength = heavy loads that you can only lift between 1 – 3 times; this will be commensurate of 85-95% your 1 repetition maximum (1RM);
  • Strength – Speed = loads roughly 80% of a 1RM lifted as quickly as possible – hopefully within the above velocity range;
  • Power = loads 50-70% of a 1RM within the above velocity range above;
  • Speed – Strength = is 20-40% of a 1RM within the above velocity range; and
  • Speed = bodyweight or plyometrics with weights under 20% of a 1RM within the above velocity range.

Now, lots of talk about speed and 1RM’s and the like may have meant that you have drifted off, but it’s always better to put things in a relative perspective.

Knowing velocities allows the Hammer coaches to determine loading without relying on the naked eye or client feedback which may not always be accurate (whether through fear, a misguided sense of confidence or otherwise). So for example, I may be training a client within the strength-speed phase and would like a client to lift 80% of their 100kg 1RM at least 5 times; performing 5 lifts of so 80kg should return velocities between 0.5m/s and 0.6m/s. The following week, should that same client increase that velocity of 0.06 m/s, then this correlates to an increase in 1RM strength; for example, an average of 0.03-0.05m/s increase in speed is roughly a 1kg increase in 1RM strength.

On the contrary, should a client decrease in speed across the same weight and repetition range, then this may indicate particular factors are affecting their performance; the client might be tired or overreached, they might be training too hard or intentionally in a particularly hard phase prescribed by the coach and this is expected. Alternatively, the clients mental state could be impinging on their performance – they might have had a particularly difficult work at week that has meant an increase in stress and anxiety; they might have had relationship issues and which has affected their sleep patterns and impeded the CNS from recovering and affecting the ability to produce the requisite force and lift the weight.

So the PUSH Band provides us with the objective data that allows us to maintain levels of performance in order improve strength, monitor training fatigue and ascertain whether external factors are affecting performance that would not otherwise be apparent through pure observation.

Testing, not guessing

The introduction of the more comprehensive software that comes with the PUSH Band allows for a change in our testing battery. While I have tinkered with our testing battery over the last 2 years, normally performed every 6 weeks, including adding or substituting certain testing parameters after determining what provides effective data points, the inclusion of the PUSH Band has meant that for the 3rd straight year I have changed our testing battery. However, I am confident that with the use of PUSH Band our testing battery will be the most comprehensive and accurate to date.

So instead of a two-day testing battery we will conduct testing over one day and will include the following:

  • Skinfolds – to determine fat percentage and mm of non-functional mass (fat mass);
  • PUSH Band Vertical Jump – by using the PUSH Band to determine a vertical jump height, this reduces the influence of the arm swing which strictly measures;
  • PUSH Band jump squat at 40% 1RM or 1RM Squat Clean – These are performed for our Strength – Speed test; notably, the guys who are competent with O-Lifting will do the squat clean 1RM and those who aren’t will perform a jump squat test with the PUSH Band, with height of the jump and peak power during the lift measured by the PUSH Band.
  • PUSH Band predictive strength tests (Bench Press and Squat) – the PUSH Band has the ability to perform a predictive 1RM test by using average velocities in an algorithm to accurately predict our true 1RM. This is a great tool, as it is safer than doing a 1RM and also reduces the fluctuations that are observed when performing 1RM’s from phase to phase. For true 1RM lifting, the subject has to be mentally ‘ON’ and when we have a regular client fronting up at 5.30am, after having a hell of a week, they might not always be ready for that max effort. This new protocol allows clients to build to submaximal loads, without the stress of always seeking that 1RM. While I maintain that 1RM testing is still important testing protocol, we will simply adapt the timing of that protocol to ensure that is safer and performed after establishing a proper strength foundation.
  • Fortunately, or unfortunately if you are not a fan of it, we will keep our O-Neil test, or aerobic rowing test, for measuring aerobic endurance.

Now, I got a little excited and you probably checked out long ago. However, while I may have gotten excited about something seemingly tedious, I believe that the technology we are introducing is going take your training experience to the next level, allowing you to access methodologies and testing protocols that are often limited to professional sporting teams. The PUSH Band technology, combined with our innovative periodisation and excellent culture (cultivated by you, the clients) means that we are excited for what 2017 holds for clients of Hammer.

By Matt Ham

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