March 23

An introduction to Velocity Based Training (VBT)

Velocity based training (VBT) is not a new fad. It is, however, more accessible than ever, and is now a commonly used training tool in elite sport and performance facilities. That’s right, we’ve been using VBT at FX for a while now, and will absolutely continue to!

So, what is VBT, why would we use it, and how can this increasingly accessible technology help coaches and athletes to take their performance to new levels?


Velocity based training: A quick overview

VBT is actually a very simple idea. We use various tools to monitor the speed of strength training movements. As technology advanced, these now include far more than just bar speed, with various options now available to measure throws and other “free movements”, and some of the most forward thinking companies are now looking at angular VBT (accounting for range of motion too!).

However, for today, we’re going to focus on bar speed and jumps, as they are, in my opinion, the simplest and most applicable form of VBT.

Power is a product of both strength and speed, so for development of explosive movements, load and velocity need to play their part. Here’s some things to think about.

  • Are we developing top end power as much with a long, sluggish rep as we are with a fast, focused and purposeful drive?
  • What point should we push the sets to? We can keep grinding the reps, but are there any downsides to just doing more and more?
  • How do we get the right load for the day? Some days, it’s just not there. Can we make this more objective to get more out of the training, and better manage fatigue?

VBT allows us to look beyond weight lifted, and opens the door to new possibilities of greater autoregulation, individualisation and specificity of training.


VBT- What we measure?

There are two main measures we look at when using VBT, either mean velocity or peak velocity. Both are beneficial but cannot be used interchangeably.

Mean velocity is most commonly used, and works best for pure strength exercises (squat, bench, deadlift, etc). This is the average velocity for the entire concentric portion of the lift. For relatively heavy load, this can be a great tool, but is less effective at lighter loads.

For this reason, ballistic/ power based movements such as Olympic movements (particularly power variations) and jump work, peak velocity may be the more appropriate measure. Obviously, clarity on the measure used is important.

Other measures exist, but these are the two main things we’re looking at.


Velocity based training- Main applications

VBT training zones

One of the greatest uses of velocity-based training is the use of specific training zones. This allows the coach and/ or athlete to ensure they target the appropriate adaptations in every set, and every rep of the workout. These zones are based on the underlying theory of the force- velocity curve, with the idea being that the “strength” exercises will have a low velocity at maximum/ high intent, and exercises further targeted towards “power” adaptations will have a higher potential velocity.

In practice, this means we can set “velocity targets” for each set. If we’re exceeding the velocity target- great- we can probably apply more weight to the bar! What if you’re in the target zone? Great- carry on for prescribed sets and reps (unless we drop off- more on this in the next section)! Or if you’re struggling to achieve the target velocity- GREAT! Take some load off the bar, and appreciate the access to technology that now allows for better training!

These zones are now reasonably well established for key strength and power exercises, and allow not only specific loading on the bar, but account for the speed of the rep. This means that we can more accurately plan and execute strength training for the specific adaptation, from maximum strength all the way to starting strength.

I suppose further extensions of this continuum would be isometric training and overload eccentrics at the “maximum strength” side, and addicted jumping at the “maximum velocity/ power” side- if you’re wondering.

Here’s a summary of the zones:

  • Speed (>1.3m/s): Moving a minimal load as fast as possible, so as to maximise speed.
  • Speed-Strength (1.3 – 1.0 m/s): Moving a light load as fast as possible.
  • Power (1.0 – 0.75 m/s): Moving a moderate load as quickly as possible. The priority here is on strength with speed being secondary.
  • Strength-Speed (0.75 – 0.5 m/s): Moving a relatively heavy load as fast as possible. This will be a slow movement but it’s emphasized to move the weight as fast as possible.
  • Maximal Strength (<~ 0.5 m/s): This is using a very heavy load, which ends up being a slow movement.

(Mann, Kazadi, Pirrung & Jensen, 2016)


VBT, targeted adaptation and fatigue management

Building on the idea of training zones, what VBT is particularly useful for is ensuring that we’re training for the adaptation we actually want to achieve. The most obvious comparison here in the weights room is hypertrophy VS power.

If we train with a small velocity cut off- say 10-20%, we stop each set much earlier than would be necessary if training to failure with the same load (providing loading is in the 60-85% 1RM zone). This may mean you leave a lot in the tank.

Is that a bad thing?

Well, it depends. If you’re looking for maximum hypertrophy, YES- it’s bad. You’ll get a lot more from pushing sets much closer to failure. However, if you’re training for power/ explosiveness, not only will this allow for shorter recovery times, but it may actually lead to even better strength/ power adaptations than the more intense sets.

So, for athletes with demanding training schedules before they even hit the gym, the small range for velocity cut offs can be a great way to target the power adaptation. For hypertrophy, going all out, and hitting much slower reps- working to much more grind- will probably be beneficial.

Just be aware of the DOMS- that’ll become a familiar feeling with the grindier sets.


Force- Velocity profiling

Before we go any further, it’s important to note that although we have guidelines to use as training “zones” with VBT, we’re all individuals. This means that we will all have slightly different profiles- different ideal velocities at certain zones, and different velocities in those zones at certain exercises!

The most accurate way to use VBT is to create a Force- Velocity profile for the athlete. For example: squat. Starting with an unloaded barbell, do a max intent squat. Record the Velocity. Go to 20% 1RM, 40%, 60%, 80%, and 100%.

This will probably look very different between individuals, and very different between exercises for the same individual.

Although not completely necessary, if you’re wanting to make VBT a major part of your practice, understanding the individual and exercise specific factors will be incredibly useful.


VBT and autoregulation

Some days you’ll hit the gym on form. Maybe you’ve had a double shot espresso. Maybe you’ve just been told you’re looking “big”, or “shredded”. You’re on fire. Those are the days!

And with VBT, they can get even better, by having the confidence to increase the weight on max lifts, if the form is good and velocity is above expected!

But some days… nope.

You’re not feeling it. You’re just not able to hit the heights you expect. Shitty sleep, high stress, a couple of missed sessions. You’re feeling weak.

Currently, this leaves you either annoyed that you missed the big lifts, or injured from trying. So, what’s the solution?

With VBT, you know on the day if the weight is there or not. If you’re particularly slow on the lifts, just keep within the target velocity, instead of going to absolute max. If that’s a 95%+ day, you now have an alternative. Keep the velocity in the zone- call it 0.2-0.35m/s.

This may mean a little load comes off the bar, but you can still tick off the target sessions, at not only a good intensity, but arguably an even more appropriate intensity for the day.


VBT and 1RM prediction

I’ll keep this short. VBT can help with 1RM predictions, but there’s some grey area here, in the same manner that there is with other forms of 1RM prediction. You find more advanced athletes with higher skill can probably reach lower speeds and still execute the lift.

That said, if you’re hitting a “max squat” 1RM with perfect form and it’s falling in the strength speed zone at 0.8m/s (see below), you can be confident you’ve got more in you.

Again, providing form is good. And that takes us to my last point.


VBT- coaching and intensity

The final major benefit of VBT for coaches is the feedback. If you’re a coach, this can help the athlete see when they’re not showing intent in the sets, and keep the accountability throughout the major lifts.

However, I emphasise this benefit may be predominantly for coaching sessions, particularly in new athletes. Now, experienced lifters know good form, so you can absolutely use VBT to check your intent on lifts.

But for new lifters, this can be a bit of a risk. Velocity should not compromise form. If you get lost in the velocity, at times, you’ll reach higher numbers, but this will lead to a REDUCED training effect. For example,  maybe you hit a squat at 0.5m/s, then decide to drive intent. You now hit 0.7m/s, and throw more load on the bar. 0.5m/s+, but heavier! Winning.

The downside though, is that you’ve lost depth. The solid full squat at the lighter load for 0.5 was replaced by a messy-looking half squat to hit the 0.7, and this stayed at the higher load. This IS NOT the purpose of VBT, and something every coach and athlete using the method should be aware of.

Remember the angular VBT we discussed earlier? Yep, that’s where this fits in- maybe exciting developments in this area in the future (shout out to output sports here!).




VBT is becoming increasingly popular in the world of strength and conditioning and athletic performance. Although not an “essential” in most plans, VBT can add a new dimension to training, with more accurate loading, better fatigue management and increased focus throughout a session.

Do you need it? Absolutely not?

But used well, it’s another useful tool to have.

Want to take your sports performance to the next level? Contact us here. 


Huge shout out here to Train with PUSH and output sports, the two devices we’ve used at FX, and great sources of information on the topic.

If you’ve not already, make sure you drop us a like on INSTAGRAM. Hope this article helps!


Josh Kennedy MSc, ASCC, CSCS


Useful resources:

An Essential guide to VBT, Dan Baker, Train with Push.

Output sports: Velocity based training for strength athletes: Loading prescription and manipulation, Dr. Steve Thompson.

Output sports: Guide to Velocity Based training.

Plus specific webinars on UKSCA IQ and Strength Coach Network.

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