Two identical powerlifters of equal height, weight, and strength back-squat the same amount of weight for the same number of reps, and, yet, one has a better workout than the other. One exits the squat rack feeling totally spent, the other barely broke a sweat.

How is this possible?

In one word: intensity.

While many self-driven bodybuilders and exercisers measure the quality of their workout primarily based on max weight and reps, few take the time to consider the importance of other key exercise variables, such as intensity, rest, tempo, etc. 

Most of these variables are easy to measure. “Rest time” can be calculated as the “time between sets,” and “tempo” may be set to a metronome (e.g., with a metronome app on your phone). However, intensity is fairly difficult to measure.

Traditionally, “intensity” has been measured as a percentage of one’s 1-rep max (1-RM)—i.e., the maximum amount of weight one can lift in a single repetition. Of course, due to day-to-day variance in 1-RM, this doesn’t offer the most accurate reading of one’s training intensity.1,2

This is why, with further advancements in exercise technology, many athletes, trainers, and powerlifters have turned to a potentially more accurate measure of one’s training intensity—one that takes into account the speed of one’s exercises. And that measure is: velocity!

To better understand the role of velocity in training, as well as the distinct advantages of Velocity-Based Training for Powerlifting, let’s start with the basics:

What is Velocity-Based Training (VBT)?

As the name suggests, velocity-based training (VBT) is a strength-training modality that relies on the speed of movement (velocity) of a lifted weight-load, as opposed to the more traditional training method of measuring weight-load as a percentage of one’s 1-rep max (1-RM).

With this modality, coaches and trainers may determine the speed of an exerciser’s movement and adjust the exerciser’s weight-load and velocity accordingly in real time to maximize the exerciser’s efforts.3

Of course, the success of VBT is highly dependent on velocity-measuring technology. While the practice of VBT has been around since at least the mid-80s, much of the feasibility of VBT as an ideal strength-training regimen has required the ongoing development of exercise-tracking technologies, such as linear position transducers, laser optic devices, and wearable accelerometers

But let’s not get too hung up on the tech. It’s the information that the tech provides that’s most important (and most interesting) here.

The key advantage of VBT is how this strategy allows for on-the-spot training adjustments. Athletic readiness, strength, stress, stamina, fatigue—many factors, both physical and psychological, may affect the intensity and efficiency of one’s workout.

By demanding an objective-yet-adaptive standard of lifting speed, VBT helps amplify an athlete’s day-by-day efforts while conditioning long-term improvements in neuromuscular performance.

List of VBT Vocabulary

Different coaches and trainers use different vocabularies. Even for a relatively standardized strength-training modality such as VBT - the vocab often varies, especially considering the variability of VBT devices preferred by different coaches, trainers, athletes, etc.

With that in mind, some of the key terms of velocity-based training include:

  1. Velocity – distance ÷ time – this can be expressed in either peak or mean velocity (see below) and is the primary measure of VBT.
  2. Acceleration – if velocity is distance over time, acceleration measures the rate of change of velocity; this is important for the next measure.
  3. Force – mass x acceleration – whereas traditional training modalities focus strictly on mass, VBT takes into account both mass and acceleration (force) to get a better reading of strength and performance.
  4. Force Velocity Curve – the relationship between force and velocity on a continuum typically sees an inverse relationship between force and velocity—i.e., as force decreases, velocity increases; as velocity decreases, force increases. This measure fits “max strength” and “max speed” as opposite extremes of the curve.
  5. Load – or mass – refers to the weight amount being lifted.
  6. Effort – refers to one’s intent to lift with maximum speed.
  7. Exertion – refers to one’s proximity to failure (exhaustion) during a set.
  8. 1-Repetition Maximum – or 1-rep max (1-RM) – refers to the maximum load one can lift in a single repetition.
  9. Concentric Exercise – involves movements that shorten (contract) your muscles.
  10. Eccentric Exercise – involves movements that elongate your muscles.

If a lot of this feels like an overwhelming return to physics class, don’t worry. The key things to remember here is the relationship between velocity and force, and their importance to maximizing one’s strength and exercise performance before reaching exhaustion.

It’s all about efficiency - optimization of one’s speed, repetitions, and load - as opposed to merely maximizing one’s rep count or load amount per set without any consideration towards effort and exertion.

Soon, we’ll go into greater detail about the 3 main metrics of velocity-based training. But first...

Velocity-Based vs. Percentage-Based Training: Which is Better?

Whereas velocity-based training offers on-the-spot calculation and adjustment of an exerciser’s workout regimen, percentage-based training (PBT) involves establishing loading parameters (i.e., how much you lift per set) based on the exerciser’s 1-rep max.

Typically, a percentage-based training regimen sees a week-by-week incremental increase in 1-RM percentage. So, if on week one, you’re lifting at 70% of your 1-RM, then on week two you’ll bump that up to 75% 1-RM—and 80% 1-RM on week three, 85% 1-RM on week four, and so on.

On the fly and with no advanced VBT devices, percentage-based training is an effective method of increasing one’s powerlifting performance.

However, research does suggest that the VBT strategy may possess superior advantages over PBT, as one group of researchers observed that “VBT intervention induced favorable adaptations in maximal strength and jump height in trained men when compared with a traditional PBT approach.”4

The Uses of Velocity-Based Training

The simplest way to put it: VBT is used to help athletes get in better shape. However, this drastically undersells the effectiveness of VBT, as well as minimizing the many ways that VBT can be used by trainers and athletes.

Some of the more popular uses of velocity-based training include:

  • Predicting 1-RM
  • Gauging physical stamina
  • Enhancing speed performance
  • Providing acute exercise feedback
  • Self-regulating objective performance
  • Maintaining exercise-related calorie-burning
  • Targeting other specific athletic qualities and goals

And much more. As many different types of trainers and athletes increasingly use VBT for many different types of exercise regimens and fitness goals, the known uses of VBT are only expanding.

For powerlifters, in particular, who may be used to just slow, static lifting, and who perhaps feel frustrated over the slow inefficiency of their exercise, velocity-based training may serve as a helpful “fire under the ass” motivation to transform your workouts from low-energy weightlifting to dynamic, sweat-inducing strength-training.

But to understand the exact usefulness of velocity-based training, we need to go over VBT’s 3 main metrics.

The 3 Metrics of Velocity-Based Training

With velocity-based training, the point isn’t to move “as fast as possible” but rather to hit an optimal target velocity.5 To determine a target velocity, the following metrics are typically used:

1) Mean Concentric Velocity

Essentially, the mean concentric velocity is the average speed during the concentric (muscle-shortening) phase of exercise.

This metric averages out both the acceleration (speeding up) and deceleration (slowing down) velocities of the concentric phase and is useful for common strength-building exercises, such as bench press, back squat, deadlifts, etc. Typically, the greater the exercise intensity, the lower the mean concentric velocity—and vice versa.6

2) Peak Concentric Velocity

Usually calculated every 5-milliseconds, the peak concentric velocity determines the peak speed during the concentric phase of exercise.

Though the peak concentric velocity isn’t as broad of a metric as the mean concentric velocity, which averages out the total velocities of each concentric phase, the peak concentric velocity is useful for gauging power-based ballistic exercises, such as power cleans, snatches, jump squats, etc.—i.e., exercises highly dependent on an explosive acceleration.7

For such explosive exercises where the timing of acceleration matters, peak concentric velocity is more useful than mean concentric velocity, which doesn’t take into account the importance of pinpoint-timing.

3) Mean Propulsive Velocity

Different from mean concentric velocity, mean propulsive velocity takes into consideration the “propulsive” phase, which essentially refers to acceleration not attributed to gravity.

Because gravity, as opposed to sheer muscle power, accounts for some acceleration, measuring the acceleration velocity beyond the gravity baseline may offer a more accurate picture of a powerlifter’s true performance levels, undiluted by the natural accelerating force of gravity.8

Velocity-Based Training for Powerlifters: Full Benefits

Naturally, because VBT has a cost-barrier due to the requirement of advanced velocity-measuring devices, velocity-based training is typically restricted to well-funded team sports and training facilities.

For the average powerlifter, VBT may seem like more a hassle than a benefit, especially for the powerlifters who understandably favor good ol’ fashioned technology-free exercise.

Just muscle and weights, baby.

However, the advantages of velocity-based training are undeniable, particularly for powerlifters who feel they can autoregulate their performance even better to get more out of their workout sessions. For such powerlifters, VBT can help improve:

  • Strength Enhancement
  • Muscular Stamina
  • Anabolic Growth
  • Thermogenic Fat Loss
  • Explosiveness
  • Timing
  • Dynamic Form and Posture
  • Overall Exercise Efficiency

Especially for powerlifting exercises that require specifically timed explosive movements, such as power cleans and snatches, VBT may help you gauge your powerlifting velocity and amplifying it to a heightened competitive degree.

Does Strength-Training Boost Testosterone?

As we age, testosterone levels decline. And with declined testosterone levels comes a decline in male vigor and vitality, making high-intensity strength-training more and more difficult as we age.

However, this decline is dual-sided: low T levels contribute to low-intensity exercise, whereas inadequate exercise contributes to low T levels.

Research suggests that resistance exercise may help generate increases in testosterone and human growth hormone (hGH) to varying degrees based on velocity.

In the conclusion of a 2014 study, a group of researchers suggested that “a hypertrophy type resistance exercise protocol performed at maximum movement velocity increases testosterone and hGH” and a “protocol performed at submaximum movement velocity combined with greater training volume stimulates to a greater extent the hGH response with no effect on [stress hormone] cortisol.”9

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  • Restoring depleted vitamins and minerals that are essential to the production of testosterone and other T-related hormones.
  • Elevating testosterone production via the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonad (HPG) axis and other key hormonal bio-pathways.
  • Combatting catabolic stress factors such as stress hormone cortisol and oxidative stress (free radicals), both of which diminish T activity and anabolic muscle growth.
  • Balancing male vs. female sex hormones by blocking aromatase, the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into estrogen.

The idea here isn’t to synthetically flush the body with an unnatural degree of testosterone activity but rather to work with the body’s natural T-synthesizing pathways for healthier, stronger male performance.

As we age, our T levels naturally decline, resulting in lower energy, vigor, and vitality in many areas of male health and fitness—sexual, physical, mental, and beyond.

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Though velocity-based training has been around for several decades now, recent improvements in technology have made VBT more accessible and easily managed.

By incorporating VBT in your powerlifting regimen, you may see significant improvements not only in your performance but in your overall health and fitness as well, including your anabolic hormone profile.

Because VBT is still being explored in many different areas, we are just barely scratching the surface here on the usefulness of VBT for powerlifting—and abroad.

Paired with Testo Lab Pro®, a natural T-booster stack designed to optimize the body’s male hormone profile, velocity-based training can significantly enhance a man’s …well, manliness, increasing your overall health and fitness without wasting any more time on weak, low-effort exercise.

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  1. Wilk M et al. The Effects of the Movement Tempo on the One-Repetition Maximum Bench Press Results. J Hum Kinet. 2020 Mar; 72: 151-159.
  2. Thompson SW et al. The Effectiveness of Two Methods of Prescribing Load on Maximal Strength Development: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine. 2019 Dec 11; 50: 919-938.
  3. Thompson SW et al. The Reliability and Validity of Current Technologies for Measuring Barbell Velocity in the Free-Weight Back Squat and Power Clean. Sports (Basel). 2020 Jun 30; 8(7): 94.
  4. Dorrell HF et al. Comparison of Velocity-Based and Traditional Percentage-Based Loading Methods on Maximal Strength and Power Adaptations. J Strength Cond Res. 2020 Jan; 34(1): 46-53.
  5. Hirsch SM, Frost DM. Considerations for Velocity-Based Training: The Instruction to Move "As Fast As Possible" Is Less Effective Than a Target Velocity. J Strength Cond Res. 2019 Jul 1.
  6. Carroll KM et al. Increases in Variation of Barbell Kinematics Are Observed with Increasing Intensity in a Graded Back Squat Test. Sports. 2017 Jul; 5(51).
  7. Zemková E et al. Enhancement of peak and mean power in concentric phase of resistance exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Oct; 28(10): 2919-26.
  8. García-Ramos A et al. Mean Velocity vs. Mean Propulsive Velocity vs. Peak Velocity: Which Variable Determines Bench Press Relative Load With Higher Reliability? J Strength Cond Res. 2018 May; 32(5): 1273-1279.
  9. Smilios I et al. Hormonal responses after resistance exercise performed with maximum and submaximum movement velocities. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Mar; 39(3): 351-7.