A Velocity Based Training (VBT) Scam

Andrew Charniga

www.sportivnypress.com

Forever pounding a square peg into a round hole

“Fast lifting produced the least improvement of strength. However, the maximum results were obtained with an alternation of moderate, fast and slow tempo of performing exercises.” A.N. Vorobeyev, 1977;1988. Translated by Andrew Charniga

Although a number of essays have more than adequately refuted the delusion of a seamless transfer of simplicity: static strength (powerlifting) to complexity: dynamic strength (Olympic lifting, track and field events and other power events which require complex coordination); there is no shortage of hucksters, charlatans and the like to hawk the latest ‘new’ thing in strength and conditioning to a ‘buy – fit’ crowd. The strength and conditioning community has a rather pernicious, long standing reputation to buy the latest fitness toys for conditioning athletes. The most common expression of competency is a S&C coach touting the various strength and conditioning equipment/toys purchased for the weight room.     

One need only take a tour of a major college weight room to see a ‘buy – fit’ mentality at work: rooms crammed with racks, benches, heavy dumbbells, bands, chains; and, now, the latest in electronic monitors. The same can be said of the university and professional sports’ athletic training and physical therapy rooms, collectively. What is patently obvious; many millions of dollars are spent on ‘buy – fit’ and ‘get – well’ commercial toys designed for people who are supposedly knowledgeable (certified) in the fields of strength & conditioning as well as injury prevention and rehabilitation; yet ‘buy fit’ and ‘get well’ stuff are designed by engineers; whom are, for the most part, inexperienced in sport.

The aforesaid professionals, collectively toil under the delusion their methods of training and medicating athletes are the solutions or, even mitigation of an epidemic of injury in American sport (see Charniga, www.sportivnypress.com); and not what is actually the case: a substantial part of the problem. Hence, the readiness to adopt, i.e., purchase; the latest training and rehab toys; a way of demonstrating they know what they are doing.  

Figure 1. Elite female weightlifter expresses an instantaneous, complex – dynamic mobility in multiple major joints: wrists, elbow, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles all bend in a fraction of a second. This expression of a rapid, complex suppleness is not a problem to avoid; it is in fact, a unique quality useful across the of range dynamic sports. Charniga photo. 

“Where simplifications fail, causing the most damage, is when something is simplified with the linear as substitute. That is the most common Procrustean bed.” Nasim Taleb,

A velocity based training (VBT) system; the idea one should train at specific velocity of barbell or other resistance implement is the latest and current fad in strength and conditioning; unfortunately for the unsuspecting, the gullible; it is just another scam; which in effect, carries on a long tradition of pounding a square peg into around hole. In general, these scams, especially this one; are little more than academic wet dreams. Although there are many absolute falsehoods to list encompassing the VBT scam; here are some of the most glaring: 

The following statement is a bare – faced lie:

“Mean velocity has been used with the Olympic lifts since the 1960’s in the Soviet Union. R.A. Roman, in his text The Training of the Weightlifter,7 published the most effective mean velocities for improving 1RM in training. If the barbell slowed down or did not move fast enough, something was wrong with the technique.” (Mann, https://simplifaster.com/articles/olympic-lifts-importance-peak-velocity-recommended-guidelines/)

No such thing as velocity based training appeared in any of Roman’s books (1962; 1968; 1974) including the 1986 edition translated into English by Andrew Charniga (sportivnypress, Livonia, Michigan publishers) and two other of Roman’s texts of weightlifting technique. There are profound differences and clear cut distinctions between the simplistic static movements such as squat, bench press, dead-lift, curl, and other simple weight room exercises; irregardless of bar speed; and complex dynamic (the classic snatch and the classic clean and jerk) exercises (see Charniga, “Distinctions between static (powerlifting/bodybuilding) and dynamic (ballistic/weightlifting) expressions of strength in resistance exercises ”, www.sportivnypress.com).

The contrasting facts between static and dynamic exercises presented in the essay “Distinctions between static (powerlifting/bodybuilding) and dynamic (ballistic/weightlifting) expressions of strength in resistance exercises” are clearly beyond the limited imagination of  the ‘static’ strength crowd to comprehend. In fact,  their ignorance emanates from their unceasing efforts to force a square peg into a round hole: use static, simplistic exercises; and, now tracking bar speed to develop qualities which would carry – over to the complexity of dynamic sports. 

For instance: “If the barbell slowed down or did not move fast enough, something was wrong with the technique.” (Mann)

A slowing bar speed is not a sign of bad technique: it means the weight is heavy or the athlete is just fatigued. Try as one might, you can’t move heavy weights fast; that is why we call them heavy weights. If you could move heavy weights fast – we would call them light weights. A weightlifter trains with a range of weights 50 – 100% and more than 100% of maximum result in the classic snatch and the classic clean and jerk in squats and pulls. The bar speed, the barbell trajectory,  the inter – muscular coordination are all different with each weight increment. The bar speed is not the  technique. The speed of muscle contraction, the speed of muscle relaxation; the speed with which the body moves in the act of switching directions; the speed of establishing balance and equilibrium; all components of  inter- muscular coordination – that is the technique. Those qualities of coordination define the weightlifter’s technique. Those are the speeds which characterize the technique of the high class weightlifter (see  Charniga, A., “Speed in weightlifting: an optical illusion”, www.sportivnypress.com).

The most effective training weights for the classic snatch and the classic clean and jerk are in the 90% and above range. Practicing with a optimum amount of 90% lifts is the widely acknowledged most effective weight range to develop and practice the skill of strength in weightlifting. The strength expressed in lifting 90% and above weights most closely matches that of lifting maximum weights in competition. Hence, the skill, the ability to lift a maximum weight is expressed in the presence of a relatively ‘slow bar speed’. A high class weightlifter cannot develop weightlifting skill practicing at arbitrarily predetermined bar speeds; when bar speed, by its very nature, varies with each weight increment.     

the skill to execute the squat under in the presence of a slower barbell speed is also indicative of better technique; It is precisely this skill that is important for lifting maximum weights, I.P. Zhekov, 1976

Furthermore, the lifting forces produced by the weightlifter’s movement of the body and the individual links in the classic snatch and the classic clean and jerk, the rapid switching of directions and rapid squatting under imparts additional lifting forces to the barbell: unattainable in the pull phases of lifting alone (see Charniga, “Speed in weightlifting: an optical illusion”).

Weightlifters raise 100% weights higher in the classic snatch and the classic clean, than are possible to lift the same 100% weights in the respective high pull exercises (R.A. Roman, 1974; 1986). So, weightlifters training at a specific bar speed has some merit except the VBT have it backwards: the skill of weightlifting is the ability to raise a slow moving barbell (Zhekov, 1969; 1976); an, intricacy of skill outside the imagination of the VBT huckster.

One aspect of common sense, the gullible, the unsuspecting, would not stop to consider which lay bare the lies espoused in support of a VBT is accessibility in the USSR of the 1960s to ease – of – use 21st century electronics. Even if there were some VBT training being used in the USSR since the 60s; which there was not. How did the average coach manage to track: “Mean velocity has been used with the Olympic lifts since the 1960’s in the Soviet Union.” (Mann).

No such readily accessible technology existed. For heaven’s sake; in 1979 a hand held calculator cost about 135 rubles: more than the average monthly salary in the USSR. And, these techno marvels could only perform four functions: addition; subtraction; division and multiplication. In most stores in the USSR, cash registers could not even perform simple functions of addition, subtraction; the cashiers figured a customer’s purchase with a 4 – 5,000 year old calculator: an abacus.

In an article published in the 1978 Weightlifting Yearbook; Roman described the tedious calculations he made to arrive at the bar speed, bar height, bar displacement data for the books  the The Press, the Snatch, the Clean and Jerk and the The Snatch, the Clean and Jerk. The available video cameras of the day had a speed of 24 – frames per second. Roman wrote he had to allot 3 – 4 hours of time to measure and calculate data from a single frame. Hardly hi – tech; and, the notion of tracking bar speed for training purposes “since the 1960s”; an impossibility.

Tempo of weightlifting exercises

Some results of research from the weightlifting institute headed by world & Olympic champion, MD, PhD author, A.N. Vorobeyev to determine optimum the tempo of performing weightlifting exercises (squats, presses and so forth) revealed an alternation of tempos and heavier weights (90 & 80%) realized the largest improvement (see table 1): 

“A comparison of the results obtained established that the group which trained with 90% of maximum made the largest improvement – 31.9 kg. The group that trained with 80% weights made slightly less improvement and the group that used 70% improved made the least improvement with 20.9 kg.

Fast lifting produced the least improvement of strength. However, the maximum results were obtained with an alternation of moderate, fast and slow tempo of performing exercises. It is obvious from table 15 that the variable method of performing exercises yields the greatest effect. This can be explained as the organism’s lesser ability to adapt to a variable tempo of loading.” A.N. Vorobeyev, 1988

Table 1. Comparison of strength increases over a 10 – week period of training depending on the tempo of performing the exercises. (A.N.Vorobeyev, 1977;1988)

Exercise tempo Improvement of strength
fast 9±0.9
moderate 16.3±0.5
slow 9.5±0.8
very slow 11.2±1.1
variable 22.2±0.6

That an alternation of exercise tempos would produce better results is a logical outcome as the body would respond less to the same ‘irritant’ the more often it was repeated. Furthermore, an alternation/variance of bar speed is a natural consequence of using a range of weights; irregardless of how one wishes to lift at a given velocity. In this classic study, the most effective weights were heavier: 80 & 90% of maximum.

Barbell speed is a factor of the resistance: one can only move 90% so fast.  The scam perpetrated by the VBT crowd, that Russian coaches were training elite weightlifters and/or other athletes to lift at “mean velocity” since the 60s; implying readily accessible ease of use tech toys of the 21st century in the 1960s no less; is just another example of ignorance for sale to the ultra – gullible ‘buy – fit’ crowd. 

A prime example, of a huckster’s blueprint for hucksters to mass market VBT can be viewed in the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwWDmBeUFpo

The nonsense presented in this link is nothing less than a mellifluously spewing of a steady stream of meaningless aphorisms. An exercise in buffoonery disguised as science. 

The ‘derivatives’ myth; injuries to upper extremities, inconsequential lifting phases and the like

There are number of factors supporting a dyslogistic to justify  prescription of abbreviated range of motion resistance exercises. For instance, the whole premise of the use of ‘derivatives’ (see Charniga, www.sportivnypress.com) is the idea the main benefit of Olympic lifting exercises is achieved by performing the so – called triple extension of hip, knee and ankles in the pull phases; which is false. The derivatives devotees use a triple extension myth to justify abbreviated range of motion weightlifting exercises; because the so – called catch (fixing the bar overhead in snatch or at the chest) is ‘dangerous’. In point of fact, typical collegiate and professional weight room athletes lack mobility in wrists, elbows and shoulders to fix the barbell on the chest or overhead. Since the “real benefit” comes from “overloading the triple extension” (see Charniga, “The derivatives myth”) only pulling motions are justified; and, are considered safe; a false narrative.

Consequently, by means of coupling with the derivatives lie; the  VBTs’ likewise claim that the ‘catch’ (fixing the barbell on the chest or overhead) “…is the “inconsequential’ phase of weightlifting” (Mann). Statements of abject ignorance such as this either ignore or more likely are beyond the comprehension of such a devotee. In point of fact, the switching of directions and rapid squatting to fix the barbell is  where the greatest speed of movement occurs in the classic exercises. This switching is where the highest speed of muscle relaxation occurs, i.e., when the weightlifter expresses the most athletic, complex of dynamic skills to raise a slow moving barbell (see figure 4).

Another ambiguity, masquerading  as a truism is the following statement to avoid the ‘inconsequential’ catch because:

“Injuries to the wrist, shoulder, and elbow are quite common among a multitude of sports, and these joint injuries can greatly impede the catching portion of the lift movements.” (Mann)

Figure 3. Failure to recognize that suppleness and large range of motion in joints are integral parts of the weightlifter’s strength topography is one of the most common misconceptions about weightlifting. Charniga photo.

First of all, according to the national athletic trainers association the most common injury in American sport is an ankle injury. Be that as it may, if wrist, shoulder and elbow injuries are so common; the first place to look is around the weight room where everyone is doing bench press,  deadlift, curls, machine exercises and other simple movements which require no special mobility; if anything these exercises contribute significantly to stiffening the aforesaid joints and to a heighten injury susceptibility in dynamic sports. 

On the other hand, why wouldn’t developing and maintaining mobility in wrist, elbow and shoulder joints be a positive; an potential injury prophylactic? Instead of sending athletes out to the field or court with a ‘powerlifter’s stiff as a board joints; a logical alternative would be a cultivation of mobility in all the athlete’s joints: hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, spine and so forth. One can be ready to perform the ‘inconsequential’ phases of the Olympic lifting exercises with potentially injury prophylactic supple joints; instead a power lifter’s stiff as boards joints; which are injuries waiting to happen.

If truth be known, the main reason the derivatives and VBT people exclude the “inconsequential” ‘catch’ phase, of Olympic movements; such as the power clean; is to justify their overstating the value of simple weight room exercises; performed at arbitrarily determined special bar speeds; especially since expensive electronic toys are required. This is on top of their abject ignorance of the value of the most complex, fastest phases of the Olympic lifting exercises. 

Figure 4. The world’s strongest man performing the highest speed of movement in the classic clean and jerk – a rapid descent under the barbell; which is most crucial for lifting maximum weights: OM Yun Chol (PRK) dropping under more than three times body weight with an acceleration significantly greater than a free falling body. Charniga photo. 

The following direct quote from a doyen of VBT is a quintessential example of a pounding of a square peg into a round hole. A misrepresentation – of – science – scam. Who would be dumb enough, gullible enough to believe this bizarrerie?: 

“the bench press was more highly correlated to the vertical jump than the Olympic lifts.”, Mann, J., Developing explosive athletes” the velocity based training in training athletes

That someone actually put this to print, speaks volumes in and of itself; it screams: snake oil salesman!

Something about Robert Roman

Just for the record there is no such thing as VBT in any Roman book – including the 1962, 1968, 1974 and 1986 versions of The training of the weightlifter. Furthermore, he mentioned nothing of the kind when I met with him in the USSR in 1983. The main reason he would not mention any  such thing is because there is no such thing as VBT associated with him. Roman was the real thing: a legitimate sport scientist; in possession of a wealth of weightlifting knowledge, accumulated from many years of actual experiences in the field.   

Figure 5. Robert Roman (USSR) perusing the library of Tommy Kono circa 1967 in Mexico City, Mexico. Kono photo

Roman was a professor at Moscow State University and along with A.N. Vorobeyev, an Olympic and world champion, MD, PhD  was one of the founding fathers Soviet weightlifting sport science. He was briefly head coach of the USSR national weightlifting team; a lifter in his own right, placing at the USSR national championships in the early 1950s. He authored a number of books on weightlifting sport science and numerous articles for USSR journals.  

Figure 5. A skill weightlifters cultivate, misunderstood, ignored or otherwise overlooked by the static strength and VBT crowds alike is the Olympic weightlifter’s ability for high speed muscle relaxation; and, especially reflexive muscle relaxation. Unlike simplistic go fast and otherwise static strength exercises; the qualities of muscle relaxation, foster, if needed, rapid shifting of the disposition of the body to avoid or otherwise dissipate mechanical energy of a slip or fall, tackle, and so forth. Charniga photo 

Conclusions

/ there is no such thing as VBT associated with Soviet sports science and certainly no connection of such a scam with Robert Roman; a legitimate ‘giant’ of Soviet weightlifting sport science;

/ velocity based training is the latest in a long line of commercial smoke screens obscuring a coach’s lack of experience and expertise in the training and conditioning of athletes for dynamic sports;

/ the skill of weightlifting strength is the ability to lift a slow moving barbell with high speed of movement made possible by high speed muscle relaxation and suppleness in multiple joints, qualities not developed in typical college or professional sports weight rooms;

/ suppleness in joints, wrist, elbow and shoulder inclusive should be considered an enhancer of strength and a potential injury prophylactic; not something to avoid;

/ athletes training for dynamic sport should not have to avoid common movements such as fixing the a barbell on the chest in the a clean because of lack of mobility and suppleness in joints caused by anti – suppleness powerlifting and machine exercises;

/ A vertical jump is performed with the legs and trunk; the performer is standing upright; a bench press is performed with the arms and shoulders while lying on the back: how does that correlate?

References

1/ Mann, J., Ivey, P., Sayers, S., “Velocity based training in football”, NSCA journal, 37:6:2015

2/ Guerriero, A., Varalda, C., Piacentini, M., “The role of velocity based training in the strength periodization for modern athletes, J. of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology. 3:55:2018

3/ Mann, J., Developing explosive athletes” the velocity based training in training athletes;

4/ Mann, J., “The Olympic lifts: the importance of peak velocity and recommended guidelines”. https://simplifaster.com/articles/olympic-lifts-importance-peak-velocity-recommended-guidelines/

5/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwWDmBeUFpo

6 / Sandau, I., Chaabene, H., Granacher, U., “Predictive Validity of the Snatch Pull Force-Velocity Profile to Determine the Snatch One Repetition-Maximum in Male and Female Elite Weightlifters”, J. Funct. Morphol. Kinesiol. 2021, 6, 35. https://doi.org/10.3390/jfmk6020035

/ Charniga, A., “How is it possible weightlifters are stronger?”, www.sportivnypress.com

/ Charniga, A., “The derivatives myth”, www.sportivnypress.com

/ Charniga, A., “Speed in weightlifting: an optical illusion”, www.sportivnypress.com

/ Charniga, A., “Distinctions between static (powerlifting/bodybuilding) and dynamic (ballistic/weightlifting) expressions of strength in resistance exercises ”, www.sportivnypress.com

Charniga, A., “There is no System”, (parts 1 – 4). www.sportivnypress.com

Roman, R.A., The training of the weightlifter {1962; 1968; 1974; 1986} Fizkultura I Sport, Moscow. English translation of the 1986 version translated by Andrew Charniga sportivnypress, Livonia, MI USA

/ Roman, R.A., The press, the snatch, the clean and jerk, The snatch, the clean and jerk {1970 & 1978 respectively. English translation Andrew Charniga. English translation of 1978 version: Sportivnypress, Livonia, MI USA

/ Zhekov, I.P., Biomechanics of the Weightlifting Exercises, English translation: Sportivnypress, Livonia, Michigan, Original publication in Russian: Fizkultura I Sport, Moscow, 1976

/ Vorobeyev, A., N., Weightlifting, textbook for the institutes of sport, FIS, Moscow, 1988. English translation: Sportivnypress, Livonia, Michigan,

/ Prilepin, A.S., “More Attention to Olympic Reserves”, Tiiazhelaya Atletika Yezhegodnik :1977:8-11. Translated by Andrew Charniga