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Barbell Logic

Nov 15, 2022

Jordan Stanton returns to answer your questions on velocity based autoregulation. Why is this not for novices? What guidance would you give to lifters when the device tells you you should have a big PR? Who is a good candidate for velocity based training?

Autoregulation for Novices?

Form is not stable, and this is a requirement, especially for velocity based autoregulation.

Novices, in addition to needing to improve technique and develop consistent form, beginners need to experience higher RPE sets.

More advanced lifters cannot recover from RPE 9+ sets like beginners, can, but novices and early intermediate can benefit from just how heavy "heavy but doable" can be.

RiR & RPE - Are They the Same?

It depends.

Some define Rate of Perceive Exertion (RPE) by Reps in Reserve (RiR). Others give RPE a more qualitative score.

RPE comes from the endurance world, and can also be used for conditioning. For example, you might tell someone to run for 3 miles at RPE 6, which is an easy, conversational pace.

Is Autoregulation Just Changing the Intensity?

Not necessarily, though sometimes.

The simple way to use velocity based autoregulation is to identify your estimated 1RM for that day, and then perform the work sets based off that information.

Similarly, a lifter may work up to a single at RPE 8, and then do back off sets from that single.

Some autoregulation techniques adjust volume.

A lifter could perform an AMRAP for one or multiple sets.

For velocity based training, a lifter could adjust the volume based on velocity decay. One week, a lifter may only do 2 sets of 2, whereas the next it could be 5 sets of 2.

1RM Every Workout?

Some programs do work up to a heavy single. They typically are performed at a prescribed RPE, such as RPE 8, and are not a true 1RM.

Other programs have a lifter work up to a 1RM, but often on a supplemental lift (e.g. Westside conjugate max effort day).

Back off sets are completed based off the heavy single.

The PR is There for the Taking

For you pessimists out there, the main benefit of velocity based autoregulation out there may be the avoidance of missed reps, and more appropriate intensities for blue collars days.

The flip side, however, is when the device tells you should have a substantial PR.

In these cases, what do you do?

Considering that this is an advanced training technique and that as lifters advanced, those PR days become rarer and rarer, Jordan tells lifters to go for the PR, with caution.

For example, maybe the Rep One device suggests a 50lb PR. He might tell his lifter to attempt a conservative single first, or go for a 25lb single first.

Part of this is because more factors determine the success of a PR attempt than your performance that day. Also, the lived experience of performing a heavy weight may change. Sounds, sights, sensations may occur that you've never experienced before in your life.

Getting Started with VBT

Who are good candidates for velocity based autoregulation, and how do you as a coach bring it up?

Generally, the lifters need to have trained consistently for a relatively long period of time, so at least have gone through early intermediate.

They need to be able to give full effort to warm up sets. Their technique needs to be consistent.

Beyond that, you can see two groups of athletes that seem opposed but would both be good candidates.

One is the powerlifter or strengthlifter or similar strength-based athlete who really prioritizes lifting and wants to chase PRs. The other is the lifter who trains to support another activity, such as martial arts or a sport. For this second athlete, their performance in the gym may vary widely based on their sport or activity stress, so the VBT can help provide more appropriate stress doses.

Autoregulation & Accessories?

Velocity based autoregulation really doesn't make sense for accessory work.

Now, it can be appropriate for Olympic lifts, though the more important data is peak velocity, not average velocity.

Regarding this, Matt and Jordan talked about some interesting and fun ways to potentially use the devices.

One could, for example, work to identify and train where maximum power or maximum force occur, which would be at relatively heavy weights but definitely below 90%.

Similarly, one could compare AMRAPs to see who did more work. For example, two lifters perform bench press AMRAPs at 225. One lifter performs 10 reps, one performs 6 reps. The lifter who performed 10 reps, however, has shorter arms. Who did more work? You could find out.

One instance where autoregulation does make sense for accessories is AMRAPs. Doing AMRAPs of curls or rolling dumbbell extensions, for instance, especially if only for the last rep, is not that stressful.

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