3 simple ways to apply VBT & your Bar Sensei today

by Scott Damman, Assess2Perform.  There sure has been a lot of noise this year around sport tech, and specifically Velocity-Based Training (VBT) / barbell tracking.  The noise has created a lot of confusion and misinformation.  I bet some of you are feeling VBT fatigue.  I don't blame you.

This week I had a nice call with one of our customers, Todd Barnes C.S.C.S., who heads up Athletic Development at Arcadia University.  As we were covering some basic questions he had related to setting up team & athlete rosters within the A2P Sport App, the conversation went into the application direction.  Of course, I could take this in numerous directions, and did take it down a few paths; but it really hit me talking to Todd that to fight the noise simplification is key.


This is what I would call an ideal VBT set-up, and what we have at the office:  Bar Sensei and iPad, with the iPad secured using a FitGrip PRO magnetic mount.  The FitGrip allows for proper visual placement, right at the eyes at the end of a lift.  


As a result of our talk, the topic of this article is to explain 3 simple ways a Bar Sensei customer can apply the product today during the Squat exercise: 

1.  Speed on the way up (the legacy metric of VBT).

2.  Speed on the way down.

3.  How far down you went.

With these 3 core performance metrics, during the core lift, you can get instant value out of your VBT technology purchase.


Speed Up, Speed Down, and How Far Down you went -- it's all right here.


Let's jump into a conversational overview of why these 3 metrics are an ideal way to start.

1.  Speed on the way up.  Measuring the concentric phase has been the cornerstone of VBT.  You are sure to find a pile of comments, opinions, and information around concentric bar speed.  In the above photo you can see the last rep Peak Speed was 0.85 m/s.  The yellow values on the bar graph (0.98, 1.0. 0.85) show each rep during the set, this shows how the athlete maintained bar speed throughout the set.

With the Bar Sensei A2P Sport App you can select whether you would like to view PK Speed, AVG Speed, or other Speed metrics.  If you want to hear some of my thoughts on this, please view the article Barbell VBT:  are we really measuring what counts?  But, remember, right now we are trying to keep it simple! 

Simple takeaway:  using VBT to display instant concentric Speed feedback will teach your athletes what it feels like to move the load fast.


2.  Speed on the way down.  We know the importance of the eccentric phase but nobody ever measures this, why?!  How the athlete manages the load on the way down and turns it around is what creates explosiveness during the concentric phase.  The good news is a lot of attention is now being paid to the eccentric side with training like the TriPhasic method, great book from Ben Peterson and Cal Dietz.

Now, take away an eccentric count, and instead think asking the athlete to load in a dynamic manner, in a performance related manner.  As your athlete gets stronger managing x-amount of LBS during the loading phase of a squat, they will be able to produce a greater loading speed.  They can hit a greater eccentric peak speed, then put on the brakes and efficiently turn that load around.  If you take a look at the above photo, you will see the eccentric (loading) speed shown as the gray bar graph (0.71, 0.71, 072).  

Simple takeaway:  whether is it to baseline & show improvement of eccentric load management, or to maintain a loading tempo, what happens on the way down is critical to understand.  This is where the energy comes to create the explosiveness.


3.  How far down you went.  Whether the training day calls for a full, parallel, 1/2, or 1/4 squat, the athlete needs to hit that day's required mark.  Do athletes often cheat the squat depth requirement?  (rhetorical question)  The beginning of this week I was observing a University volleyball team doing early season squat training.  The leadership veterans looked good, while many of the others were cheating the lift just to get the work done, or were Freshman and didn't know what a 1/2 squat felt like.  Guess what, it becomes a wasted workout session for those who are not disciplined, or those who do not understand what is expected.  

   The bar graph is showing the estimated Squat Depth / Distance for each rep.  The target was 0.6 meters, the lifter hit 0.6, 0.6, and 0.64 meters.


I can tell you 1st hand through feedback collection & analysis, if the call is a 1/2 squat but you don't quite hit that mark (come up a bit short), your bar speed will be higher because you are coming out of a stronger position (alas, the renewed debate of preferred squat depth for power training).  If we were only looking at the concentric bar speed metric to evaluate this performance, excluding the depth associated with that rep, the "improvement" could get a bit blurry. 

Simple takeway:  use a squat depth/distance measure to teach your athletes where that mark is and to keep them honest during each rep. 


Thank you Coach Barnes for the call this week, our discussion inspired me to think logical, useful, and simple ways to communicate the application of the Bar Sensei.  Of course, there are more detailed metrics available that I think are the real difference makers, but I do understand it can become overwhelming for those new to VBT.  I hope this article offers some insight to help get people going with VBT, the starter thought guide, but not limit yourself to only concentric bar speed.