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Considering movement velocity in hypertrophy training

It is quite normal to receives strength training program which emphasis on the volume of load lifted (load x sets x reps). But it is not quite normal to many athletes out there to be given strength training program that emphasis on decrease or increase in movement velocity (calculated).

Movement velocity increase or decrease with more or less load used respectively. However, traditionally it will be the results of volume-load changes, rather than intentionally done for the purpose of targeting specific movement velocity. The question is, should strength training program, especially one that focusing on muscle mass building, be using only volume-load based approach? If the sole objective of the training is only to gain muscle size, than it may not be a problem. But how about when the main aim is to develop muscle mass while at the same time retaining or even improving movement velocity? Or improving movement velocity while having muscle mass building effect at the same time? Will the volume-load approach alone still the best?

The question thrown here will not be answered within this short article. This is just to throw out some thoughts to strength and conditioning coaches especially, on the matter of best approach for building or maintaining speed while having hypertrophic effect altogether.

A recent study by Pareja-Blanco et al. (2020) has again shown that the more you lifted (more sets and reps), with level of efforts nearing muscle failure in each set, the more hypertrophic effect will be experiencing by the muscle. At the same time, neuromuscular responses that responsible for better movement velocity did not experiencing similar benefits with the increasing volume-load. Most important, their study also indicated that the strength gains did not significantly differed either positively or negatively between higher or lower volume-load. This means that, while you are lifting more in term of volume, that may not be necessarily translated into a stronger you (that may explained why some of our friends are big from workout yet not as strong as they look from size point of view).

As a reminder, Pareja-Blanco et al. (2020) study actually focusing on using volume-load that corresponding to velocity loss as a marker for stopping exercise performance (you can do more sets as long as your velocity of movement did not went beyond certain percentage of loss). Thus, the higher volume load aforementioned is actually derives from prescribing exercise at the loss of 50% movement velocity (at the speed 50% slower than your starting speed). In another words, higher volume, slower movement. And before the movement become slower, we stopped, rest and perform back after sufficient rest in order to maintain movement velocity. The reps and sets may increases, but it only allows to keep increasing as long as it does not decreasing the velocity beyond certain level.

This brings us back to the question of should we use volume-load or velocity-intensity in prescribing our strength training program? Well, it depends on the goal of the training. For many sports, gaining hypertrophic effect with velocity intact or increases is the most desirable effect. The periodized training model traditionally use may differentiate the loading mechanism based on goals / objectives of training, but for certain sports due to design of the games and scheduling, combined effect is more desirable.

Gaining combined effect can derives from many ways, and theoretically it can be achieved. But more studies are needed to verify this from various angles and by considering all factors that influence both movement velocity and hypertrophic adaptation. Is there any any 'sweet-spot' across stages of velocity and load that can serves both purposes well (velocity + hypertrophy)?

At the moment, we may start with implementing velocity-loss approach with hypertrophy loading in our own training program. Give it a go, and let see how it will be.



Pareja‐Blanco, F., Alcazar, J., Cornejo‐Daza, P. J., Sánchez‐Valdepeñas, J., Rodriguez‐Lopez, C., Hidalgo‐de Mora, J., ... & Ortega‐Becerra, M. (2020). Effects of velocity loss in the bench press exercise on strength gains, neuromuscular adaptations, and muscle hypertrophy. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 30(11), 2154-2166.

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