Measure progress and readiness with barbell velocity trends
Achieving your strength, power, or hypertrophy goals should be a rewarding and challenging experience. But we believe the tools you use should make the experience enjoyable, reduce stress, and increase your rate of success. Our vision has always been that tracking workouts and leveraging cutting-edge sports science should improve our experience in the gym — not diminish it.
Lifters should be able to train with certainty, to simultaneously have a long-term plan and the confidence to make real-time adjustments in their day-to-day training to autoregulate training stress, optimise each and every session and get the best out of themselves and reap the rewards of both training hard and training smart.
Our new Trends feature in Metric is an absolute game-changer in achieving that vision.
The optimised training approach facilitated by Trends has typically been reserved for big-budget elite environments where a dedicated sports science team is on hand to monitor each athlete.
With Trends in the Metric app you get powerful insights into your velocity, fatigue and readiness state in real-time.
And Trends is fully automatic, right in the app — no need to waste time on transcribing data into complicated spreadsheets.
Basic trends data is available for free in the Metric VBT app, and advanced Trends analysis can also be unlocked with a Metric Pro or Teams subscription.
Trends: The ultimate progress tracker
With one simple number, Trends gives a lifter an immediate sense of how they just performed on their most recent set. A single metric to highlight your progress or flag any residual fatigue that might be affecting performance.
Traditional progress tracking like raw weight, tonnage, or RPE only tells a lifter part of the story, whereas the rich objective data available with velocity tracking gives a higher resolution picture of how your training is really going.
Adopting this level of deep analysis used to be cumbersome, expensive and required a more involved a high level of knowledge in sports science. With Trends and the Metric VBT app, this elite level of insight is available for all lifters.
See the big picture with strength and power trends
Of all the available metrics for tracking gym progress in the long term, strength and power are probably the most universal for lifters. In the Metric app you can inspect your best load lifted and power generated for each exercise over time by tapping the Trends tab.
Alongside the helpful charts, you will find tabulated data for all your personal records logged in the app. Metric also notes the “days since” each personal best so you can see if you are in the middle of a productive training block or might be in a bit of a plateau. You can customise your Trends charts and display 6-week, 1-year, or all-time progress charts and records too.
Additional filtering tools help you focus on what matters to you, like switching between mean/peak power, or displaying load in absolute terms or relative to bodyweight.
While these strength and power trends are great sources of motivation and insight for lifters, they tend to be lagging indicators, showing the impact of training decisions weeks ago and not providing much real-time benefit for training modification. For this, we have velocity trends.
Autoregulate your sessions with velocity trends
While strength and power are excellent performance indicators over weeks, months and years, you are hardly going to see massive changes to those metrics session-to-session. Velocity on the other hand is highly sensitive to daily changes in strength levels.
This sensitivity makes velocity trends a brilliant way of measuring real-time readiness and enabling autoregulation of your workout based on your recovery status.
Metric calculates this readiness through a formula we call Trends. It takes your velocity from your first 3 reps on the current set and compares it to your average velocity for the same exercise and weight from the past 6-weeks and gives you a value in percentage terms. From this your velocity performance is then categorised as one of three values.
- Trending faster - Today’s bar speed is above your recent average, suggesting you are performing well today and are well recovered. Power on!
- Velocity stable - Matching the velocities from recent workouts is still a positive sign. Not every session is going to full of new records so you are likely still on track for a solid session — no need to be overly aggressive with the autoregulation just yet.
- Trending slower - Slower velocity may indicate residual fatigue or low intent (or both). One or two trending slower sets is hardly cause for alarm, but if you see a pattern of slower sets emerging or you are trend way below normal (<93%) this might be cause to consider leveraging some autoregulation strategies to accomodate your lower readiness levels today. This doesn’t have to be any more than a subtle change but might mean cutting a rep or two from your work sets, reducing weight on the top sets, or cutting some accessory work from your program.
How to implement an autoregulation program using Metric VBT
There are three different ways I like to leverage velocity to autoregulate training sessions within my programs.
- Warm-up readiness check
- Pre-session explosive movement test
- Traffic-light linear programming
Below we dive into them one at a time so you can begin incorporating this in your own training using just the number provided on your Trends card in the Metric app.
Warm-up readiness check
Warm-up sets are the perfect opportunity to measure readiness. You are going to be doing warm-up sets anyway, and the weights on these are going be fairly consistent over time so why not leverage them for some great real-time feedback!
I’ll illustrate how with an example:
- An athlete’s program calls for 3 sets of 4 (3x4) of Front Squats as the main lift of the day
- Last week work sets were done at 135kg, the hope is we can slightly best that with 137.5 - 140kg.
- We have been collecting velocity data for the past 6 weeks so our 6-week average is reliable with many data points.
- Warm up is always the bar (20kg), then 60kg (1 blue plate), 100kg (2 blue plates), 120kg (2 blue and 1 green plate)
Ok - so this week, while the athlete runs through their typical warm up sets, we (their coach) and the athlete note what the Trend shows with each load. Most importantly we are taking note of any “trending lower” alerts and the specific number on these.
If two or more sets give us a trending lower alert, this might indicate residual fatigue and low readiness. As a coach, this is a perfect moment to start a conversation with your athlete. Uncover how they feel subjectively, any stressors they might be currently experiencing and make an assessment on whether today is the right day to push hard or if an adjustment might be required.
Depending on how that conversation goes, how velocity on the first work set performs and your own systems, there are a few options:
Continuing to train as normal is a perfectly fine choice, as long as you do so conscious that you may be working under more fatigue than usual. If you are in a hard training block, no major competitions coming up and you feel fine despite the slow bar speed you might simply acknowledge the slower bar speeds but proceed anyway. At least you are doing it from an informed position. Sometimes we have to work hard even under less than optimal settings.
Cut 1 rep from each work set
Instead of 3x4 at 135kg for todays work sets, hold the weight at 135kg and do 3x3 instead to account for the lower readiness.
Pick a lighter working weight
Still do 3x4, but today they will be done with 127.5kg instead of 135kg a 5% deload
Cut a work set
Repeat the weight but instead of 3x4 just do 2x4.
Cut your accessory lifts
You might still do the planned heavy sets on your main lift but reduce volume and/or intensity on your accessory lifts later in the workout.
Plan extra recovery activities
This could be as simple as a nap or earlier bed time, a more deliberate focus on nutrition and hydration over the coming days, or something active such as massage, foam rolling, hydrotherapy, etc.
End the session early*
The most extreme option on this list, but if velocity is low, you are feeling sluggish and you are in the middle of a serious part of the season you may just end the session right there, having a stretch and doing some easy bike might be exactly what your body needs right here and now..
*This is an extreme scenario, it’s almost always better to modify than miss in training.
Obviously as a coach (or a self-directed athlete) this is a huge number of options in your toolbox, and your experience and understanding of the specific circumstances will dictate the right path! And always remember that smart coaching is still required even when using velocity tracking in your programs!
For most intermediate to advanced lifters who follow structured strength or power training programs, applying these interventions will be a rare occurrence, maybe autoregulating training only once or twice a month at most. With sensible programming and adequate recover the majority of training should go to plan and progress will be steady and consistent. However, it is a hugely valuable tool to have at your that you can confidently make these adjustments in critical moments, ensuring better long term progress and a more sustained approach to your hard training.
Pre-session explosive movement test
Another great approach to checking readiness is to use a pre-lift exercise specifically as a readiness check for that days session.
Usually this is achieved by performing an explosive exercise (my favourite is 2x3 on a light Trapbar Jump) immediately after your general warm-up to phase assess neurological readiness and flag any abnormal fatigue levels.
The protocol should take less than 2 minutes, simply perform two sets of the jumps with 60-seconds rest and at two different weights. After each set look at the velocity trend. If both test sets are trending down, and you’re subjective readiness to train is also low, it might be a good idea to modify the session.
Again, the autoregulation strategies mentioned above are great starting places.
Not only is this a great readiness check strategy but it can also be a clever way to micro-dose some high intent explosive training, I personally have seen great improvements in my power and vertical jump height thanks to performing just these two sets every workout.
Earlier, I introduced a number of specific approaches you can take to autoregulating your training session when readiness might be low. With traffic-light programming, we apply a set of fixed rules to the loading decisions based on the readiness results received.
Typically used in linear periodisation models like Stronglifts 5x5, traffic lights can be modified to fit any existing programming structure
In standard linear periodisation, the aim is to add weight to the bar each workout for the same reps and sets. But of course strength adaptations are not linear. To account for this, we layer in a simple method which uses Trends to tweak the fixed load added each session and instead add the amount appropriate for your real readiness.
The following rules determine how to load the bar that session.
- Green light: At least one warm-up set trending faster, no sets trending slower
- Amber light: No sets trending faster, only one set (or less) trending slower.
- Red light: Two or more sets trending slower.
Below are two example loading adjustments based on your traffic light score. One for an intermediate athlete (eg. squat/dead between 1-2x bodyweight), and one for an advanced athlete (eg. squat/dead over 2x bodyweight).
- Lower body: +5kg
- Upper body: +2.5kg
- Lower body: +2.5kg
- Upper body: +0kg
- Lower body: +0kg or -2.5kg
- Upper body: -2.5kg
- Lower body: +2.5kg
- Upper body: +1kg or +2.5kg
- Lower body: +0kg
- Upper body: +0kg
- Lower body: -5kg or -2.5kg
- Upper body: -2.5kg
For a novice lifter, below a 0.75x bodyweight back squat, simply adding 5kg on lower body lifts and 2.5kg on upper body lifts every session consistently for 8-12 weeks without autoregulated adjustments is probably the best approach.
Use this phase to collect some baseline velocity data that you can begin using as you transition to the intermediate phase.
These general principles can also be adapted to work with other training programs such
Assess, adapt, advance with Trends
Whether your are a coach, field sport athlete or a competitive lifter, Metric equips you with multifaceted, real-time data to help you train hard and make decisions in real-time with confidence.
Now you can use Trends to make great training and programming decisions in real-time and over longer periodisation cycles, accelerate your adaptations, reduce injury, avoid burnout by training hard and smart. Get the app in the App Store for iOS and start using Trends to autoregulate your training.