The intensity: Velocity of a Lift and Effort Character

Written by Aitor Zabaleta

17 April, 2020


Currently, the method used to express the intensity of lifting a load is the % of 1 RM.


As we have explained in previous articles, the 1 RM of each exercise is a good method to know our fitness, and the velocity of execution allows us to know it without having to do a maximum test.


But how can the velocity of execution help us express the effort that really involves doing repetitions with a burden for us?


The effort character (EC)


The EC is the expression of intensity or effort that a load  (Gonzalez-Badillo & Gorostiaga Ayestaran, 1995, Gonzalez-Badillo & Gorostiaga Ayestaran, 1993).


In weight lifting, the  EC is defined by showing the number of repetitions we make, with respect to the total of repetitions that we could lift with a specific load.


It is expressed as follows: first the repetitions that have been made are written, for example, 6, and then, in parentheses, those that could have been reached as maxim. Let’s say that they are 10. Result: 6 (10).


This is a very good reference to know the real effort that is a burden for us, since, if we know how many repetitions we can do with each % of the 1RM, we could plan the training based on it.


For example, knowing that I can do 10 repetitions with the 70%, I could schedule to do 6 repetitions, and I would know that I have to leave 4 is reserve. (We could say that we have done 6 reps with RIR 4 (Reps in Reserve).


This raises an interesting method to express the effort that a load supposes for us: the repetitions made with respect to the total could be a good method to program the training based on a concrete effort.


But there are some problems:


1.- Not everyone is able to perform the same number of repetitions with the same %. Which means that there are no previous rules or guidelines that can be used on this method.


2.- When performing sets with a % of the 1RM, in case of doing the same number of repetitions, some subjects will perform a greater effort than others, since they will work with a higher EC.


That is, if two people do sets with 70% of the MR, and one is able to do 10 repetitions and the other is able to do 8, but both of them do 6, one will have done 6 (10) and the other 6 (8).


As we can see, one remains at 2 of the failure and the other at 4. This has its implications in terms of adaptations, since they have made a very different effort despite having made the same number of repetitions.


3.-As a solution to that, we could make everyone stay the same number of repetitions to the failure. Following with the previous example, with 70% of the MR: 6 (10), and 4 (8).


But this is also a problem, because one if them would do the series with half their EC, and the other would do it with more than the half. What again, involves different adaptations: the effort they have made is not comparable.


Using Velocity Based Training to quantify the EC. Velocity loss VS Effort character:


The EC represents the effort that a load imposes on us, but quantifying it using the repetitions that are made with respect to those that can be done can be deceptive: for example 1 (2) and 4 (8) represent 50% of the EC, but the adaptations that are achieved with each one are different.





Training based on the velocity of execution solves this problem.


In a study it is demonstrated that there is a very high correlation between the repetitions that we left in reserve (RIR) (expressed as a percentage), and the speed that is lost during the series (Gonzalez-Badillo, Manuel, Mora-Custodio, & Rodriguez-Rosell, 2017).


Assuming that two athletes work with the same % of the RM, if one does 50% of the possible repetitions and the other also, they will have lost the same % velocity, and also, they will have made the same effort. Although they have made a different number of repetitions.


From what we can conclude:


1.- If two people have lost the same % velocity, they have made the same effort. (Sanchez-Moreno, Rodriguez-Rosell, Pareja-Blanco, Mora-Custodio, & Gonzalez-Badillo, 2017) (Sanchez-Moreno et al., 2017)


2.- If we get to know that % of the execution velocity we have lost, we have a reference to know the fatigue that we have accumulated in the training. (Sanchez-Medina & Gonzalez-Badillo, 2011). The% of repetitions that we have made with respect to the total, also gives us a good reference of the effort made. (Gonzalez-Badillo et al., 2017)


Important points of the article


1.-To know the effort that the athlete have made in a set, it is interesting to use the number of repetitions made regarding the total that they could have made. But this method has some disadvantages:


There is a very high variability in the amount of repetitions that people can do in a set.


2.-On the other hand, all people will have made the same effort if they have lost the same % of the velocity of execution with respect to the fastest repetition.


3.-There is a very high relation between the % of repetitions made and the % of velocity lost between 50% and 70% of the One Rep Max.



Gonzalez-Badillo, J. J., & Gorostiaga Ayestarán, E. (1995). Fundamentos del entrenamiento de la fuerza. Aplicación al alto rendimiento deportivo. Barcelona: Inde.
González-Badillo, J. J., & Gorostiaga Ayestarán, E. (1993). Metodología del entrenamiento para el desarrollo de la fuerza. Master en alto rendimiento deportivo. Comité Olímpico Español.
Gonzalez-Badillo, J. J., Manuel, Y.-G. J., Mora-Custodio, R., & Rodríguez-rosell, D. (2017). Velocity loss as a Variable for Monitoring Resistance Exercise. International Journal of Sports Medicined.
Sánchez-Medina, L., & González-Badillo, J. J. (2011). Velocity loss as an indicator of neuromuscular fatigue during resistance training. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, (February). https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e318213f880
Sánchez-Moreno, M., Rodríguez-Rosell, D., Pareja-Blanco, F., Mora-Custodio, R., & González-Badillo, J. J. (2017). Movement velocity as indicator of relative intensity and level of effort attained during the set in pull-up exercise. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance12(10), 1378–1384. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2016-0791

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As a PhD in Physical Activity and Sports Sciences, my life revolves around Sport.

I am teacher at AUDIOFIT platform and have been an active athlete at swimming and water polo. For some years now, I have been dedicated to the weight training coaching, some elite powerlifters in Spain.

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