# Unlocking Potential with VLPM

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In today's world, we're flooded with information about athletic performance. However, not all data is useful. This blog introduces an actionable way to measure athletic progress that athletes can emotionally connect with—a number that goes beyond physical achievement to include mental strength.

We need a metric that matters, one that is as important as a one-rep maximum. This metric should reflect the time and effort spent in the gym, giving athletes a clear picture of their overall progress. By creating such a meaningful and actionable data point, we can focus on what truly drives athletic development.

As a strength coach at Westside Barbell, I've spent years working with elite athletes, constantly looking for ways to improve performance. Today, I want to share a concept we've been developing since 2016: Volume Lifted Per Minute (VLPM).

VLPM isn't just another metric—it's a simple tool that combines traditional measurements in a new way. Over the past two years, we've tested it with our athletes and seen remarkable results. Whether you're a coach, an athlete, or someone aspiring to reach new heights in strength and conditioning, VLPM could be the game-changer you've been looking for.

## Key Concepts

### Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

A Key Performance Indicator is a measurable value that shows how well an individual or organization is achieving important goals. In sports, a KPI could be a specific measurement that accurately reflects an athlete's progress and performance.

### Volume Lifted

Volume refers to the total weight lifted in a workout or over a period of time. It's calculated by multiplying the weight used for each exercise by the number of repetitions and sets, then adding these values for all exercises performed.

For example:

• If an athlete performs 3 sets of 10 repetitions of a 100-pound squat
• The volume for that exercise would be: 3 (sets) x 10 (reps) x 100 (pounds) = 3,000 pounds

### Volume

Volume in weight training refers to the total amount of work done, usually measured by the number of sets and repetitions completed. It's similar to tonnage but focuses more on the amount of work rather than the total weight moved. Volume is important for building muscle mass and endurance.

### Intent in Weight Lifting

Intent means the focus and purpose an athlete brings to their training. It involves:

• Lifting with proper form
• Keeping tension throughout the movement
• Fully engaging the target muscles
• Lifting with a purpose

High-intent lifts are generally more effective for strength and muscle development than those done with low focus or poor form, even if the weights used are lighter.

### Heart Rate and Its Importance

Heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. It's an important measurement in sports for several reasons:

1. Intensity Monitoring: Heart rate helps gauge the intensity of a workout. Different heart rate zones correspond to different training effects.
2. Recovery Assessment: Monitoring resting heart rate and heart rate variability can show an athlete's recovery status and readiness for intense training.
3. Cardiovascular Health: Regular monitoring can provide insights into an athlete's overall heart health and fitness improvements over time.
4. Performance Optimization: By understanding their heart rate responses to different types of training, athletes can optimize their workouts for specific goals (e.g., endurance, power, recovery).
5. Overtraining Prevention: Unusual heart rate patterns can be an early sign of overtraining or impending illness.

## Introducing VLPM: As an Athletic Metric

### What is VLPM?

VLPM stands for Volume Lifted Per Minute. It measures the average weight an athlete lifts per minute during a workout. When used with heart rate data, it provides insight into the sustained work capacity of an athlete during their training session.

It is most effectively applied within a structured time frame, typically a 60-minute training session, with an upper limit of 75 minutes. For elite performance, Westside Barbell has established a Pro Standard of 3000 lbs per minute, which serves as a benchmark for athletes aiming to reach the highest levels of strength and conditioning

### Why is VLPM important?

The main goal for many athletes is to maintain high-intensity effort for the duration required by their sport. Tracking VLPM helps ensure athletes are improving in this area by showing the relationship between strength, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness.

An increase in VLPM can indicate improvements in:

• Sport-specific conditioning
• VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake)
• Muscle endurance
• Overall workout pace

### Why VLPM Matters

In our years of testing VLPM, we've found it matters for several key reasons:

1. Holistic Measurement: It combines volume, intensity, and time into one number, reflecting average work rate.
2. Progress Tracking: Athletes can see clear improvements in their ability to sustain higher workloads.
3. Effort Quantification: It reflects not just what you lift, but how consistently you're working throughout the entire workout.
4. Adaptability: VLPM can be used in various training methods, from powerlifting to sport-specific conditioning.

### VLPM in the Westside System

We haven't discarded our tried-and-true methods. Instead, we use VLPM to complement our existing metrics within the Conjugate Method system, using it alongside our traditional north star metrics:

• Max Effort Method: One Rep Maximum is still crucial for measuring absolute strength. While we still focus on 1RM (One Rep Max) on Max Effort days, VLPM gives us insight into the sustained intensity of the entire session.
• Dynamic Effort Method: We continue to emphasize speed strength, especially on Dynamic Effort days. VLPM is particularly useful on Dynamic Effort days, where we can track both the speed of movements and the consistent work done over time.
• Repetition Method: Our repetition work represents nearly 80% of our training sessions' time allocation. VLPM gives context to this volume, showing not just how much an athlete lifts, but how consistently they can handle that volume over time.

## Key Considerations for VLPM

• Form Quality
• Ensure proper form is maintained for each set and repetition.
• Adjust pace or weight if form starts to deteriorate.
• Exercise Selection
• Choose exercises that progressively challenge the athlete throughout the workout.
• Avoid using easy exercises to manipulate VLPM (e.g., excessively long sled pushes).
• Select a balanced mix of exercises to maximize workout effectiveness.
• Heart Rate Monitoring
• Track heart rate throughout the entire workout.
• Aim to maintain an average heart rate in Zone 4 (80-90% of max heart rate).
• Ensure heart rate reaches Zone 5 (90-100% of max heart rate) about twice per session. As athletes adapt, Zone 5 peaks will reduce from first workouts.
• Dynamic Effort Combo Day
• Use VLPM primarily on Dynamic Effort Combo Days to track and measure progress effectively.
• By being aware of these potential pitfalls, coaches and athletes can use VLPM as an effective tool to enhance performance without compromising the foundational elements of safe and effective training.

## VLPM in Action: A Sample Case Study

Let's look at the progress of John Doe, a 25-year-old football player, using VLPM.

• Workout: Dynamic Effort Combo Day Week 1
• Exercises:
• Bench Press vs Mini Bands
• Weighted Dips
• Conventional Deadlift vs Mini Bands
• Glute Bridge with Band
• Torque Tank Push
• Safety Squat Bar
• Back Attack
• Sled Drags
• Sled Pull
• Supinated Lat Pulldown
• Med Ball Slam
• Hanging Leg Raise
• Med Ball Chest Pass
• Total time: 60 minutes
• Total volume lifted: 147,000 lbs
• Average heart rate: 85% of max (Zone 4)
• Times in Zone 5: 8 times
• Baseline VLPM calculation: VLPM = Total volume lifted ÷ Total time = 147,000 lbs ÷ 60 minutes = 2,450 lbs/min
• Pro Standard Comparison: At 2,450 lbs/min, John is currently at 81.7% of the Pro Standard, indicating that he is nearing elite levels but still has room for improvement.

Six Weeks Later:

• Workout: Dynamic Effort Combo Day Week 6
• Exercises:
• Bench Press vs Mini Bands
• Weighted Dips
• Conventional Deadlift vs Mini Bands
• Glute Bridge with Band
• Torque Tank Push
• Safety Squat Bar
• Back Attack
• Sled Drags
• Sled Pull
• Supinated Lat Pulldown
• Med Ball Slam
• Hanging Leg Raise
• Med Ball Chest Pass
• Total time: 60 minutes
• Total volume lifted: 220,245 lbs
• Average heart rate: 87% of max (Zone 4)
• Times in Zone 5: 2 times
• New VLPM calculation: VLPM = Total volume lifted ÷ Total time = 220,245 lbs ÷ 60 minutes = 3,671 lbs/min
• Pro Standard Comparison: John has improved significantly, surpassing the Pro Standard with a VLPM of 3,671 lbs/min, indicating that he has reached an elite level of sustained performance.

### Analysis

• VLPM Increase: From 2,450 lbs/min to 3,671 lbs/min
• Heart Rate Consistency: Average heart rate stayed in Zone 4 with less time spent in Zone 5.
• Performance Improvement: Indicates better conditioning, potential higher VO2 max, improved muscle endurance, and a faster workout pace.

• Form Quality: Keep monitoring to ensure form remains consistent.
• Exercise Selection: Gradually increase the difficulty and complexity of exercises as appropriate.
• Pacing: Encourage John to maintain or slightly increase his pace while allowing for adequate rest.

By tracking and analyzing VLPM, coaches can tailor John's training to further improve his performance and ensure he's meeting his sport-specific conditioning goals.

## Fostering Competition and Improvement

One of the most exciting aspects we've seen is how VLPM naturally creates a competitive environment in the gym. Our athletes are constantly trying to outdo each other's VLPM numbers, pushing themselves to maintain higher average workloads.

This friendly competition has led to:

• Increased motivation during tough sessions
• Improved focus and intent in every rep
• A way for athletes to compete across different weight classes and experience levels
• A team atmosphere where everyone is driving each other to improve their sustained performance

## The Evolution of VLPM

Since we started developing this concept in 2016, we've refined our approach:

• Initially, we focused on monthly, weekly, and daily volume. This gave us a broad view of an athlete's work over time, but we realized we needed a more precise measure of intensity and effort within individual sessions.
• We've experimented with different time frames, settling on per-minute measurements for most applications to best reflect average workload within a single training session.
• We've developed specific VLPM targets for different training phases and athlete levels, focusing on improving sustained performance over time.
• Our current approach includes both main lifts and accessory work, giving us a comprehensive picture of the athlete's effort and capacity throughout the entire training session.

This evolution has allowed us to bridge a gap between long-term volume tracking and session intensity, providing a more detailed understanding of an athlete's performance and progress.

## Potential Pitfalls and Considerations for Using VLPM

While VLPM offers a comprehensive and straightforward way to track athletic performance, it’s important to recognize its limitations and potential risks. Coaches and athletes should be mindful of the following:

• Form Deterioration: As athletes push to increase their VLPM, there’s a risk that form and technique may suffer. This can lead to inefficiencies in training and, more critically, an increased risk of injury. Always prioritize proper form over the desire to boost VLPM numbers.
• Mitigation: Incorporate regular form checks and technique drills into training sessions. Use video analysis to monitor form and ensure that increases in VLPM are accompanied by consistent technique.
• Overtraining Risk: Because VLPM encourages sustained effort over time, there’s a possibility that athletes may push themselves too hard, leading to overtraining. Monitoring other recovery indicators, such as resting heart rate and sleep quality, alongside VLPM is crucial to prevent burnout.
• Mitigation: Implement regular recovery protocols and include deload weeks in training cycles. Use VLPM trends alongside recovery metrics to balance workload and ensure athletes are not overreaching.
• Contextual Relevance: VLPM might not be equally relevant across all sports or training phases. For example, in sports where maximum strength or skill precision is more critical than sustained workload, VLPM should be used as a secondary metric. Coaches should tailor its application to align with the specific needs of the athlete and their sport.
• Mitigation: Customize VLPM targets based on the athlete’s sport, training phase, and individual goals. Use it in conjunction with other relevant metrics to provide a more comprehensive assessment.
• Focus on Intent: The quality of each lift should not be sacrificed for the sake of increasing VLPM. Coaches should continuously remind athletes of the importance of lifting with intent—maintaining tension, engaging the right muscles, and executing each movement with purpose.
• Mitigation: Set specific intent-related goals within each session, and track these alongside VLPM. Ensure that athletes understand the importance of quality over quantity.
• Avoiding Manipulation: It’s essential to ensure that the exercises chosen for calculating VLPM are appropriately challenging and relevant to the athlete’s goals. Avoid manipulating the metric by selecting exercises that artificially inflate VLPM without contributing meaningful progress (e.g., excessively easy exercises).
• Mitigation: Design workouts that include a mix of complex and simple movements, ensuring that VLPM reflects meaningful progress. Avoid using exercises that inflate VLPM without delivering real training benefits.

By combining traditional concepts like volume and tonnage with more detailed metrics like intent and heart rate zones, and applying them within an optimal 60-minute window, VLPM provides a comprehensive KPI for athletic performance. The Pro Standard of 3000 lbs per minute offers a clear benchmark for athletes aiming to reach elite levels, ensuring that their training is both intense and purposeful.

As with any training metric, it's essential to use VLPM as part of a broader, well-rounded training program that considers an athlete's individual needs, goals, and sport-specific requirements. When used thoughtfully, VLPM can be a powerful tool for optimizing athletic performance and driving continuous improvement.

We invite coaches and athletes everywhere to explore this concept, integrate it into their training, and experience the results for themselves in improved work capacity and consistent performance.

## Glossary

• Key Performance Indicator (KPI): A measurable value that shows how well an individual or organization is achieving important goals.
• Volume Lifted: The total weight lifted in a workout or over a period of time, calculated by multiplying the weight used for each exercise by the number of repetitions and sets.
• Volume: In weight training, the total amount of work done, usually measured by the number of sets and repetitions completed.
• Intent in Weight Lifting: The focus and purpose an athlete brings to their training, involving proper form, maintaining tension, and fully engaging the target muscles.
• Heart Rate: The number of times your heart beats per minute, used to gauge workout intensity, recovery status, cardiovascular health, and to optimize performance and prevent overtraining.
• Zone 4 Heart Rate: 80-90% of an athlete's maximum heart rate, typically associated with high-intensity training.
• Zone 5 Heart Rate: 90-100% of an athlete's maximum heart rate, typically associated with maximal effort.
• VO2 Max: The maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can use during intense exercise, a measure of cardiovascular fitness.
• Dynamic Effort Method: A training technique focusing on lifting moderate weights as fast as possible to build speed and power.
• Max Effort Method: A training technique that focuses on lifting the maximum weight possible for one repetition to build strength.
• Conjugate Method: A training system that involves rotating different exercises and methods to target various physical qualities like strength, speed, and endurance.
• Sled Drags: An exercise where an athlete pulls a weighted sled to build strength and endurance.
• Box Jumps: A plyometric exercise where an athlete jumps onto and off a sturdy box to build explosive power.
• Heart Rate Variability: The variation in time between each heartbeat, used to gauge recovery and readiness for training.

# Tom Barry

Tom Barry is a seasoned strength and conditioning coach with over 16 years of experience. He has honed his expertise by closely collaborating with elite athletes from various disciplines, including the NFL, UFC, Track and Field, Jiu-Jitsu, and Wrestling.