Coach Dan Howard Discusses How He Utilizes Velocity Based Training with His Fighters

Dan Howard is a strength and conditioning coach & sports scientist out of Absolute MMA and Conditioning.  Building athletes, training protocols and martial arts periodization from the ground up, ensuring all athletes are ready to reach the next level.

Connect with Dan on Instagram:  @coach_dan_howard  

In Today's Episode We Discuss How Dan is Using Velocity Based Training, what equipment/technology he utilizes with his athletes and what benefits this type of training can provide to the athlete.

Technology discussed in this episode:

flex device @flex.stronger  

GymAware @gymaware  

Push band @trainwithpiush  


Full Transcription of Our Podcast with Dan Howard

Coach Dan Howard Discusses How He Utilizes Velocity Based Training with His Fighters

Corey Beasley [00:00:01]: Hey guys, is Corey Beasley with fight camp conditioning today. I'm on the phone with Dan Howard. Dan, how you doing?

Dan Howard [00:00:08]: Yeah, good man. Good. Very happy to be on here with you.

Corey Beasley [00:00:12]: Yeah man. I appreciate you taking the time, guys Dan is all the way around on the other side of the earth for me. He's out in Australia and what city are you in?

Dan Howard [00:00:22]: Melbourne.

Corey Beasley [00:00:25]:
And that's on the East coast, West coast.

Dan Howard [00:00:28]: So down South East coast here.

Corey Beasley [00:00:34]: So it's a summer there?

Dan Howard [00:00:37]: Yeah, coming into it we still got about five or six days until official summer. But that's some hot days. It got about 40 degrees two days ago. So pretty hot.

Corey Beasley [00:00:50]: Well cool. Dan, I've been seeing your name all over the place on social media and following you guys for quite a while and it looks like you guys are doing some really great stuff. You're putting out good content and more importantly, you guys are putting out some fighters that are physically prepared to do work. So I'm excited to talk to you. I know we talked real briefly before we got online here about a lot of the different methods that you're using and one kind of peaked my interest the most was the velocity based training that you were speaking about guys that are listening, like what is velocity based training for the guy that has absolutely no idea right now?

Dan Howard [00:01:37]: Yeah. So velocity based training. So it's been out for a long time. Like, people have been using it for years and years. It's kind of getting popularized now because there's a lot of new technology out as a lot new devices that you can use. Basically what it is you're just tracking the speed, so the mean velocity of the bar in meters per second. So you can track the peak velocity main velocity. You can track power generated. You can do it a lot. A lot of things with it. Predominantly what we're looking at is mean velocity over the concentric movement of the bar.

Corey Beasley [00:02:17]: Have you doing a bench press? It's measuring how fast you're pushing that bar up?

Dan Howard [00:02:21]: That's it. How fast are you going up squat, how fast you raising it. Same with the dead lift, pretty much anything you can use it on most exercises dependent on the device that you use it

Corey Beasley [00:02:33]:
Now, how did you kind of learn about this? I know with a lot of the new technologies, some of them can be cumbersome or have a large learning curve. So I mean with you getting started, I guess, why did you want to implement that and then how did you implement it with your guys?

Dan Howard [00:02:52]: Yeah. So basically to be honest I'm a massive technology geek, so I pretty much love anything new technology wise. It's cost me a lot of money in the past. And I've gone down the wrong avenues quite a few times as well, to be honest with a few pretty stupid things like the [inaudible 00:03:15] sticks and all that sort of stuff, which supposedly tests like your nutrients in the body just by scanning the skin and shit like that. So I've got to just because it looks cool. I thought it was cool. I knew that it was basically no science behind it put afforded be cool and fun to try. So velocity based training pretty much came the same, came around the same route. I knew it was a lot of money, so I've done a lot of research into it. It's been around for a lot of years now. But it's kind of now getting popularized because there's so much different technology. So I started off with the gym aware which I kind of classes as the gold standard. That was the first unit that I purchased. And it's been just unbelievably reliable for me. Really good. It's helped me out in a lot of ways. It's helped me make a lot of contacts in the business as well. Because people like yourself are kind of asking me a little bit about it, how to use it, all that sort of stuff. So then I went on to a few different ones. I'm always looking to develop and try and try and kind of get the best out on the market and see what can help my athletes the most. I've also used Tendo units, force plates, jump plates, all that sort of stuff as well. Went to speed for lifts as well because they were another string based velocity trainer, which means you basically you attach a string to the bar basically. And then that attaches to a little CPU on the floor and that's where you get the velocity. So how much string goes in and out of the CPU and how long it takes. So they’re the two gym wear, Tendo, they're the two main ones, the big players. Then you've got like speed for lifts, which is a little bit not as expensive, not as not as accurate from what I've seen, but still very good. And it still is a measure of that direct measure of string out but over time. So it's still a good way to do it.

Corey Beasley [00:05:30]:
Cool. Now I've seen the ones that had a string or a wire that went to box on the ground and I think I saw that at Lauren Landauer's place in Denver and using it out there quite a bit. Now is the other one, I think its gym wear or I believe you said Tendo. Do those have no wires?

Dan Howard [00:05:57]: No, so you've got the gym wear and the Tendo and the speed for lifts. They've all got wires. So they've all got the wire coming from the CPU and you attach it to the bar. So that's always my favor. And that's always my key performance measure is always that string, because that's a direct measure, you know what I mean? They're not using it. So they're not using anything like that. It's just a direct measure of how much string comes out of the CPU and how fast it comes out. And that was always when I was first getting into it. That was kind of a big thing for me because I was like, that's the purest form of velocity is how much it moves and how fast it moves. So there's no other calculations. There's no miscalculations is pretty much the purest form that you can get as easy as you could get it. And I've always got that direct measure of the string coming out of the machine.

Corey Beasley [00:06:52]: Now, you guys as a new athlete comes in are you using this thing assessment-wise are using it daily on your workouts to measure progress over time? I mean, tell us a little bit about how you're using it with your guys?

Dan Howard [00:07:10]: Yeah. So basically what we do is I always get the guys on the gym wear to start off with and that's just for some basic 1RM testing. So what we test with that at the moment is we test the bench press, we test the conventional deadlift and we test the squat as well. So that's going to be changing in a little bit for us as soon as we get a bit more equipment, because I trained over three different gyms or we've got three different gyms. I've predominately testing two of them. And the reason we do a conventional deadlift test is because our chat bars aren't big enough. We can get, I think it's 160 kilos on there with bands. So we can't even clip it on. So we haven't got enough weight to, if you're getting like a heavyweight under that, we can't really test is what our testing. I don't agree with the conventional so much, so I get a lot of kickback from that one. I'm testing, but it's what we can do is how we can keep it standard for all of our fighters. And then bench press and back squat. But we're going to be changing that to possibly are probably keeping the bench press. We're going to be changing it to [inaudible 00:08:34] squat testing and trap testing instead. Basically, so what we do is, we have their estimated 1RM already. So generally speaking, most of them will know that have kind of an estimation and then we just build them up. So we go from 60% up to 70% up to 80% up to 90%. And then depending on the speed we're looking at, we might push a little bit further, but we don't really need to. So main thing we're looking for is we're looking for every component of strengths. We're looking for their max strengths velocity, looking for their strength, speed, velocity. We're looking for their speeds, jump frosty and they're starting strength velocity. As long as we get tested in each of those zones, then we're pretty happy.

Corey Beasley [00:09:30]:
So you have a good baseline. You get those guys through those tests. Those are all your strengths tests I would imagine. Are you able to do any like jump testing, anything like that with these units?

Dan Howard [00:09:43]: Yeah. So with the string base units, with the gym wear, the speed for lifts and the Tendo units we do a lot of vertical jumps. We do that unloaded. We just basically attach or at the moment what we do is we just attach the lifting belt to their waist attach the string to that, and then they'll do a vertical jump as well. We've some of the other units, you've also, I've also tested the push band and the beast. So they're accelerometers so they're not string based. You can also do vertical jumps with them, but I haven't seen it to be as accurate just yet. Obviously as we were saying, cause it's an accelerometer. So it's not as accurate. You've also got the flex device, which is pretty new on the market and that's pretty accurate, but you need to do it on a loaded bar because it attaches to the end of the bar that's just done by lasers, so it sends a laser down to a mat on the floor. So you can only do that with a loaded bar, which isn't ideal for me. I prefer from the research that I've read the unloaded is the most accurate.

Corey Beasley [00:11:00]: Got it. Now for you, I mean, the reason you're measuring bar speed with all these guys, right? Everybody understands or I think it has a decent understanding of some basic strength in the weight room at least. And now measuring bar speed for what purpose? I mean, you spending all this money to get this technology? What end of the day does it do for the fighters?

Dan Howard [00:11:28]: So basically it means we don't have any wasted reps. And we don't fatigue them any more than we're actually looking to fatigue them. So for measuring bar speed, you can get them on velocity foods as an example. If you're looking to build max strength, we look for below 0.5 meters per second. So we can get them on that pretty accurately and we can get them on it pretty fast with as minimal warm-ups. And make sure every rep that they're lifting actually counts.

Corey Beasley [00:12:03]: Right on. And if they get too slow or getting stagnant, then you can, you're killing it. You're stopping, Hey, you fried for the day let's move on.

Dan Howard [00:12:13]: Yeah. So we might have a goal, say we want them to lift under 0.5, so we'll get them on 0.5 or get them on a quick 0.9. And then depending on where they are in camp, as soon as they say a 10% drop off in that velocity, we'll cut the session there. So it's all about kind of auto regulation as well. So you can't lose your coaches I think this is a big problem that some coaches do have is they kind of become relate on the technology. Obviously we're looking for 10%. If they're closer towards a fight, then we might bring it down to sort of like three to 5% drop off. But their technique goes to shit. Trying to get that speed, then we're going to stop it there as well.

Corey Beasley [00:13:03]:
Now during the workouts I think that's really cool Metric to be able to look at and see and measure to see the how fresh or how hard that athlete's pushing. Do you use it at all at the beginning of the session to kind of see where guys are at?

Dan Howard [00:13:20]: Yeah. So I predominantly use the flex device. So I use my gym wear more and more for testing. So I'll use that when I kind of get them in the gym initially just to do that kind of one of them testing or their power testing. And then from there I use the flex device just because it's a little bit easier to use and a little bit easy to transfer. And at the start of a session I'll be running around, checking it on the end of bars, making sure that they're on velocity. And then as soon as they're on velocity, I usually just take it off and we'll go from there unless they're close to a fight and then I'll be watching that residual drop off.

Corey Beasley [00:13:57]: Now for somebody that was going to start out. I know for a lot of guys, they don't have access to a lot of this equipment or technology, limited budgets, whether they're a gym owner, like me, I'm working out of my garage. And so I know a lot of times budget is a concern. So if you were going to recommend some piece of software or a piece of equipment to, if somebody was interested in getting involved with this style of training, where would you start today?

Dan Howard [00:14:29]: Yeah, so today I would probably start with the flex device. So that's kind of what gym wear brought out to be, is very expensive. That's I guess around two and a half grand or something like that. So most people aren't going to be able to purchase that, you know what I mean? Especially coaches are not exactly known for being that rich. So the flex device is kind of like, they're kind of a personal device so you can use it. It's made for using on a personal level. So like, I would use it for myself rather than from a team. But from what I've seen, and I used it when I went out to American top team to work with Phil as well, we were using it on pretty much everyone a lot of big guys or the small guys all in the same session and it was doing really well. We were getting people on track pretty fast and it was doing really well. So I would recommend the flex device just because again, it's not accelerometers, so it's not as accurate or I'm never as confident as using the string based devices. But the lasers are slightly more or quite a bit more reliable and accurate than the accelerometers.

Corey Beasley [00:15:45]: So that device you could still create, are you creating profiles for your athletes and you just have like an app on your iPad or your phone and you're off and running.

Dan Howard [00:16:04]: Yeah. So I sometimes I use mine, sometimes I use theirs. But if we're doing any sort of testing or anything like that, I'll get them to download an app on their phone and they can basically run off it from there. So it's quite easy. And then every time we come back to use it with them, they can chick it on their app again. And they're kind of good to go from there. So it does, it does help out a lot and they can have all that data. So my phone, I ever don't save the data with their lifting. It cause my phones or my data, so I ever just don't save the data or we'll use their phone. So pretty simple to use.

Corey Beasley [00:16:40]: Now you've been using this type of stuff for how long now?

Dan Howard [00:16:44]: I'm coming up to probably coming up to about three years now. Something like that three years. I've had my own device. And then I was probably using it for about a year before that as well. The Tendo unit.

Corey Beasley [00:16:57]: Nice. Now for three or four years of using this. With your athletes, how has it improved your training or streamline things for you and your athletes?

Dan Howard [00:17:07]: Yeah, to be honest it's probably helped my coach's eye out quite a lot. Because looking at the bio, even without the Tendo units, I'm always thinking about velocity. So I'm not so much thinking about how much he is lifting in or how he's lifting, so much and more things about how fast he's lifting and the weights. Kind of secondary to that, especially with my guys like any fighter, they're going to be training, they're going to be having high training mode. And they're going to be taking a lot of external force in that training load. So you know one day it might be say 200 kilos the next day, it might be say 160. So the weight for me doesn't matter so much. It's more the philosophy of the bottom and making sure they've got that intense or lift. Which again goes back to setting up for the lift, all that sort of stuff. So coaching, the lift is coming. It's given me a lot of knowledge and coaching, looking into coaching cues or that sort of stuff to make sure they're ready to lift. And then obviously getting that intent in the lift is just second to none basically.

Corey Beasley [00:18:14]: And that's so great. I mean, literally last night I was looking through somebody's profile and these kids that as a high school wrestling team that was maxing out on their cleans and the coach is bragging and I'm sitting there watching the video and these poor high school kids who maybe could do a dead lift correctly, right? Maybe their training age is so young and they're trying to heap a couple of hundred pounds up to their collarbone. And it was the ugliest thing I've ever seen. And it made me sad cause I think egos and these types of things get in the way. And everybody's obsessed with numbers when getting the technique right. And then maybe like you're talking about what would a measure and have consistent bar speed is a better way to measure progress over time.

Dan Howard [00:19:15]: For sure. And you haven't even got to load it up too much because you can see, so if you're looking at sort of maximal power development, for example, you're looking at probably 55 to 60%. Are there 1RM? So we can see how that sort of weight is tracking like we track 60 kilos on the bar for them. Then we can kind of see from now how fast and lifting it in a months’ time, how fast they're lifting it, even every week, how fast they're lifting it so we can see the progression from there without loading them up.

Corey Beasley [00:19:47]: That's pretty interesting stuff because so many people are still just looking at numbers. I mean, as far as weight.

Dan Howard [00:19:56]: There's a big stigma about it. You know what I mean? Like you've got to be able to lift a lot. You've got to be able to put it on big numbers, all that sort of stuff. But you haven't got to worry about that too much. It's the same with a lot of things. Like, we track heart rate in the gym as well. But we never really track what they're actually getting to or what they're coming down to. We just check or we track their recovery in the round breaks because there's so much variance in the heart rate from a day to day basis. I think the researchers or something like that can be up to like 16 to 18 beats per minute variants from day to day heart rate.

Corey Beasley [00:20:32]: Yeah. We've seen that. We've seen that Omegawave system is what we were using there for a while.

Dan Howard [00:20:40]: Yeah. So it's like with that much variance can you really class it is a good judge of fitness or and it's the same with whites on the bar like they're training so much and if it is just weight training that their sport that their sport is, or like powerlifting, then fair enough you can gauge it by their weight because that's what they need to be lifting. But if it's not and they're doing so much other external training, it's hard to gauge their weights and what they should be lifting.

Corey Beasley [00:21:10]: Now, has this changed at all how you organize your training camps or organize your weeks or how your varying workouts, the intensity to volume audit type of stuff throughout the camp?

Dan Howard [00:21:24]: Yes, pretty much. To be honest. Like when I got into velocity based training is a big change for me. A change pretty much changed the whole way on how I looked at training, how I looked at program and it pretty much changed everything to be honest. So it was quite a big move and it did take a lot of research, a lot of studying. And I think at one point there was, I was actually pretty much read every paper there was on velocity based training just to make sure I was ready to kind of implement it into my training. If you're looking at the paper, like if you're looking at a lot of other modalities or all of the other famous methods out there, they all mentioned velocity based training in one aspect for the other. I know like a Westside barbell conjugate method, they mentioned philosophy based training a hell of a lot, and they were doing it for a long time before you could get all these devices as well.

Corey Beasley [00:22:20]: Sure. Well, I mean, the guys that know, I mean everybody says it, speed kills. And if you're trying to improve that physical quality, I mean, you got to figure out more efficient ways to get there. It's just kind of making things that we've known or used for a lot of years a little bit better.

Dan Howard [00:22:46]: Yeah, a little bit better, a little bit easier for everyone to use as well. So at the moment we're using for the [inaudible 00:22:35] guys, we're using the condensed conjugate method which I've worked a lot with or Phil Drew's kind of kind of using a lot over in America. So I've worked a lot with him and I found it helped, helps him out when I was out there and tries to help them implement it as much as possible with his guys in camp. And basically the whole point behind that method is you're getting every velocity zone in one session. So you're trying to get accelerated or that starting strength, which is sort of like jump training, unloaded movements, ballistic movements, then you're going to go for their max effort lift which you're going to be looking at sort of below 0.5. And then we're going to look for 0.5 meters per second. And then we're going to look for power development. So we're going to go a little bit faster around that of 0.75 to 0.8. So you're looking at sort of strength speed which we've an external force in the sport. That's what we're looking forward to develop as much power as possible.

Corey Beasley [00:24:01]:
Yeah. Are you able to use these units with like a landmine set up?

Dan Howard [00:24:09]: Some of them you can, some of them you can't. So the gym wear or the Tendo unit, we use it a lot for landmine with the flex device you can't use it because of the angle of the device, it can't send the laser. Obviously laser only goes straight, so you can't send that down to the mat. With the push band and the beast bands, you can use them on the landmine as well.

Corey Beasley [00:24:34]: Well good. I mean, if people are wanting to learn more about some of the messages and stuff that you're using or to stay up to date with you what's the best way for them to find you?

Dan Howard [00:24:47]: Yeah. So predominantly I'm on Instagram @coachDanHoward or main email [email protected] Yeah, I'm always looking to put out as much content as possible and have as much fun as possible. I just want to help out trying to educate as many coaches as they can, try and to kind of build the game a little bit and make sure everyone's helping everyone.

Corey Beasley [00:25:15]:
Perfect. Well, Dan, thank you so much. I know I learned a lot about velocity based training today and hopefully it gave some people some things to think about. Guys, I'll put all those links for Dan's social media and stuff like that down below. But Dan, thanks again for taking the time. I know it's an early morning for you, I think over there and taking the time to talk with us.

Dan Howard [00:25:41]: I had a great time and hopefully everyone learned something.