Using Objective Feedback in Training
Objective Feedback is one of the most powerful, yet extremely under utilized tools in the strength and conditioning world. Objective feedback will change the game for your athlete's performance in several ways. First of all, it will improve the competitive environment within your gym. Second, it can provide multiple avenues of auto regulation. Third, it allows you and your athletes to see that the programming is working by providing even more measurable results. Finally, it forces athletes to increase their output, improving the rate of progress your athletes make within your gym.
What is Objective feedback
So what is objective feedback? By definition, objective feedback is specific and measurable data that provides information about performance and effort. An example of objective feedback within the gym would be measuring the velocities of a rotational medicine ball throw, instead of just having a kid walk over and throw the ball and telling him how he’s doing. It puts hard numbers to an athlete’s every output, and to me that is a powerful tool.
Objective Feedback and competition
Competition is a powerful tool for a coach and an athlete. An athlete may work hard when they are training by themselves. But, an athlete is guaranteed to work hard when he’s training next to his best friend who plays for his rival high school. I don’t care if you are the most motivating coach in the world, there is another level when athletes are thrown into a competitive environment. Objective feedback is a great way to create this environment.
Objective feedback creates an environment where your athlete is competing against themself or others on every measured rep. When an athlete does a medicine ball throw, he will throw the medvball to a level that he thinks is hard. This level is often below 100%. Throw a little objective feedback into his throws via radar gun to measure the speed of the each throw and you’ll see magic happen. I promise you each med ball throw will bump up a notch. I saw this day 1 with the pocket radar. The first group of athletes that happened to use it were some of the pro guys. Needless to say these guys are motivated and get after it with med ball throws. The level they took it to, once we got the radar going was insane! The guys all admitted that they’ve never thrown medballs with that level of intensity!
(If any of you know me, that is one of the best/worst thing an athlete can tell me. You just admitted to sad bagging on all your other throws)
The increase in personal competition is awesome. Now, add that competiton into a group training setting and watch out. Within the jump every single jump is measured and recorded. When it comes to verticals we use the Just Jump mat. Watching a group of athletes competing on the Just Jump mat is a thing of beauty. If one person has a good jump, I’d almost guarantee good jumps from every other guy in the group. If you’re the athlete that doesn’t respond, ha!!! The shit talking ramps up, and verticals stay up, and your gym will stay buzzing with energy!
Higher effort means faster progress. Competition in the form of objective feedback will make your athletes improve quicker. Just be smart with where you use objective feedback. Higher speeds and higher output induce more stress. Within my programming we use objective feedback for the most important exercises on a given day. In the next part we’ll talk auto-regulation, which will explain how we maintain quality of movements and quality of output drops.
Objective Feedback and Auto-regulation
The instant objective feedback received from an athlete’s output gives you detail on an athletes current training status. For example, Johnny comes in every day and runs between a 1.62 and 1.65 on his laser 10 yard sprint. But today he can’t run below a 1.69 and you can see less bounce between his feet in the ground. This usually means that his nervous system might be fatigued. This leaves you with two options, coach him up, and see if that makes the change. If that fails, adjust training accordingly! Decrease the volume of jumps or throws, scale back on intensity, and live to lift another day! An athletes output will auto-regulate what an athlete does and how you will program.
Quality is king! Within the same umbrella of auto regulation, objective feedback can tell you when the reps are losing quality. For example, if I programmed Alex to do 5 contrasts sets of 2 squats with 2 vertical jumps, and after set 3 his vertical has dropped by 2 inches for each jump compared to his first two sets, the quality of reps is dropping. Alex is no longer going to receive the ideal stress for the days prescribed training. At this point, I would just end the work for squats there, or just eliminate the jump, if the quality of squat is still high.
To take your training and programming a step further with objective feedback and auto-regulation, you can invest in a Velocity Based Training device. Within the gym we use the Gymaware. This device gives me real time feedback on max and average bar speed, as well as height of bar movement. If you don’t have a gymaware or other device, but have a training partner, have him time your reps with a stopwatch. As ridiculous as this sounds, it’s what I use to do with athletes before I made the investment in the gymaware. It might not have been very accurate, but it made athletes move faster!!!!
If you want to see something interesting on a dynamic effort day, place the gymaware on the bar and see what happens. You’ll see one of two things happen. Number one, you’ll see if you’re actually lifting the ideal load for the velocity range you should be in. If you’re too slow then light the load; if you’re too fast, then throw some more weight on the bar. Number two, your effort might change since you’re all of a sudden getting feedback on your bar speed. There is no way in hell the bar will be moving slower with instant feedback.
Here is a little reaserch to back it up…
In 2017 Weakley et al used visual feedback on concentric barbell velocity in the bench press during a set of 10 reps. In other words, average velocity of the bar from the chest to the top of the lift during a set of 10 reps. The feedback group had a greater average velocity throughout the entire set of 0.70 +/- 0.04 m/s versus control 0.65 m/s +/- 0.05 m/s. Visual feedback produces greater average speed throughout the entire set.
Objective Feedback and Programming Results
The only way to know your programming is actually working is to see that numbers are actually improving. This means you have to see that your athletes are running faster, actually jumping higher, actually throwing harder, actually hitting harder, and actually jumping further compared to their first day! Although you might think that your eyes are a good judge, I would say technology is better when it comes to measuring performance.
Objective feedback is the ultimate judge of you as a coach. Each day you have your athletes come in, you can see if they are better than the week before. You can see trends in your programming. You can see when progress is slowing and programming needs to be adjusted. This feedback gives you hard data to support what you are doing as a coach. If you want to be the best coach you can be, you have to be honest with yourself.
For me, I love seeing what specific athletic attributes make athletes do what they do. I have been able to draw some interesting correlations that go against the grain of common thought because of the consistent feedback I get from all the different avenues we use to monitor training. If you have a curious brain, like this guy, objective feedback is like candy!
And a little research to back it up…
In 2018 Vanderka et al. found significant improvements in 20m 30m 50m sprints, 3RM back squat, squat jump, and countermovement jump, compared to pre testing and compared to the non feedback group. And one more! In 2011, Randall et al. in found an improvement in vertical jump, broad jump, 10 yard, 20 and significant improvement in 30 yard sprints in the objective feedback group versus non feedback group
Objective feedback Finally!!!!
Hopefully now you can see the benefits of objective feedback. I really can’t stress enough how a simple relatively cheap piece of equipment like a tape measurer can instantly change everything about your athlete's output, their results, and the environment of your gym! And if you are an athlete reading this, start measuring your jumps and find ways to measure your output with specific exercises! If you need suggestions just shoot me an email and I’ll help guide you with easy ways to add more objective feedback into your training.
Vanderka et al. (2018), Use of Visual Feedback during jump squat Training in Sport Specific Tests in Athletes J Strength Cond Res
Weakley et. al. (2017), Visual feedback Attenuates mea Concentric Barbell Velocity Loss, and Improves Motivation, Competitiveness, and perceived workload in male adolescent Athletes J Strength Cond Res
Randell et al. (2011). Effect of instantaneous performance feedback during 6 weeks of velocity-based resistance training on sport-specific performance tests. J Strength Cond Res