J. Bryan Mann wants every student-athlete to perform at their peak.
To achieve this, Mann, a clinical associate professor in the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development who also works as director of sports science for Miami Hurricanes Athletics, spends hours gathering data on University baseball, volleyball, and soccer players, as well as swimmers and divers, to assess their readiness to perform.
He uses a training method called “velocity-based training.” In the world of strength training, Mann’s name is synonymous with that term.
“I coined that phrase, teach classes on it and have written several books on it,” he said.
Unlike the traditional strength training where lifting the highest amount of weight is the norm, velocity-based training uses science to predict the load (weight) for the day, said Mann. Using VBT the coaches can gauge the speed, force, and readiness an athlete has for that particular game or exercise session and then make adjustments so that they can perform at a maximum level, said Mann.
“VBT is more nuanced than traditional strength sessions,” he said. “It looks at different aspects of performance. When everyone thinks of strength building, they think of how much the person can lift, but there is also how fast can they move or jump and how do they interact with force and velocity. Knowing all those factors is how we get power.”
Mann works at the Hecht Athletic Center’s weight room, evaluating the performance of Olympic sports team members. Each student-athlete is asked to jump on force plates that are connected to computers that calculate different aspects of the jump, such as how much force is exerted at the bottom of the jump, said Mann.
Athletes also may be asked to sprint, squat, or lift weights. The way they do that is analyzed so that coaches can then provide feedback and adjustments to the athletes’ trainings, said Mann. VBT also takes into consideration stressors that may affect the athlete, Mann added. These stressors can be emotional or physical.
Stress can affect the nervous system and all movement ruled by the nervous system. If it is stressed then the performance on the field will not be as good as it could be, he said.
Andy Kershaw, the head coach for swimming, works very closely with Mann.
“Professor Mann embodies our department's desire to propel our student-athletes forward,” Kershaw said. “He is passionate about their success and the impact he can have on their success. The information he collects helps us identify the physiological line between challenging our athletes to test their limits, and giving them enough recovery time to adapt and improve.”
Mann was drawn to strength training as a young boy.
“I was born with a birthmark on my face and I wanted to be big and strong so that people would leave me alone,” he said. It worked.
He became a well-known power lifter and competed at the national level. Mann received a master’s in education and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri at Columbia. He likes to say that he is that rare practitioner of the sport who became an academic.
He has written hundreds of academic papers on different aspects of strength and weight training and has authored five books, including one called “Powerlifting, the complete guide to technique, training, and competition,” which he co-authored with Dan Austin.
H.R. Powell, the assistant strength and conditioning coach for Hurricanes baseball, had been studying the work of Mann for years before he met him about eight years ago. Now, he works closely with Mann in implementing VBT in the training for baseball players.
“He has been an amazing resource when it comes to utilizing velocity-based training to its fullest potential,” he said. “He has been at the forefront of VBT and creator of the VBT zones and having him has been a tremendous asset for our program and our program development.”
Powell credits VBT with keeping the athletes on the field because it allows them to fully monitor what an athlete can achieve during each session or game, he said.
Powell said VBT has helped the team set a record for homeruns in a single season last year.
“This was huge for us,” he said. “This year we are on pace to break that record.”
Astrid Trasobares, a senior majoring in exercise physiology with a minor in sports medicine, began working alongside Mann eight months ago, gathering data on athletes. She had taken two courses with him in the past two years.
“He is very engaging with the class and he has a really good way of providing real life examples, and that brings the class to life,” she said. “He is so smart and really understands the world of athletics so well. He inspires others. (PB/Newswise)