Does using a different speed during your reps make a difference to your workout? You bet5 it does. A lot of people start lifting and focus on using a smooth speed, but is that the best way to go? Let’s look at the different ideas behind the speed which you do a repetition and what it means to your muscles and your muscle gains from a workout.
The Need for Speed
Speed is often a progression that relates to your experience as a lifter. That means you go through the natural learning curve that all lifters do and gain an understanding of the different ways to do things, slowly working towards the optimal method. Instead of wasting time, let’s move to the end of the curve to help speed up muscle gains.
While a steady pace is great for a beginner that is not the best method. However as you really need to focus on learning the exercises and feeling how the muscles work and react; it is a perfect starting point. But after you master the moves and really feel the muscles working you can switch gears and start getting the most out of your rep speed.
Explosive Power – The positive portion of the lift should be done as quickly as possible. That doesn’t mean out of control, but in control. You have to fire the weight off fast which will engage the greatest number of muscle fibers. That in turn will increase speed, size, and strength. So when you do a barbell curl it is the curling motion that should be explosive. For the bench press, the pressing motion should be the bar exploding off your chest.
A common mistake newer lifters make is using momentum thinking that it is explosive power. An example would be during a bench press dropping the weight the last few inches to rebound off the chest and start the upward motion. You aren’t exploding, you are rebounding. Instead you need to imagine trying to go 0 to 60 as fast as possible. Push that weight so hard that it flies away.
Negative Control – One of the best ways to master the explosive side is to control the negative motion. By controlling the lowering phase you will engage more fibers to increase strength and stamina. The negative portion is actually more engaged going slower than faster. You should aim for 3 to 5 seconds to lower the weight, depending on the exercise and range of motion.
That would mean for a squat you would go slow on the way down, in complete control. At the bottom of the lift you are at zero and ready to explode back up to the top.
Benefits on Tempo
The obvious benefit of this method is to active the maximum number of fibers in any exercise. However you also get an added bonus of working on better form. The negative movements, when slowed down means you really have the time find any flaws or weaknesses in a movement. This in turn allows you to focus on those weak points to shore up your overall level of strength and fitness.
Negative strength and positive strength are two separate aspects. Because they each have different optimum training methods you should strive to maximize each set by incorporating the proper tempo to hit them both of you really want maximum gains.