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 Lifting Speed: A closer Look... 
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Post Lifting Speed: A closer Look...
I posted this on TFF and MAP (I think) but since the topic came up I thought I'd bring it over.

Next time you’re at the gym take a quick gander around and you’ll notice that the members lifting rather than talking are all lifting at various speeds. Some people just pop out the reps as quickly as possible while others grind them out slowly. I am asked quite often which is right. The answer? Neither and yet both. Let me explain.

Your lifting speed (aka Lifting Tempo) can have a rather large impact on the end result of the training you’re doing. Since we all have different goals neither fast nor slow can be right or wrong, unless, of course, you’re using the wrong tempo for your goals.

Without knowing it most lifters will use a 2x3 tempo. That means, on an exercise like bench for example, they raise the weight explosively in roughly 2 seconds and lower it more slowly taking roughly 3 seconds. Fast positives and slower negatives is a method of lifting that’s been beaten into us almost as soundly as Triceps must accompany Chest; Biceps must accompany Back, etc. By speeding up or slowing down this tempo we alter the results we can hope to see.

Muscle strength and size is directly dependent on how long we keep the muscle under load, or tension. When lifting with a quicker tempo we almost always decrease the time during which the muscle is under load. However, we gain the ability to move heavier weight. If the goal is to develop sheer power and strength than a faster, more explosive tempo is the proper choice. A tempo like 2x1x2x1 would work well. For those unfamiliar with tempo prescriptions, the first 2 is the speed with which the weight is lowered, the 1 is a pause at the bottom to ensure momentum is killed, the next 2 is the speed with which the weight is raised and the last 1 is a brief pause at the top, again to kill momentum.

A slower lifting tempo typically forces a reduction in weight used but places the load on the muscles for a greater period of time thereby increasing intensity. This style of lifting is beneficial for muscular development in terms of size, overall appearance and endurance but is not the primary means for increasing overall strength in the traditional sense.

Lifting slowly forces concentration and causes an increase in time under load as well as over all load moved. For example, if we take bench press with 300 pounds on the bar:

1) You lower the weight in one second, all the way down to your chest. How much force was applied to the bar during the lowering? Probably not much. Maybe 150 lbs. at best.

2) You resist the load, taking a full eight seconds to bring the bar to your chest. The force on the bar in this situation is a lot higher, around 280+ lbs., because the weight was lowered much more slowly.

Why wasn’t it 300 pounds? In order for a weight to be lowered the resistance supporting it has to be less than the weight itself or else it wont move. If you resisted at the exact same weight as the weight itself you’d be doing a static hold and that’s a different article all together.

Another benefit to lifting slowly is the higher degree of microtrauma caused. Microtrauma, which is tiny damage to the fibers, is seen as the basis for hypertrophy. When microtrauma occurs (from weight training or other strenuous activities), the body responds by overcompensating, replacing the damaged tissue and adding more, so that the risk of repeat damage is reduced. This is why progressive overload is essential to continued improvement, as the body adapts and becomes more resistant to stress.

It is believed that the increased load placed on the muscle during slow tempo lifting is responsible for greater density and overall mass than with faster tempo lifting.

In my opinion each lifter needs to use both methods of lifting tempo. I personally use a faster tempo on my heavy sets to enable me to move greater weight and slower tempo on the preceding sets. For the slower tempo sets I use a 3x4 count with a 1 second pause at the top and bottom of the ROM.

Good luck and good lifting!

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Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:12 am
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