Bench Faster for More Results?
Proponents of strength training and powerlifting center a majority of their lifts around how much weight they can move, rather than for how many reps they can perform, to enhance their strength.
And while we already know mixing up reps, sets, working up to heavy singles, etc., can help lead to greater muscle and strength gains, there is one variable that can unlock even greater gains but may be overlooked by many strength trainers and powerlifters.
Faster Bar Path for Greater Strength Gains
One popular training method for both strength and size gains is time under tension (TUT), captained by influential fitness individuals Charles Poliquin and Ian King. TUT training is ultimately how much time the muscle is under tension while executing the exercise. While TUT training has definitely produced gains in many individuals, it’s time to rattle some cages with new information.
A study was brought to light that suggests moving the bar at a maximal velocity rather than at a deliberately lower pace may induce greater strength gains during the bench press.
Twenty individuals that were physically active with around 2-4 years of resistance training implemented maximal and half-maximal velocity training approaches to the bench press over a 6-week training period.
These individuals underwent the bench press exercise 3 times a week and a complementary study was designed to take into account metabolic and mechanical responses between maximal velocity and half-maximal velocity protocols.
Individuals experienced strength improvements with both fast and slow velocity bar paths, but the strength gains were greater when implementing maximal velocity.1
So, What’s the Takeaway?
The new information reveals that the speed of the movement “largely determines the resulting training effect”.1 Consequently, the amount of weight lifted isn’t the only factor you should consider when planning on maximizing your lifts. Keep in mind, however, that this study focused on only one form of resistance exercise – the bench press.
Does this mean that lifting with a slower speed won’t produce strength gains? Of course not, as all individuals in the maximal velocity study made strength gains regardless of their speed during lifts. What this is saying, though, is that lifting faster can yield even greater results.
Be sure to take lifting velocity into account the next time you hit the gym and factor it into the way you bench.
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- Gonzalez-Badillo JJ, et al. Maximal intended velocity training induces greater gains in bench press performance than deliberately slower half-velocity training. Eur J Sport Sci. 2014;14(8):772-81. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2014.905987. Epub 2014 Apr 15.