Fast or Slow Repetition Speed for Maximum Muscle
by: Robbie Durand
Maximizing the hypertrophic response to resistance training is thought to be best achieved by proper manipulation of exercise program variables including exercise selection, exercise order, length of rest intervals, intensity of maximal load, and training volume. If there ever was a controversial topic in the world of bodybuilding, it’s repetition speed. If you were involved in a sport like sprinting, it would be pretty easy to figure out that you have to train explosively because you need to teach your legs to move as fast as humanly possible. Also if your involved in power sports such as Olympic lifting or football, then you know that there are no exercises that are performed slowly. All the exercises such as clean and jerks and power cleans are performed very explosively. Football wide receivers will often perform “overspeed training” in which a slingshot type rubber tubing is attached to the player to train the muscles and nervous system faster than it’s used to.
With resistance exercise, its much more difficult to say which way to train is best for muscle mass. Some trainers swear by fast lifting for gaining muscle, whereas other were advocate slow and controlled lifting. A recent review article published by one of the top muscle growth experts in the world, Brad Schoenfeld recently published a great review on the topic titled, “Effect of repetition duration during resistance training on muscle hypertrophy: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”
Here is a breakdown of what researchers found in the collection of studies investigating repetition speed and muscle growth. A total of eight studies were identified that investigated repetition duration in accordance with the criteria outlined. When they crunched all the data from the studies, they found that muscle hypertrophy outcomes are similar when training with repetition durations ranging from 0.5 to 8 seconds. What they did find was that “superslow training” (>10s per repetition) is inferior from a hypertrophy standpoint, although a lack of controlled studies on the topic makes it difficult to draw definitive conclusions.
Based on the recommendations of the author, he recommends a wide variety of lifting speeds into a lifters workout. It seems logical that most of the workout should incorporate an explosive concentric based portions of the lift followed by a slow, controlled eccentric but not more than three seconds. You should never jeopardize an injury while trying to lift explosively, but the research tends to lean more to a faster tempo for muscle growth than a slow and controlled tempo.
Key Points: The researchers suggested that lifting weights with a faster repetition speed seemed to be more conducive for muscle growth than lifting out a slow speed.
Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn DI, Krieger JW. Effect of repetition duration during resistance training on muscle hypertrophy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2015 Apr;45(4):577-85.
Herman-Montemayor JR, Hikida RS, Staron RS. Early-Phase Satellite Cell and Myonuclear Domain Adaptations to Slow-Speed vs. Traditional Resistance Training Programs. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Nov;29(11):3105-14. Schuenke MD, Herman JR, Gliders RM, Hagerman FC, Hikida RS, Rana SR, Ragg KE, Staron RS. Early-phase muscular adaptations in response to slow-speed versus traditional resistance-training regimens. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012Oct;112(10):3585-95.