Explosive Lifting Enhances Muscle Mass

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Explosive Lifting Enhances Muscle Mass

by: Robbie Durand

Exercise physiology research over the past few years has transformed the way all athletes train for optimal performance.  Not too long ago, it was advocated that football players and not use resistance exercise because it would make them “muscle bound.”  Now, just about every athlete uses resistance exercise to improve performance.  Most people go to the gym and may change their sets, reps, and rest duration, but how many people change their repetition speed?

bench press with chains
At least five studies to date comparing the effects of fast and slow bar speeds on muscle size have reported that lifting faster can result in more growth than lifting slower.

Over the past few years, its pretty clear that increasing bar speed can lead to increases in strength as opposed to slower lifting.  So maybe you don’t care about your strength and you want to just get bigger.  At least five studies to date comparing the effects of fast and slow bar speeds on muscle size have reported that lifting faster can result in more growth than lifting slower. A fast repetition speed, reduces time under tension. Time under tension is the time your muscle spends under load during a set.  For example, if you perform a 10-repetiton set, and each rep takes you 5 seconds to complete, your muscle experiences 50 seconds of time under tension. If you were to perform that same set but spend 1 seconds lifting the weight (concentric phase), 1 second pausing during peak contraction, and 1 seconds lowering the weight (eccentric phase), those same 10 reps would give you approximately 30 seconds of TUT.  At first glance, you would suspect that lifting slower would be better for muscle growth, but new research suggests that lifting faster.

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Researchers examined the impact of protocols equalized by the time under tension (TUT), but composed of different repetition durations and repetitions numbers, on muscle activation and blood lactate concentration. Twenty-two males with previous experience in resistance training performed two training protocols (A and B) with the Smith machine bench press exercise, both with 3 sets, 3 minutes rest, and 60% of one repetition maximum (1RM).

– Protocol A consisted of 6 repetitions with a 6second repetition duration for each repetition (slow repetition speed).

-Protocol B the subjects performed 12 repetitions with a 3s repetition duration for each repetition (fast repetition speed)..

man doing trx push-up
The results showed that the muscle activation of all muscles increased during the sets and was higher in Protocol B (i.e faster when compared to Protocol A. Likewise, blood lactate concentrations also increased throughout the sets and was higher in Protocol B both during and after the completion of each training session.

Muscular activation was measured in the anterior deltoid, pectoralis major, and triceps brachii muscles while performing the two protocols. Blood lactate concentrations were measured during and up to 12 minutes after the completion of each protocol. The results showed that the muscle activation of all muscles increased during the sets and was higher in Protocol B (i.e faster when compared to Protocol A. Likewise, blood lactate concentrations also increased throughout the sets and was higher in Protocol B both during and after the completion of each training session. The data obtained in this study show that training protocols conducted with the same TUT, but with different configurations, produce distinct neuromuscular and metabolic responses, so that, performing higher repetition numbers with shorter repetition durations might be a more appropriate strategy to increase muscle activation and blood lactate concentration.  This is not to say that training with slower repetitions speed is not without benefit, but people looking to gain optimal gains in lean muscle mass and strength should incorporate a wide variety of repetition speeds in their weekly training protocols for optimal gains.

Variations in repetition duration and repetition numbers influences muscular activation and blood lactate response in protocols equalized by time under tension, by De Lacerda, Costa, Diniz, Lima, Andrade, Tourino, and Chagas, in The Journal of Strength &
Conditioning Research (2015)

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