Max Velocity – Faster Lifts = Bigger Lifts
One of the key implements in training programs is how fast you can move the bar or a concept we call Dynamic Effort or Speed Training. For those of us that are “grinders” or have the ability to generate force over a long period of time, generally one of the limitations in our training programs is the ability to generate force really, really fast. Now this doesn’t mean that “grinders” are weak, it just means our nervous system isn’t as coordinated as it needs to be in order to generate force quickly. To maximize the amount of force we can produce quickly we use submaximal loads and accelerate them as fast as possible. That’s F=mA for you geeks out there.
The validity of this technique is still under hot debate as to the effectiveness of Dynamic Effort work; however, many of the best powerlifters in the world swear by it. Louie Simmons popularized this concept of lifting with this Dynamic Effort method and the results from his years of training experiments cannot be ignored, regardless of what current research shows.
Velocity Specific Lifting
Now maximal loads of 85-95% of your 1-Rep Max are anything but fast. In fact most of the time these heavier loads are completed very slowly compared to submaximal lifts. Although the lifter may feel like they’re accelerating the bar as fast as possible the resulting speed is quite low under those conditions.
So how do we develop enough speed in our training to cause an increase in our overall power? We can’t just lift heavier and heavier loads to do this.
We must lift a weight faster. So to maximize our power output in the bigger lifts we must focus on acceleration of the lifts with a submaximal load. Generally, research shows that a load of 30-55% promises the best results from this method so you can accelerate through the load as fast as possible.
Doing this type of training is far less stressful on the body overall, however it can be taxing on the joints and central nervous system. This is by far the biggest problem with this method from a “grinders” perspective as you cannot feel the burn. There is no metabolic effect, especially when the reps are kept to a minimum as they should be to stimulate the process.
One must constantly keep in mind that this is simply a technique to improve your overall speed and performance when under maximal loads. It’s not meant to be overly difficult or facilitate a burning sensation. That’s the part that most bodybuilders will get frustrated with is that lack of “feeling” in a lift.
However, adding this speed work into your routine will help you master the ability to accelerate through the bar, even at greater loads, which proves vital to push pass sticking points in your training program.
A Need For Max Velocity Training
Now as suggested earlier you can generally get a good stimulus with anything under 50% of your maximal loading parameters, accelerating the bar as fast as possible. But you can also optimize this effect with bands and chains.
Using these methods is called “accommodating resistance” that changes how the bar is loaded on bigger lifts like squats, deadlifts and bench press. Making the lifts easier or harder at either the top or bottom of the loading pattern helps a lifter accelerate through the sections of the lift that are generally tougher.
Take the bottom of the squat with chains. As the chain links unravel at the bottom of the lift the bar gets lighter, allowing the lifter to accelerate through the bottom of the squat without the usual grinding. This helps stimulate a much faster response so when maximal loads are used the nervous system can respond quicker and more effective than before.
Here’s a little video of me making some funny faces while doing some squats with bands.
Lifters with a good deal of lifting experience may challenge themselves with these type of techniques to get a good boost out of their training. Although for novice lifters the effect will be minimal in comparison to just doing straight barbell dynamic effort or maximal effort work.
Does It Work
As far as speed training’s effectiveness it’s very hard to judge without a complex system of measurement, force plates and accelerometers and other laboratory equipment. However, once you’ve engaged in speed training you will notice a much faster drive effect while doing maximal effort work. Your nervous system is simply more primed and ready to respond under heavy loads. The coordination effect of the muscles becomes more in sync allowing you to accelerate loads faster regardless of the weight.
You can feel this effect after several months of training utilizing this method and with many of the top powerlifters in the world enhancing their overall max lifts.
As with everything research can’t prove anything, but give speed specific training a try if you’re after those bigger loads. After all you’ll never know unless you try. Insert some max velocity training into your program on your lighter lifting days and use them as a day to focus on your form, technique and accelerate through that bar. While they won’t help you build a superior level of maximum strength, it may help you bust through those sticking points that stop those maximal lifts short of their finale.
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