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Old 04-01-2013, 10:46 AM   #1
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Default Speed work: Not this again

SPEED WORK: NOT THIS AGAIN

BY MIKE TUCHSCHERER

So the last article I wrote made some people rejoice and made other people pretty upset. And for myself, since I rarely write articles that get such a divided response, I went back just to double check and make sure I didn’t say anything crazy. I’m usually a pretty wordy writer and that article was pretty quick. As such, I don’t think I was as precise as I ought to have been, so let’s run this gauntlet one more time.

My claim: It’s my professional opinion that “speed work” is not the optimal method for developing maximal force, particularly for trained powerlifters. Let’s stop there as this will give us plenty to talk about….

SPEED WORK DEFINED

The definition in the original article:

“For now, let’s define speed work as anything under a 7 RPE. If you complete a set and you could have done 5 or more reps, it counts as speed work. If you’re doing doubles or triples with less than 75%, it probably counts. If you’re doing singles with less than 85%, it probably counts. If this is just a warm-up to your heavier work, then it probably doesn’t count as speed work.”

Just for the sake of clarity, I’d say those percentages are bottom-tension percentages of a 1RM in whatever lift it is that you’re doing. Usually peak force is at the bottom of a lift like the squat or bench, so this seems to be the most relevant number. Also for the record, I tend to place more value on the RPE than the percentage, but I figured I’d put percentages up as guidelines since a lot of you don’t use RPE yet.

THE DATA

I’ve gathered data on peak force production values in each of the three powerlifts by measuring force with a tendo unit as well as using motion analysis software on videos of the three powerlifts. Peak force production with highly sub maximal weights (defined above) does not approach peak force production values generated by heavier weights REGARDLESS OF INTENT TO ACCELERATE. Sure, trying to accelerate produces more force than NOT trying to accelerate. But it still doesn’t produce as much force as using a heavy weight. Measurements of peak force production using 75% of 1RM were approximately 85% of the peak force that was measured when using 90% of 1RM for the same number of reps. In other words, lighter weights produced about 85% of the peak force value that the heavy weights did.

Some people thought using peak force production was an error and instead I should use average force production. I did collect data on that and average force production was even more linked to bar weight than peak force. I decided to look at peak force because that was the variable that responded more to outside influences. Things like intent to accelerate, fatigue, and load all affected peak force. Load was the only factor that seems to affect average force.

MY THOUGHTS

This is where my observation of the data ends and my interpretation of it begins.
Increasing strength is an adaptation of the human body. The body adapts to stressors and when it does, it supercompensates. Couple that with knowledge of mylination, skill development, and the data above and I think it’s fair to say that doing speed work as defined in this article will most likely not increase peak force production values. The primary drivers of success in powerlifting are force production and technique (mostly because good technique supports force production).

That said, speed work has other training effects that may or may not help you reach your goals. It gets you more training volume, which is almost always good. This can support muscle mass, improve skill to somewhat, and improve power generation. It’s important to note that power generation typically won’t matter to a powerlifter, but it is probably more important to other athletes. It’s also possible that speed work sessions are easier to recover from than bouts with heavier weights, though some people have the opposite experience.

The real question in any training discussion is not “what works”. Rather, you should ask, “What is optimal?” As Dr. Hatfield says, it’s always a question of good, better, best. The evidence shows we can get higher peak force production by increasing the RPE beyond 7. To do this, should increase the weight until you are getting RPEs of 8+ for the number of reps you are performing.

Additionally, if you’re seeking a greater volume of work, I think doing that volume with higher peak force values will be more beneficial unless you are having recovery issues (and then speed work acts as a band-aid for a larger problem). If you’re trying to support muscle mass or develop your technique, I’d suggest that there are better options out there than doing speed work. Even for pure power development, I think there are better options available. Remember, good Better BEST!

As I’ve stated, power itself does not play a large role in powerlifting. Sure, there IS a time limit when exerting Fmax. You can’t just grind away all day. But the time component is limited by your ATP and Creatine Phosphate stores. At maximum intensity, these can last around 10 seconds. So if you’re not grinding out 1RMs for longer than 10 seconds, you aren’t limited by your ATP/CP. And even if you do take longer than 10 seconds to complete a maximum attempt, studies have shown it only takes .15 seconds and .25 seconds to reach Fmax in pulls. My own measurements show time to Fmax as being significantly less (.10 to .17 seconds) in movements with an eccentric component. If you’re slow, that still leaves you 9.75 seconds to grind away. If you could double your RFD (which would be quite a feat), that still only gets you an extra .125 seconds. I can’t remember seeing a lift and thinking, “Man, if he could have just kept grinding another .125 seconds, he would have gotten it!” I think a powerlifter’s training economy would be better spent developing a higher Fmax rather than focusing on RFD.
And before anyone balks at the apparent contradiction, let me clarify – it only takes a quarter of a second or so to reach Fmax. But when using lighter weights, the measured Fmax is LOWER than the Fmax that is measured with heavier weights. That’s narrow difference, but an important one.

THE DRAMA

I’m not trying to engage anyone in religious debate. If you care about your training method with religious fervor — to the point where you’re unwilling to try to understand my arguments or form logical ones of your own, then please don’t try to talk training with me. I don’t insist that everyone agree with what I say, but it’s a good thing for everyone to challenge their own assumptions from time to time. I’m willing to have a mutually respectful discussion on this or any training topic. Similarly, if you do speed work and I question its effectiveness, it doesn’t mean I’m disrespecting your guru of choice. Nobody gets a free pass in the realm of ideas. No person, because of the things they have done or said in the past, deserves to have their thoughts accepted without question. In fact, respecting someone’s ideas involves questioning them to see if they hold water. Good ideas deserve to be debated and questioned. What’s more, it’s the quality of a person’s logic that determines whether or not their questioning is good. The notion that the one who popularized some idea must grant someone “the right” to question them is absurd.

I also don’t mean to insinuate that any entire program doesn’t “work”. Anything will work given the right circumstances. But as I said, it’s not even about what “works”. “Does it work” is the wrong question! It’s about what is optimal. There is NO program or system that is perfect and we all have more to learn. What I’ve presented here is something I’ve learned and my intent is to share it so that others can improve their programs as well.

Some of my friends include speed work in their training. I don’t think it’s optimal, but they don’t take it personally. Conversely, there are things I do that they don’t think is optimal. I don’t take it personally either. We can discuss it like adults. Hopefully with good discussion, critical thinking, and careful review, we all get closer to the truth over time. I don’t expect that you, the reader, will change your mind on speed work immediately (though you might), but as a courtesy, just let what I’ve said here sink in for a few days. Maybe it causes you to question what you were previously doing. Maybe it doesn’t. Life goes on.
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Old 04-01-2013, 10:49 AM   #2
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Me personally...I think it works but it will depend o the person. I was getting very slow few month backs and we decide to go lighter with a lot more reps. My focus was add reps and SPEED. DID WORK. What is your experience or thoughts?
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Old 04-01-2013, 11:05 AM   #3
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i feel like there is def a place for speed work. For me it didn't work when i did it every time i hit that lift. I usually just mix in in with what my current routine is.
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Old 04-01-2013, 11:15 AM   #4
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I don't think it does anything for me, but I lift fast all the time. Warmups, work sets, everything is as fast as I can push it.

Fazc had a post a while back about tricep dominant benchers versus chest dominant benchers. Chest dominant tended to be more explosive lifters, but not so good when the lift slows down, while triceps people were "slower" but better grinders. Same with posterior dominant squatters (slower) versus quad squatters, btw.

It makes sense to me, and I think if you are not naturally a dynamic bencher, then speed probably does work. But if you are already pretty explosive, probably doesn't do much but add volume as Tuscherer thinks.

My .02
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Old 04-01-2013, 11:17 AM   #5
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Learning to generate speed was an essential step in working towards a 700 deadlift. While I don't typically use speed work, there was a period of 6 months where I added Hepburn style high pulls. During this period I noticed that I was pulling far more aggressively on high pulls than I was on deadlifts.

While this is not seen as conventional speed work, it does have a point. I think everyone should try things like speed work for themselves. It might teach you a few things you didn't expect to learn, or a few things that can't be quantified by studies.
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Old 04-01-2013, 11:20 AM   #6
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Agree w/ both...I need to mix it here and there and probably lift fast most of my lift. Not because I'm doing speed training (at that specific time) but because that's just me.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:08 PM   #7
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What I'm hearing from people is one of two things; Speed work helped because they did a lot more reps, and speed work helped because it improved their form and confidence with a lift. But these aren't the point of speed work as defined by Westside. To me, this shows that increasing volume and reps actually doing the lift are whats important, as opposed to improving speed itself. You can do that by just doing more volume and not worrying about moving explosively.
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Old 04-01-2013, 01:08 PM   #8
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I agree with everything you say except for that last phrase. I do think you have to worry about being explosive if you want to raise your 1 rep max.

Your 1 rep is your ability to fire as many muscle fibers as possible right in that first split second off the bottom of your lifts. You obviously learn that by doing 1 rep maxes, but you can't do singles all the time.

But doing things explosively, I think, helps you get the idea across to your nervous system that you want everything available to work at the weakest point of the lift which is always the bottom (for raw lifters anyway). Your body in my opinion only uses what it has to use to perform, so with 70% of your max, it isn't working very hard nor very quickly unless you make it think that way.

I believe being explosive is important, but not that it needs a special day unless you are not naturally an explosive lifter.

For example I do not believe a guy doing 8x 3 with 70% "slowly" is going to really help his max bench any.

My opinions. I would love to hear what a Westside guy thinks, though.
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Old 04-01-2013, 01:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
I agree with everything you say except for that last phrase. I do think you have to worry about being explosive if you want to raise your 1 rep max.

Your 1 rep is your ability to fire as many muscle fibers as possible right in that first split second off the bottom of your lifts. You obviously learn that by doing 1 rep maxes, but you can't do singles all the time.

But doing things explosively, I think, helps you get the idea across to your nervous system that you want everything available to work at the weakest point of the lift which is always the bottom (for raw lifters anyway). Your body in my opinion only uses what it has to use to perform, so with 70% of your max, it isn't working very hard nor very quickly unless you make it think that way.

I believe being explosive is important, but not that it needs a special day unless you are not naturally an explosive lifter.

For example I do not believe a guy doing 8x 3 with 70% "slowly" is going to really help his max bench any.

My opinions. I would love to hear what a Westside guy thinks, though.
I think I misspoke. It's not that I think that it isn't important to move explosively, as much as that I'm reaching the conclusion that explosiveness isn't an important attribute to train in and of itself. My exposiveness has improved a lot lately, but I haven't been training speed. I'm just getting stronger and improving my form, and explosiveness is coming along with it.
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Old 04-01-2013, 01:42 PM   #10
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Speed Kills.

Training to Build Strength is one thing

Training to Demonstrate Strength is Something Else.

Unfortunately, in Powerlifting the two get all Tangled up.

Three Seconds up, Five Seconds down is best to develop Muscular Strength and is very unlikely to cause injuries...

But if one always trains optimally—To gain Strength...

Then some Momentum Monger who trains Abysmally—and may be much weaker than you—may very well outlift you at a meet due to "Superior" Technique.

Don't be fooled—although Powerlifting is said to be "Pure Power" there is as much Technique involved as with any other sport.

Our Coach, one of the top Coaches in America, used to have everyone do 8-12 rep sets, done correctly with Zero Momentum...

And switched to low rep Momentum Mongering only the last few weeks leading up to a Meet...

To learn what weights could be handled and to learn some "Cheating" Technique.

{Using Momentum is not "Cheating" in the sense that it is poor sportsmanship—it is just "Cheating" in an absolute sense, since Momentum aids what should be Pure Muscular Contraction—in a Perfect World.}


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