It’s always fun to read and learn about different training techniques to take our performance to the next level. To improve our strength in the barbell lifts we often turn to advanced training methods that involve the need for additional equipment like bands, chains or weight releasers. Though accommodating resistance training can be quite beneficial, most coaches and athletes will not always have access to this type of equipment. Many athletes, particularly at the high school level, may train at home, or at commercial gyms that do not carry specialized equipment, nor permit it. A very simple, yet highly effective technique often neglected by coaches and athletes is simply performing every rep with maximal intended concentric velocity. In other words, attempting to move the bar as fast as possible during the lifting phase of an exercise. Doing so can provide some significant improvements to strength and power simultaneously.
A new study featured in the European Journal of Sports Science compared the effects on strength of training the bench press with maximal velocity verses training with 50% of maximal velocity. A totally of twenty subjects were divided into one of the two groups. The groups trained three times per week over six consecutive weeks. For each individual at each workout, bar velocity was monitored with a linear transducer to ensure maximal and half-maximal velocity was being met for the appropriate groups. Though both groups significantly improved bench press strength after the training period, the maximal velocity training group showed considerably large improvements. One rep max improved by 18.2% in the max velocity group versus only 9.7% in the half-maximal velocity group, a difference of nearly 50%. The max velocity group also showed significantly greater improvements in force developed against heavy (above 60% 1RM, 36.2% vs. 17.3%) and light loads (below 60% 1RM, 11.5% vs. 4.5%). The researchers stated that the velocity at which loads are lifted largely determine the subsequent training effect. They conclude that bench press strength gains can be maximized by lifting with maximal intended velocity.
Coaches should be aware of the inherent risks in encouraging there athletes to lift weights with maximal velocity. A strong foundation of proper lifting mechanics should be developed before engaging in this type of training. Young or inexperienced lifters will continue to get strong with controlled tempos and technical improvements simply because of how adaptable they are at that stage. The current study demonstrates that fancy equipment required for more advanced training techniques are not always necessary to stimulate progress in the gym. Alternatively, this may be a great training method for individuals who train alone or who do not have access to spotters. Lightening the load a little and moving the bar faster may be safer than attempting near maximal loads when alone but yield comparable results. Intending to move loads with maximal velocity will recruit high threshold motor units. These have the capacity to get very strong and powerful. Remember this simple and effective tool next time you need to change things up a bit.
González-Badillo, J. J., Rodríguez-Rosell, D., Sánchez-Medina, L., Gorostiaga, E. M., & Pareja-Blanco, F. (2014). Maximal intended velocity training induces greater gains in bench press performance than deliberately slower half-velocity training. European journal of sport science, (ahead-of-print), 1-10.