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Fast or Slow Rep Speed for Maximum Muscle

Fast or Slow Rep Speed for Maximum Muscle: Maximizing the muscle growth response to resistance training is thought to be best achieved by proper manipulation of exercise program variables including exercise selection, exercise order, the length of rest intervals, intensity of maximal load, and training volume.

Also, 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 you’re 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 “over speed 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, it’s much harder to say which way to train is best for muscle mass. Some trainers swear by fast lifting for gaining muscle, whereas others 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.”

Fast or Slow Rep Speed?

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 examined repetition duration in accordance with the criteria outlined. When they crunched all the data from the studies, they found that muscle growth outcomes are similar when training with repetition durations ranging from 0.5 to 8 seconds. What they did find was that “super slow 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 broad range of lifting speeds into a lifters workout. It seems logical that most of the workout should incorporate 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 for muscle growth. So try incorporating a wide range of lifting speeds, lifting the bar faster may contribute to increased muscle growth.

Key Points

The researchers suggested that lifting weights with a faster repetition speed seemed to be more conducive for muscle growth than lifting at 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.
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