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Slower Rep Speeds = Optimal Cross Bridging?
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coach-jeff

Louisiana, USA

I do not currently use "slow" rep speeds in my personal workouts or with my PT clients.

However I have used slow 3/3 t0 5/5 quite a a few times in past, with clients and myself. And I noticed people can actually lift MORE weight with slow reps than with faster reps. At least as long as the TUT's are roughly equivalent. (NOT talking about 2 minute sets like I see some slow rep trainers use)

I used to think that was "proof" that slow reps were "less effective at causing inroad" than faster reps. That perhaps, one was getting a "rest" during the slow negatives, which was what was enabling the use of heavier weights.

But A couple of articles from Drew Baye have got me thinking that perhaps the reason I can lift MORE weight when doing slow reps is NOT due to any inherent flaw with slow reps, but rather because slow reps may allow for more optimal cross bridging to occur.

http://baye.com/...velocity-curve/

http://baye.com/...xercise-volume/

"The faster you move during an exercise the greater the force encountered when you reverse direction between lowering and lifting, where the muscles under load are most vulnerable. The more mechanical work you perform the more wear on your joints. The faster you move during exercise the less you are capable of maintaining proper body positioning and control over the path of movement. These all increase your risk of injury or developing joint problems over time.

Additionally, the faster you move during exercise the LESS weight you can lift."

- Drew Baye


Any thoughts?

I find this idea VERY intriguing.

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coach-jeff

Louisiana, USA

Here's another quote from Drew on this topic of how slower reps speeds allow better cross bridging between muscle filaments, thus allowing the use of grater loads.

"Your muscles can produce more force at slower concentric contraction velocities due to greater cross-bridging, so the slower you go the heavier the weight you can use."

This is something I had never considered before. I'd always felt that the ability to use heavier weights at slow reps was an indication something was "wrong" with slow reps. But Drew has got me rethinking that supposition.
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Brian Johnston

Ontario, CAN

The faster you move a weight, the faster you go through ATP... and the body does not have time to regenerate it's energy for continued movement (vs. very slow reps and/or long tension times... think sprinting vs. moderate paced running). Apparently more cross-bridging does not produce superior results as one would think.
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PTDaniel

It's an intriguing assertion, but does it result in greater hypertrophy than faster rep speeds? Are you more interested in hypertrophy or optimizing cross bridge formations so you can lift heavier weights during a set?
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Brian Johnston

Ontario, CAN

It also depends on one's TUT, etc. Powerlifters certainly don't try to slow things down, or would they be able to lift even heavier loads by moving slowly... know what I mean. When you start looking at longer sets of 60 seconds plus, then it's a factor in how much somewhat slow movement can help in lifting heavier loads. But it doesn't translate to better hypertrophy.
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coach-jeff

Louisiana, USA

Yes I am looking at this from a hypertrophy point of view. As well as a safety viewpoint.

It may be that more cross-bridge formations do NOT result in more hypertrophy. I'm open to that possibility.

But it is my understanding that the main reason the "basic" exercises have a reputation for being the best mass builders tend to be those which place the most stress in the MIDRANGE of an exercise, (as opposed to the ends of the movement) which just-so happens to be the range of motion where supposedly optimum cross bridging takes place.

This seems to lend credence to the notion that optimizing cross bridges does help, at least a bit, with hypertrophy.

But even if that is totally false, I doubt it hurts.

And just to clarify, I am NOT talking about 1 minute TUT's. I'm talking 30 second-ish TUT's, with about a 4/4 cadence. So about 4 to 5 reps at that slow rep speed. This is comparable to doing 10 to 12 reps at "smooth and controlled" rep speeds in terms of total TUT.

And so, even though the TUT is the same, I find that everyone can lift more weight, or the same weight for more time, with slow reps.

Of course this is NOT the same as the all-out 1-rep explosive effort (Using as many muscles as possible) that a powerlifter uses.

I'm not saying slow reps work better.

But I do feel they are safer for the average Joe or Jane in long-term. And being very concerned about making weight training as safe and sustainable as possible, I am very intrigued with the notion that slow reps may work as well as "normal" reps, as long as TUT is same.

And I'm intrigued that optimized cross bridging MAY help in this regard.

And that what I previously assumed was "proof that slow reps suck"....i.e. you can do MORE total TUT with a given load, when doing slow reps...may not be proof at all. It may not be "inefficient inroading" of slow reps, but it MAY be that the reason people can lift a given load longer with slow reps is due to more optimized cross bridging.

I don't have a dog in this race, so makes not difference to me if this theory is wrong or right. Just intriguing is all.

It does kind of make me want to give slow reps an honest shot for an 8 week trial, using about 30-40 second TUT's. I've never done them more than 2 weeks.

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coach-jeff

Louisiana, USA

It seems to me that one of the fundamental questions that needs to be addressed, when talking about the efficacy of slow reps or lack thereof, is do slow reps give you a "break" during the slow negatives?

I have previously thought so. And still do if one is doing slow reps on high friction equipment. But on low friction machines?

I just did some slow rep leg pressing on my Cybex leg press, which is pretty darn low friction, and could NOT detect any "rest" happening during the slow negatives.

Though I am getting a rest on my high friction pulldown machine during the negatives. (Plan to repair that machine as soon as a I get a replacement part.)

Again, one of the most common arguments against slow reps, and one I've used myself, is that slow reps seem to "fatigue" the muscle slower than faster reps, even if the load is the exact SAME. This would "seem" to indicate that slow reps are therefore inefficient at inducing muscular inroad.

But is that really the case?

Could it be, possibly be...that it's better cross-bridge formation allowing for the longer TUT's with slow reps, rather than some supposed defect inherent to slow reps?

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HeavyHitter32

Totally agree with PT and Brian.

Anecdotal...but I have done so many experiments with various rep speeds and TUT/set combinations over the years and one pattern always emerges:

I find brisker, more rhythmical (yet controlled, of course) reps focusing on the muscle feel and contractions more beneficial than a controlled, slower rep cadence (such as 3/3 to 4/4 and slower).

And the slower the rep, the less effective for hypertrophy and more demanding on the system and overall recovery ability!
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Brian Johnston

Ontario, CAN

Safe is safe, right? I did force gauge work (which Baye mentions now and again) that demonstrates that the forces imposed on a muscle at 10/10 are no different than 2/4 (a meaningless difference). And I suspect even a 2/2 would show similar forces imposed on a muscle (with the same weight, of course). If you can use more weight doing slow reps, then that would mean MORE FORCE on the muscles and GREATER risk of injury because of greater loads, right? And so, slow reps are no safer and actually impose greater strain than using a reduced load and a more rhythmic cadence. It's only when you get to the 1/1 cadence or ballistic or explosive that the forces increase significantly over a typical 2/4 or 10/5 cadence... but again... if you can use more load than what is possible with a 2/4 cadence, then that means more strain on the tissues. How is that safer?
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coach-jeff

Louisiana, USA

It also occurs to me that many, when doing slow reps, also end up changing other variables as well, which may interfere with being able to tell what the slow reps are or aren't doing for you.

For instance, if one is used to normally doing multiple sets of normal speed reps, on all exercises usually, then does an 8 week trial run of Body by Science or some other similar program, they are not only changing rep speed but also VOLUME.

I wonder if perhaps some who say slow reps did not work for them also changed several other workout variable at same time, but then assumed it was the slow reps not working.

I know a lot of people who tried slow reps were doing virtual aerobic TUTs of almost 2 minutes, so no surprise that did not work well.

I intend to give slow reps a fair 2 month trial. I will keep my volume and training loads the same (Though trying to increase loads in micro-loading manner), so as not to have other changes muddying the waters, and making it hard for me to evaluate slow reps.

My Tut's will only be about 30 seconds or so. Maybe 40 to 50 seconds for legs.

Will keep you all posted on my progress, or lack thereof.

What the heck, even if it does zilch for me, it probably will do my joints some good at at least.
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Brian Johnston

Ontario, CAN

Tension and work (reps) done in the position of stretch has been linked to greater IGF-1 release via the satellite cells around the muscle/tendon juncture, viz., greater muscle hypertrophy. However, stick to the mid-range stuff if you're concerned about your clients' safety. I have people up in their 70s and 80s working comfortably at the point of stretch without problems, because they control the load and work the muscle effectively with the tool I select for them. Those who incurred injury while working into a stretch should tell you something... the FORCED EXCEED THE SOFT TISSUES, which means bad form or too heavy a load. That is not the fault of the point of stretch, but of the trainee.
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Gainz

HeavyHitter32 wrote:
Totally agree with PT and Brian.

Anecdotal...but I have done so many experiments with various rep speeds and TUT/set combinations over the years and one pattern always emerges:

I find brisker, more rhythmical (yet controlled, of course) reps focusing on the muscle feel and contractions more beneficial than a controlled, slower rep cadence (such as 3/3 to 4/4 and slower).

And the slower the rep, the less effective for hypertrophy and more demanding on the system and overall recovery ability!


I can certainly vouch for the above being bang on the money.

Slow reps in theory sound ideal, but all I ever got from them was poor recovery and minimal gains.

Muscles are built for speed, and I would highly recommend the writings of Jason Ferruggia and John Alvino to anyone interested in investigating this further...

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Donnie Hunt

deleted
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marcrph

Portugal

coach-jeff wrote:
I do not currently use "slow" rep speeds in my personal workouts or with my PT clients.

However I have used slow 3/3 t0 5/5 quite a a few times in past, with clients and myself. And I noticed people can actually lift MORE weight with slow reps than with faster reps. At least as long as the TUT's are roughly equivalent. (NOT talking about 2 minute sets like I see some slow rep trainers use)

I used to think that was "proof" that slow reps were "less effective at causing inroad" than faster reps. That perhaps, one was getting a "rest" during the slow negatives, which was what was enabling the use of heavier weights.

But A couple of articles from Drew Baye have got me thinking that perhaps the reason I can lift MORE weight when doing slow reps is NOT due to any inherent flaw with slow reps, but rather because slow reps may allow for more optimal cross bridging to occur.


"The faster you move during an exercise the greater the force encountered when you reverse direction between lowering and lifting, where the muscles under load are most vulnerable. The more mechanical work you perform the more wear on your joints. The faster you move during exercise the less you are capable of maintaining proper body positioning and control over the path of movement. These all increase your risk of injury or developing joint problems over time.

Additionally, the faster you move during exercise the LESS weight you can lift."

- Drew Baye


Any thoughts?

I find this idea VERY intriguing.



I think Drew Baye lacks credentials, and writes from a HIT perspective. I'm not interested in such writings. Much better sources of information come from Dan Ogborn, and Brad Schoenfeld, both of whom have proper credentials.

Acceleration, is an inefficient use of energy....ATP. Heavy weights, due to slow speeds forced upon the lifter by the resistance itself, uses ATP more efficiently than faster repetitions. Think about sprinting versus pushing a loaded wheelbarrow up a steep hill. That is my best guess....as all other truthful individuals are guessing also.

The argument of joint wear is a weak one at best, as the joints when properly used will benefit from movements. I've used very high repetitions to rehab both my elbows and my Achilles tendons. If joint wear was such an issue.....then STOP....ALL movements! This is really a silly idea.

I'm all for safety even to the extreme , and I like SuperSlow for some things, but there can be a large margin of safety with normal reps. I think HIT writers get repetitive movements issues mixed up with wear and tear of joints. Normal human bodies are well equipped for a lifetime of movement.
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marcrph

Portugal

coach-jeff wrote:
Here's another quote from Drew on this topic of how slower reps speeds allow better cross bridging between muscle filaments, thus allowing the use of grater loads.


Speculation at best. Muscle crossbridge activity happens in MILLI-seconds...NOT...in the seconds occurring during an exercise repetition. BTW, Dr. Mercola, who knows less than nothing about exercise, also states SuperSlow reps allow more crossbridging to occur. Far-fetched..speculation.




"Your muscles can produce more force at slower concentric contraction velocities due to greater cross-bridging, so the slower you go the heavier the weight you can use."

This is something I had never considered before. I'd always felt that the ability to use heavier weights at slow reps was an indication something was "wrong" with slow reps. But Drew has got me rethinking that supposition.



SuperSlow does allow for optimal asynchronous muscle fiber recruitment. This is great when used for higher TUL's and recruitment of all available muscle fiber types. This also may be good for hypertrophy. This may not be good for recruiting the fast twitch fibers at the end of the longer TUL due to fatigue. The muscle crossbridge contractile EVENT involves ATP on the myosin head...and NO ONE knows the limiting factor here. There is plenty of ATP concentration in the muscle fiber, but it ain't in the proper position on the myosin head for activity....otherwise you could sprint for a mile or more.

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marcrph

Portugal

Brian Johnston wrote:
The faster you move a weight, the faster you go through ATP... and the body does not have time to regenerate it's energy for continued movement (vs. very slow reps and/or long tension times... think sprinting vs. moderate paced running). Apparently more cross-bridging does not produce superior results as one would think.


Brian,

There is plenty of concentration of ATP in the muscle fiber, but it is not on the myosin head for activity..

What is the limiting factor here...I don't know.

No one else does either.

It is a huge can of worms....the contractile event...and is overwhelmingly intriguing. This allows for MANY training variations. That is why I like different rep ranges. One can get the best of all worlds, with these three energy systems available for use. We must adapt to these three energy systems, not vice versa.
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marcrph

Portugal

coach-jeff wrote:
It seems to me that one of the fundamental questions that needs to be addressed, when talking about the efficacy of slow reps or lack thereof, is do slow reps give you a "break" during the slow negatives?

I have previously thought so. And still do if one is doing slow reps on high friction equipment. But on low friction machines?

I just did some slow rep leg pressing on my Cybex leg press, which is pretty darn low friction, and could NOT detect any "rest" happening during the slow negatives.

Though I am getting a rest on my high friction pulldown machine during the negatives. (Plan to repair that machine as soon as a I get a replacement part.)

Again, one of the most common arguments against slow reps, and one I've used myself, is that slow reps seem to "fatigue" the muscle slower than faster reps, even if the load is the exact SAME. This would "seem" to indicate that slow reps are therefore inefficient at inducing muscular inroad.

But is that really the case?

Could it be, possibly be...that it's better cross-bridge formation allowing for the longer TUT's with slow reps, rather than some supposed defect inherent to slow reps?



C-J,

I recently have tested x2, with the same results...for...negative only repetitions (140 % rep max). 4 reps....10 seconds rest pauses between each rep.

I then use two of my Performance pins to figure out what weight I could break-down for a SuperSlow rep. I could only use about 20 % of original weight for a SS rep.

Point....We drastically underestimate our eccentric strength.....and the inroad of such reps.
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Brian Johnston

Ontario, CAN

marcrph wrote:
There is plenty of concentration of ATP in the muscle fiber, but it is not on the myosin head for activity.


Regardless of where ATP lies, those heads require energy to perform action. Nonetheless, I've done experiments with rhythmic vs. very slow movement, and I can literally double my TUT when moving slow (e.g., 10/10). The briefer the cadence, the less TUT. The faster I run, the briefer the TUT before exhaustion. If I were to run (but not sprint), I can last a mile or so (I used to run quite a bit in my mid teen years). Now, that is still a good pace, but at the end of the mile I was finished... and it was not my cardio that gave out, and I suspect I still had some glycogen in my thighs. And the pace was fast enough (even the pacing of slower jogging is fast enough) that extra cross-bridge time could not be responsible. Simply think of the rate of contraction and speed of movement of the leg muscles during a moderate jog, and that is a heck of a lot faster than lifting weights, even quickly. Yes, load is a factor, but the way I understand ATP usage, and the ability of the body to regenerate it (from lactic acid) if there is enough 'pacing' tells me that it is an energy factor (regardless of what that energy is) that differentiates how long a person can last with the SAME load, but under different cadence rates.

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simon-hecubus

Texas, USA

coach-jeff wrote:
...I intend to give slow reps a fair 2 month trial. I will keep my volume and training loads the same (Though trying to increase loads in micro-loading manner), so as not to have other changes muddying the waters, and making it hard for me to evaluate slow reps.

My Tut's will only be about 30 seconds or so. Maybe 40 to 50 seconds for legs.

Will keep you all posted on my progress, or lack thereof.

What the heck, even if it does zilch for me, it probably will do my joints some good at at least.


Will this be for single-set application, Jeff? If so, I already know your results:
1. Great "strength" increases
2. Little or no hypertrophy*
(*unless you are currently greatly overtrained, in which case, you may see a rebound effect from your OT'd muscles)

You want better results: Make your target TULs a bit higher AND make weight jumps in greater than 'micro' increments. This way if your TUL takes a hit, it won't put you into ridiculously low territory.

Scott
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coach-jeff

Louisiana, USA

Well you guys have pretty-well shot down my cross-bridge theory, I got from Drew.

And after doing two slow rep workouts yesterday (Morning legs & evening shoulders), I quickly recalled why I never seem to do real slow reps more than a few workouts in a row. It really takes the joy out of training for me.

I mean, if I became convinced that slow reps were the holy-grail of efficacy and safety, I guess I could live with less joy in my workouts.

But if, as Brian's, measurements seem to indicate, there is basically no difference in force between 10/10, 5/5/ or 2/2, then really no point I suppose.

Think I'll just stick with my usual smooth and controlled speed, at somewhat higher rep ranges, as that has worked very well for me in terms of safety.

And in fairness to Drew, he does NOT advocate very slow reps, and has in fact made the argument that very slow reps are basically pointless. Though he does seem to lean towards about 5/5, which is still pretty slow.

I use about 1.5/1.5 to 2/2 on average. Perhaps just a bit slower on the negative, but not much. This may seem fast by HIT standards, but I place a very strong emphasis on silky smooth turnarounds.

I train many older people in 50's and 60's, and to the best of my knowledge, my injury rate with clients is zero.

My long-term clients that have been with me for years, all assure me they feel ZERO pain in their joints from the training, other than pains they already had when they came to me. And usually those previously existing pains, at least get bit bitter.

I guess if it ain't broke, don't' try to "fix' it.
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Brian Johnston

Ontario, CAN

What you're doing is NOT slow by HIT standards, depending on what faction of HIT you are referring to. Years go Jones' training and when he trained others was based on controlled and intense contractions, albeit in a rhythmic manner. I suspect Dr. Darden can vouch for this; as well, Dr. Darden's recommendation years back of a 2/4 cadence may have as much to do with "give them something slower as a recommendation, because people will train faster anyway." It's like the speed limit... if it says 50 mph, then people will drive 60.

I prefer my clients train in a controlled, rhythmic manner, but I still have to put the breaks on them because some snapping, bouncing, etc., can occur if you just let them go for it.
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coach-jeff

Louisiana, USA

simon-hecubus wrote:
Will this be for single-set application, Jeff? If so, I already know your results:
1. Great "strength" increases
2. Little or no hypertrophy*
(*unless you are currently greatly overtrained, in which case, you may see a rebound effect from your OT'd muscles)
Scott


Well, as indicated, in true schizophrenic fashion, I've already aborted this little experiment. But it would have been my usual 5 or sets per muscle.

It only took my about 25 years to finally realize 1 set to gut busting failure, once a week, was NOT the holy grail of training. Although I did get surprisingly good results from it. Just not as good as it could have been.

Mike Mentzer, I want my squandered 25 years back!

I now do about 5 set per bodypart. Have put almost 3/4 inch on upper arm in since doing that, even though bodyfat is lower.

Calves have also grown a bit. Have not really measured anything else.

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DeBloism

I'm not sure I would give up giving negative reps a shot. I think it really depends on your body type and recovery capability. Early last year, I did high volume for 4-5 months, and I did grow, but my muscles looked flat. Late last year and into this year, I incorporated a blended 30x30x30 and a 3/5-6 cadence into a workout 1 or 2 a week, and my definition improved and my muscles looked thicker. I've known some folks who swear by eccentrics and others who experience no gains at all. I think you have to see what works for you.
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marcrph

Portugal

Brian Johnston wrote:
marcrph wrote:
There is plenty of concentration of ATP in the muscle fiber, but it is not on the myosin head for activity.

Regardless of where ATP lies, those heads require energy to perform action. Nonetheless, I've done experiments with rhythmic vs. very slow movement, and I can literally double my TUT when moving slow (e.g., 10/10). The briefer the cadence, the less TUT. The faster I run, the briefer the TUT before exhaustion. If I were to run (but not sprint), I can last a mile or so (I used to run quite a bit in my mid teen years). Now, that is still a good pace, but at the end of the mile I was finished... and it was not my cardio that gave out, and I suspect I still had some glycogen in my thighs. And the pace was fast enough (even the pacing of slower jogging is fast enough) that extra cross-bridge time could not be responsible. Simply think of the rate of contraction and speed of movement of the leg muscles during a moderate jog, and that is a heck of a lot faster than lifting weights, even quickly. Yes, load is a factor, but the way I understand ATP usage, and the ability of the body to regenerate it (from lactic acid) if there is enough 'pacing' tells me that it is an energy factor (regardless of what that energy is) that differentiates how long a person can last with the SAME load, but under different cadence rates.



Brian,

Your empirical observations are excellent. I do know that a study shows during sprinting, the muscles do not fatigue due to a lack of concentration of ATP in the muscle fiber cells. The problem is the location of ATP. Power lifters have learned through empirical evidence that upwards of 5 minutes is necessary for maximum strength to return. This is because of the time elapsed necessary for the myosin heads to regain full ATP properties. I wish I knew more.....no one else does either.

Current videos show professional bodybuilders all doing short-range repetitions in a piston-like rhythm. This type of motions facilitate blood flow to the muscle....good for nourishment and recovery. This also would have a good effect on the circulatory system. I'm not sure if statics and slow reps would achieve this same phenomenon
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HamsFitness

I wrote about the rep speed and cross bridging a while back...

http://hamsfitness.com/...y-hams-fitness/

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