Training since 1992 has taught me to listen to my body and not just rely on the written word. Over the years you have probably been told to lift the weight up at a rate of one second lift time and to slowly lower it down on a two count. This is as common as “exhale when you lift the weight.” “This is THE way to do it,” they say. Am I right? Have you heard this before? The breathing statement is a completely different issue to discuss at another time. For now, let’s focus on your lifting tempo. “One second up, two seconds down, this is THE way.” BS! Any time someone tells you to “always” or “never” when it comes to training they are wrong. For nearly every rule or generality about lifting there is an exception. Lifting tempo is no different. This is great for building strength but neglects many possible power building benefits.

Though a controlled negative (eccentric movement) is a great way to stimulate growth in the muscle tissue, it is NOT the only way. As a matter of fact, if you always stick to that adage you will limit your total potential growth dramatically. Your muscles are made to move at different rates of speed. Have you ever tried to jump while extending your legs slowly at a one second extension rate to touch the basketball rim? Or have you tried to punch the heavy bag and let your hand recoil at the two second return time? My guess would be no…and if you have you didn’t jump very high (or at all) and the heavy bag would be so bored by your workout that it would punch you back. The point here is that your body is made to move slowly (with strength) AND quickly (with power). You should train your physique in the same way.

Think about it, you have both slow twitch muscle fiber (Type I) and fast twitch muscle fiber (Type II). Why would you only train part of your muscle fibers if you could train both? You wouldn’t is the answer, so long as you realized how you can train both! So, how do you train both? Simple…vary the weight AND speed at which you move the weight. Abandon the “one second up two seconds down” theory. This is not to say that you should never lift that way. Allow me to explain more thoroughly. When I say “abandon” it, I don’t mean you should NEVER do it, I’m saying, “don’t be afraid to stray away from it.”

Why vary your tempo? If you’ll recall the concept of the fast and slow twitch fibers, slow controlled movements are great for developing the slow twitch fibers. This makes sense right? Slow movement affects the slow twitch fibers. These slow twitch Type I Fibers can be thought of as “Strength Fibers” for our purposes at this point. A solid training program with these types of movement will result in hypertrophy (growth) of the Type I Fibers. It stands to reason that a faster and more explosive movement will have a positive effect on the fast twitch muscle fiber. By training in this faster more explosive fashion you can expect hypertrophy (growth) of the Type II Fibers. These fast twitch Type II Fibers can be thought of as “Power Fibers” for our purposes at this time.

Power = Strength x Speed
This equation shows how Power, Speed and Strength are interrelated. You can see quickly how important speed is at determining overall power. Strength is essentially the amount of weight you move. The speed at which you move it ultimately leads to your resulting power!

How do you get the greatest increase in strength and power from weight training? You do some traditional “slow” movements as always and you also use “controlled explosion.” This sounds a bit like the bomb calorimeter (fellow chemists will enjoy this reference.) A controlled explosion is a directed powerful movement where you maintain complete control of the weight and are thus keeping proper form and harnessing your body’s power. Here the natural elasticity of the muscles will assist the lift and also help decelerate the weight as it returns to start position. For now we will use the term decelerate, some would say you are accelerating the weight in the direction opposite of its movement on the negative. This is really a matter of semantics and unimportant at expressing the concept. The overall concept is to allow the body work as it is designed to for maximal output for lifting and lowering the weight while still maintaining control and safe technique. There is no flopping around of the body or banging of the weights, you are using your musculature to powerfully move the weight and keep it under control. The final result is improved power and increased Type I and Type II muscle fiber hypertrophy.

So what kind of equipment can you use for “Controlled explosion?” You can use free weights. The main consideration with them however, is that control can be lost and you are at greater risk of injury. If you chose free weights use extra caution. “Controlled Explosion” on a directionally guided piece of equipment is a great way to stay safe and get maximum explosion. Take note however: A traditional “pulley system” home gym does not work for this type of training. They won’t work because the rapid movement and then change of direction causes slack in the cable and pulley system. This results in the cable jumping the track and completely foils the movement. The machine will break or it will cause injury, either way it is not a good idea. So how do you couple the explosive technique and safety? Use a lever gym. Here pulleys are not in the equation. The motion is controlled and there are no cables or pulleys to jump track. Powertec has a number of systems available that fit this equation. With either the Powertec Workbench Multi-System or the Powertec Levergym, just to name a couple, you get the best of both worlds. You are in a safe position for maximum explosion and you have a piece of equipment that can handle to explosive power.

Once you have the necessary equipment, you are going to want to apply this training principle immediately. As you start adding more speed to some of your sets it is important to maintain good form to keep the exercises safe. I recommend using slightly lower weights when you first try this training style. After a few sessions you will feel more and more comfortable with the increased velocity of the reps. Once you get to this point your body will also be acclimated to the movements and ready to experience an increased load. Gradually increase the weight as you feel your muscles and joints are ready for the increase on each exercise. You may find some areas more readily accept this new training style. This is fine. Just continue to focus on proper form and continue to work on the difficult areas as well. Mastering this “controlled explosion” style of training will dramatically change your physique. Increases Type I and II fibers will result. You will be amazed at the increase in power in the gym and in everyday life if you commit yourself to this practice. Now, get onto your Powertec equipment and create the physique you deserve!

Author's Bio: 

Powertec is the pioneer and leader in the area of strength equipment. Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, Powertec produces a full line of strength equipment for home and light commercial purposes. Our brand is highly sought after by the educated buyer looking for weight capacity maximization without sacrificing safety, customization of their Workbench home gyms through extensive accessory modularization, and commercial gym quality at home gym prices.