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How fast should you lift to maximize muscle growth?

This age-old question is an ongoing source of debate amongst bodybuilders and researchers alike. Some feel that explosive lifts optimize fiber recruitment and thus provide a greater muscle-building stimulus. Others claim that performing movements slowly maximizes tension on the muscle, thereby stimulating more hypertrophy.

So who’s right?

Before answering this question, it’s important to understand that intentionally slowing down lifting tempo necessarily reduces the amount of weight you can handle.5 Since there is a direct relationship between training volume and the number of reps per set, you’ll inevitably perform less work when using a slow versus fast tempo, assuming the amount of load is equivalent.3 On the other hand, time under tension tends to be substantially greater at slower training velocities, meaning that the target muscles are stimulated for a longer period during a given set.9 The point here is that manipulating tempo alters the relationship between volume and time under tension, which at least in theory may produce differences in muscular adaptations.


To determine how these factors play out in practice with respect to increasing muscle mass, my lab recently out a meta-analysis on the topic.6 If you’re not aware, a meta-analysis pools data from all studies that meet a certain inclusion criteria. In this case, studies had to be randomized-controlled trials that directly compared the effects of different training tempos on muscle hypertrophy in healthy individuals. Moreover, the studies had to last a minimum of six weeks, and both groups had to perform reps to the point of momentary concentric muscle failure. A total of eight studies ultimately met inclusion criteria— a surprisingly low number for such an important topic. Analysis of these studies showed no significant differences in hypertrophy between rep durations of a half-second and eight seconds.

On the surface, the results suggest that you have a fairly wide leeway with respect to how fast you lift. Provided that training is carried out to the point of muscular failure, the greater amount of total work provided by faster reps appears to be canceled out by the greater time under tension by reps performed at a slower speed of movement. Ultimately, muscle growth is similar regardless of whether the duration of the rep is a half-second or eight seconds. However, the limited number of studies on the topic gives pause when attempting to draw definitive conclusions.

Interestingly, there does seem to be a threshold beyond which slowing down the speed of the lift has a detrimental effect on hypertrophy. The cutoff seems to occur with “superslow” reps performed at a duration of 10 seconds or more. Here’s the issue: reducing the velocity of repetitions to such a slow speed substantially limits the amount of weight you can lift. For example, you can use approximately 85 percent of your one-repetition max (1RM) to perform six reps of a bench press at traditional speed to failure. However, slow that same lift down to where it takes 10 seconds (five seconds concentric and five seconds eccentric) and you can only use 55 percent of your 1RM. Here’s the rub: the reduced load results in reductions in muscle activation of the pecs by up to 36 percent!4 Since maximal hypertrophy is predicated on recruiting the full spectrum of muscle fibers and keeping them stimulated for a sufficient period of time10, it stands to reason that training in a superslow fashion is not conducive for maximizing growth.

Optimum Rep Speed for Maximum Gains - How Fast You Lift Determines How Fast You Grow


The only study to directly assess muscle growth in superslow versus traditional training supports the aforementioned hypothesis. Over a six-week study period, a traditional-speed group increased muscle cross-sectional area by 39 percent compared to only 11 percent in a group performing reps at a tempo of 10 seconds up, four seconds down.7 These results held true despite an almost fivefold greater time under tension for the superslow group.

An important point to consider is that our study looked at the total duration of the repetition without consideration of the individual concentric and eccentric actions. The issue: there simply haven’t been enough studies conducted to determine optimal concentric and eccentric tempos for hypertrophy. A couple of studies have shown beneficial effects of faster eccentric actions on muscle growth.1,8 However, these studies were carried out using isokinetic dynamometry, a specialized type of equipment that may not be applicable to customary dynamic training methods used by gym-goers.

One study did attempt to investigate hypertrophic adaptations between different concentric and eccentric tempos under traditional training methods.2 Twenty-eight women with previous resistance-training experience were randomized to perform lower body exercises, at either a two-second concentric/six-second eccentric, or a six-second concentric/two-second eccentric cadence. The relative load and total time under tension was equated between groups. After nine weeks of regimented training, hypertrophy of type I fibers was similar between the groups, but the slower concentric group displayed greater increases in type II fiber hypertrophy compared to the slow eccentric group. While these results are intriguing, there’s a major limitation from a practical standpoint. Namely, the relative loads were equated based on concentric strength. This means that the group performing slower concentric actions exerted a lot more effort in their sets compared to those performing slower eccentric actions. If the group performing faster concentric actions had been allowed to use a heavier load to provide a sufficient muscular challenge, the results very well might have gone the other way.


The take-home message based on current evidence is that a wide range of lifting durations can be used to maximize hypertrophy. Given the limitations of the current research, however, I’d suggest taking no more than about three seconds on the concentric portion of the movement. Beyond this cadence, you’d need to reduce the load to a point where it could negatively impact muscle activation to where the stimulus for hypertrophy is suboptimal. Eccentric actions should be performed so that the load is controlled against the forces of gravity; simply letting the weight drop fails to provide sufficient muscular tension for the majority of the action (and it also increases the risk of joint-related injury). As with concentric actions, there does not seem to be any advantage to slowing down more than about three seconds, and it is possible that doing so might be detrimental to growth.

It’s interesting to speculate whether combining different repetition durations may enhance the hypertrophic response to training. Unfortunately, no study to date has investigated this possibility. The best advice, therefore, is to experiment for yourself and see if this may spur additional growth. Remember: the best research often comes from what is learned in the trenches!

1. Farthing, JP and Chilibeck PD. The effects of eccentric and concentric training at different velocities on muscle hypertrophy. Eur J Appl Physiol 2003;89: 578-586.
2. Gillies EM Putman CT and Bell GJ. The effect of varying the time of concentric and eccentric muscle actions during resistance training on skeletal muscle adaptations in women. Eur J Appl Physiol 2006;97: 443-453.
3. Hatfield DL, Kraemer, WJ, et al. The impact of velocity of movement on performance factors in resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res 2006;20: 760-766.
4. Keogh JWL, Wilson GJ and Weatherby RP. A Cross-Sectional Comparison of Different Resistance Training Techniques in the Bench Press. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 1999;13: 247-258.
5. Sakamoto A and Sinclair PJ. Effect of movement velocity on the relationship between training load and the number of repetitions of bench press. J Strength Cond Res 2006;20: 523-527.
6. Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn DI and Krieger JW. Effect of Repetition Duration During Resistance Training on Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med 2015.
7. Schuenke MD, Herman JR, et al. Early-phase muscular adaptations in response to slow-speed versus traditional resistance-training regimens. Eur J Appl Physiol 2012;112: 3585-3595.
8. Shepstone TN, Tang JE, et al. Short-term high- vs. low-velocity isokinetic lengthening training results in greater hypertrophy of the elbow flexors in young men. J Appl Physiol (1985) 98: 1768-1776, 2005.
9. Watanabe Y, Tanimoto M, et al. Increased muscle size and strength from slow-movement, low-intensity resistance exercise and tonic force generation. J Aging Phys Act 2013;21: 71-84.
10. Wernbom M, Augustsson J and Thomee R. The influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans. Sports Med 2007;37: 225-264.

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By: Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., CSCS, FNSCA
Title: Optimum Rep Speed For Maximum Gains
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Published Date: Wed, 04 Nov 2020 19:33:12 +0000

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Ripped Leg Blast for Carved Thighs



Powerful and thick thighs require gut-busting exercises like squats and leg presses. However, once you have acquired adequate thigh mass and strength, you should consider adding some balance and sharpness to the muscle bellies in your thighs. Although tough to accomplish, leg extensions provide a great way to carve the separations between the muscle bellies, and to accentuate the “teardrop” shape of the four quadriceps muscles of the anterior thigh.

Active Muscles in Leg Extensions

The three vasti muscles comprise most of the anterior thigh.1 The vastus medialis covers the medial (inner) part of the femur bone (thigh bone). When it is well developed, it forms a teardrop-like shape over the medial side of the knee joint. The vastus lateralis muscle attaches to the lateral (outer) part of the femur bone. The vastus intermedius connects to the femur bone between the vastus lateralis and the vastus medialis muscles. The fibers of all three vasti muscles come together at the quadriceps tendon, which crosses the patella (kneecap) to attach to the tibia bone just below the knee.1

Together, the three vasti muscles extend the leg at the knee joint, although the vastus intermedius may be more fatigue resistant than the vastus lateralis.2 The vastus medialis oblique (VMO), which is a small part of the vastus medialis muscle, attaches to the medial part of the patella. It is thought to help the patella track properly during movement of the knee. Improper tracking can increase the likelihood for knee injury.

The vastus medialis and especially the VMO part of this muscle are primarily responsible for tibial rotation (rotation of the tibia bone of the lower leg on the femur) during knee extension. This rotation or “twist” has been shown to increase the activation of the VMO portion of the vastus lateralis even more than doing knee extensions with the hip adducted (thigh rotated so that the medial portion of the knee is facing mostly upwards).3 Dorsiflexion of the foot (moving the ankles so the toes are pointing towards your head) also increases the activation of the VMO by more than 20 percent.4 Likely this is because the dorsiflexor muscles stabilize the tibia during knee flexion and resist rotation of the tibia on the femur as the knee straightens.

The fourth muscle of the quadriceps group is the rectus femoris muscle. It attaches to the anterior part of the hip bone just above the hip joint.1 The largest bulk of the muscle fibers are located on the upper three-quarters of the thigh, whereas the largest belly of the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis are more inferior (i.e., closer to the knee). The distal end of the rectus femoris muscle becomes tendinous and it creates a deep valley between the lateral and medial vastus muscles as it approaches the knee.1 It assists the other quadriceps muscles by extending the leg at the knee joint, although it is less effective when the hip is flexed than if it is straight.

Leg Extensions

The three vastus muscles of the anterior thigh are strongly activated by single-leg knee extensions. The rectus femoris is not activated as strongly, but it does undergo some overload when the anterior thigh is under contractile effort, about halfway up to the top of each repetition.

1. You should always warm up your knees with some stationary cycling prior to getting into leg extensions. Furthermore, the resistance on your first set should be fairly light to allow the joint to fully warm up before you get to the heavier stuff.

2. Adjust the knee extension machine so that the pivot point of the lifting arm is directly adjacent to the center of the side of your knee joint.

3. Position the ankle roller/leg pad over the lower part of the leg (above the ankle joint).

4. Take about three seconds to slowly extend (straighten) both leg so that the weight is lifted upward from the stack.

5. Continue upwards until the tibia and the femur bones form a straight line and the knee angle is straight. Hold this for two seconds at the top.

6. Slowly lower the weight (about four seconds down) towards the starting position. Once the knee has reached 90 degrees, start the upwards extension phase again. Continue for 12-15 repetitions for the first set. Lower the number of repetitions but increase the resistance for subsequent sets.

7. On the next sets, lift the weight upwards until the knee joint becomes almost straight, but just slightly short of a total knee lockout. Be careful that you do not “jam” the knee joint into a fully locked out position, because this could cause knee cartilage damage5, especially with heavy weights. Hold the top position for a count of three before lowering the weight.

8. Lower the weight slowly (four to five seconds) towards the starting position where your knee is flexed to 90 degrees. Just before the weight stack contacts the remaining plates at the bottom, start lifting it upward for the next repetition.

The downward movement should be slower than the upward phase because you are resisting the pull of gravity. The slow lowering of the weight stretches the muscle under a resistance and this is a great stimulus to improve muscle shape and size.6

Make sure that you do not hold your breath during the lift upwards.7 Rather take a breath at the bottom (start) of the lift, and exhale as you extend the knees/legs. Take another breath at the top and slowly exhale as the weight is lowered. Take another breath at the bottom and repeat the sequence.

This is a mechanically simply exercise, but it really can be very challenging and blood depriving8,9, especially if you try to control the weight as it is moving up and down. However, if you are willing to work through some discomfort, you will be soon enjoying your new shape and slabs of carved thighs.

GettyImages 674163248 600


1. Moore K.L. Clinically Orientated Anatomy. Third Edition. Williams & Willkins, Baltimore, 1995; pp 373-500.

2. Watanabe K, Akima H. Neuromuscular activation of vastus intermedius muscle during fatiguing exercise. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2010;20:661-666.

3. Stoutenberg M, Pluchino AP, Ma F et al. The impact of foot position on electromyographical activity of the superficial quadriceps muscles during leg extension. J Strength Cond Res 2005;19:931-938.

4. Coburn JW, Housh TJ, Cramer JT et al. Mechanomyographic and electromyographic responses of the vastus medialis muscle during isometric and concentric muscle actions. J Strength Cond Res 2005; 19:412-420.

5. Senter C, Hame SL. Biomechanical analysis of tibial torque and knee flexion angle: implications for understanding knee injury. Sports Med 2006;36:635-641.

6. Alway SE, Winchester PK, Davis ME et al. Regionalized adaptations and muscle fiber proliferation in stretch- induced enlargement. J Appl Physiol 1989;66:771-781.

7. Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2011;43:1334-1359.

8. Denis R, Bringard A, Perrey S. Vastus lateralis oxygenation dynamics during maximal fatiguing concentric and eccentric isokinetic muscle actions. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2011;21:276-282.

9. Ueda C, Kagaya A. Muscle reoxygenation difference between superficial and deep regions of the muscles during static knee extension. Adv Exp Med Biol 2010;662:329-334.

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By: Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM
Title: Ripped Leg Blast for Carved Thighs
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PRIMAL Preworkout



Training hard and intensely is the only way to train – you can’t step into the gym in low gear or
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A Better Pump

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• Endurance & Performance Complex so you can train longer and harder. Beta-alanine,
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How to Use PRIMAL
30 minutes prior to training, consume 2 rounded scoops (20.3g) with 8-12 oz of water or your
favorite beverage. Users that are sensitive to stimulants should start off with 1 rounded scoop
(10.1g) to assess tolerance.

PRIMAL Preworkout

• Enhances energy and endurance†
• Supports muscle hydration†
• Supports intense focus†
• Contains AstraGin ® to support nutrient uptake†
• Contains Senactiv ® which helps the production of citrate synthase, an important enzyme that is
responsible for producing more ATP†
• Absorption and nutrient enhancers
• Great tasting, easy to mix

PRIMAL is a pre-workout that will power your performance and enable you to crush it every time you train.

For additional information, visit
†These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This product is not
intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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By: Team FitRx
Title: PRIMAL Preworkout
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Published Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2022 16:51:41 +0000

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