Power or speed training is a very overlooked aspect of most Average Joes in the gym today. They’ll turn up their nose at the thought of dynamic or speed work on the premise that they aren’t athletes or powerlifters. They’re only looking to get HUGE so who cares about how fast you move the bar. I’m here to tell you that if you haven’t been using some sort of periodic dynamic training then your training could be lagging behind.
Muscle Fiber & Nervous System Primer
For those of you who don’t know there are three types of muscle fiber and each have distinctly different characteristics.
Type 1- Slow Twitch: These are endurance muscle fibers. They are built to run on the aerobic system and to contract slowly and repeatedly.
Type 2a- Intermediate: These fibers aren’t purely slow twitch and they’re not purely fast twitch (discussed later) either. They can run on multiple energy systems and will take on the properties of the muscle fiber that it is trained as. So if you do a ton of endurance training they can become more like type 1 fibers. If your training is very fast and explosive they will become more like the type 2b fibers.
Type 2b- Fast Twitch: These fibers have very poor endurance but pack all the power. They won’t contract repeatedly but they do contract quickly with very high force.
Fiber type is important because the type 1 fibers don’t respond to hypertrophy well but the type 2 fibers do which is where your growth potential is at.
The nervous system is what relays the signal from the brain to the muscles in order to make the contract. Where many people will mess up their next training session up is to do to may warm up sets and move to dang slow! The body will only activate and use as many muscle fibers as it needs to complete the task at hand. If all the muscles of your hand fired at 100% every time you moved you would snap all your pens and destroy your keyboard! Here are a couple principles that will help you understand how the nervous system works:
#1- The nervous system fires muscle fibers starting from smallest to biggest (Type 1 then Type 2).
#2- The nervous system only has access to fibers that have been previously fired.
So, in order to hit those high power/high threshold fibers all the available type 1 fibers must be fired maximally. If your type 1 fibers are tired and fatigued then your nervous system won’t be able to recruit the type 2 fibers optimally.
In summary, type 2 fibers are where most of your growth and strength potential are at and those fibers can’t be recruited unless the type 1 fibers can fire maximally.
What does power have to do with it?
Power (for our purposes anyway) is the ability to produce maximal force in the shortest amount of time possible. This can be judged by speed of the weight as it moves relative to the amount of weight used (as a percentage of your 1 rep max). High power output = high type 2 fiber recruitment. Usually when people think of power training they visualize things like the olympic lifts, box jumps, or other plyometrics. While these certainly all develop power they aren’t appropriate for the average guy in the gym so how to we integrate power training for them? We focus on the intention of speed.
This article is going to focus specifically on the bench press. If you are still benching pressing down to your neck with a flat back and flared eblows you need to get with the program and start at the very least tucking your elbows some to keep your shoulders safe. Remember that part of getting those big type 2 fibers to fire is to be able to produce enough force to require they’re involvement which means STRENGTH development. If you have been benching the same numbers for months or years then I’m guessing your chest development has probably stopped as well.
So what is a Bench Rattle and what does it have to do with chest development?
Think of it as speed benching for beginners. These will be integrated into your warm up sets so that when you head into your heavier sets your nervous system is primed up and ready to rock. The Bench Rattle is simply trying to move the bar so fast that the plates rattle together when you hit the top. Leave the clips or locks off the bar for warm up sets in order to actually get a “rattle”.
First we abbreviate your warm ups to prevent unnecessary fatigue. So if the goal is to work up to a 200 pound work set or 5 reps your warm up will look like this.
Bar x 5
105 x 3
125 x 3
175 x 1
200 x 5 (work set)
Now instead of going through the motions during the warm up we focus on speed of the movement. As soon as there is weight on the bar you should be attempting to make it rattle on each rep. During your first sets the bar is going to move fairly fast. As the weight goes up your bar speed may slow down but the intention of speed should always be there. A purposefully slow contraction will prevent the big type 2 fibers from firing like they should. If you are using a false grip I highly recommend you switch to a full grip and start squeezing the bar as hard as possible during the movement. This will keep the bar more stable but it also helps fire up the nervous system via a phenomenon know as Irradiation.
The competition is coming up fast and I’m excited to see how this short training cycle and the Jugg Method I used over the summer will bring up my total. I don’t have any plans right now as to what my openers or anything will be but all my lifts are definitely up. After the meet is over I might post up the training cycle I’m using to peak for the meet. At the last meet I lifted in the 220 weight class (weighed in at 215) but I’m going to try and get down to the 181 weight class. I’m setting at 198 as of this morning as I still have plenty of fat to lose. Here is how my training and diet are currently set up.
Monday- AM Cardio/Abs, PM Lift
Tuesday- PM Lift
Wednesday- AM Cardio/Abs, PM Recovery/Restoration
Thursday- PM Lift
Friday- AM Cardio/Abs, PM Lift
I’ll add more cardio I go. The Recovery/Restoration could be anything from sled dragging, body weight training, or just some more cardio and stretching. I’m training the hell out of my abs and lower back both around my cardio as well as during my training sessions since that’s a major weakness for me.
I’m using a Modified Warrior Diet along with some Creatine Monohydrate. I’ll only train in the mornings if I have to and if that does happen I’ll backload 99% of my carbs so that I don’t wreck my hormone levels during the day.
I finished the Chad W. Smiths Juggernaut Method program last week so I thought I’d give a review.
My first impression was that it was very similar to Wendlers 5/3/1, which he openly states that Wendler is where he got a portion of his ideas, and I was little skeptical to be honest. Long story short though is that it’s a solid program. The first two waves are pretty high volume and very challenging. I was worried about my 1RM but the extra volume did nothing but help. I was feeling good this last week so instead of going for rep maxes I went ahead and tested out some singles on squat, bench, and deadlift. Military press I stuck with a rep max.
Bench Press- 235 x 1 (+10lbs from March)
Squat- 335 x 1 (+15lbs from March)
Both of these were about a 8-9/10 effort. Add some adrenaline, a belt for bench, and some knee wraps for the squat and I think I’ll have some great improvements at the meet.
I was a little beat up by Friday so I only went up to 385 for a single. It felt heavy and slow but my training partner said it looked like I pulled it easy which tells me I have way more in the tank. I’m going to continue training for the next two weeks instead of taking a deload week. My wife and I are going out of town for a week at the end of September/beginning of October and I probably won’t be lifting when we’re gone. I’m working on my new training cycle to get ready for my meet in November.
120 x 1
130 x 1
140 x 3, 3, 3, 3, 3
FG DS DB Row-
95 x 12, 8
Defranco Shoulder Tri-Set-
25# Lateral/Clean & Press, 35# Plate Front Raise x 10, 10, 8
BW x 36
Pause Wide Grip Machine Row-
120 x 15
Used just a touch of leg drive on my last 5 sets of military press. Kept my feet flat on the floor but got a little knee drive. Progressed in either weight or reps on all my other exercises too so I’m happy. Looking forward to some squats later today!
Here are my last two sets from yesterdays bench session. If anybody has any advice let me know in the comments!
185 x 7 sets x 3 reps
55 x 8, 8, 8
30 x 8
35 x 8, 8
Flat DB Bench-
55 x 12, 12
50 x 10
60 x 10, 10
Good day. I’m day 1 of going caffeine free for a bit in order to get my fat loss back on track. I realized that I’ve become a little to dependent on my coffee and other stims throughout the day and I don’t like it. Aside from just the general drag that I’ve had my fat loss has ground to screeching halt. I’m pretty sure that my adrenals are really sensitive stims so I’m knocking them out for awhile. I’ll still have a little decaf coffee every now and then but in general my only “caffeine” source will be some green tea that’s not brewed very strong. I have a video of my last two sets on bench that I’ll get posted up later.
36 inch box x 3 sets x 2 jumps
225 x 7 sets x 3
BB Reverse Lunge- (clean grip)
95 x 5/leg
105 x 5/leg
115 x 5/leg
BB Hip Thrust- (bench supported)
135 x 3 sets x 3
EZ Bar Curl-
115 x 2, 2, 2, 2, 6
I’m going to be working the hip thrusts and try to get damn strong at those. It was a great glute/hamstring exercise that put zero pressure on my lower back. Didn’t get any video but I’ll try to get some benching and deadlifting later this week. Off to the gym for some sled dragging and cardio!
125 x 7 sets x 3 reps
FG Deadstop DB Row-
95 x 10, 7
Defranco Shoulder Tri-Set-
25# Lateral/Clean & Press, 35# Front Raise x 2 sets x 10 reps each
BW x 3, 3, 6, 6, 6, 6 (30 total)
Felt a little run down but the training session turned out great. I’m trying to keep my military press as strict as possible since the past couple weeks it’s gotten a little sloppy.
Axle Military Press-
95 x 2
115 x 2
130 x 4 sets x 5
FG Deadstop DB Row-
95 x 8, 6
FG CG Incline Bench-
135 x 5
155 x 5
165 x 5
Rolling Tricep Ext-
35 x 12, 12
195 x 2
215 x 2
230 x 4 sets x 5
Yesterday I felt great. I trained with the Dino crew again Monday night which was great. Since they were heading out to Al’s tonight to train I decided to squat earlier in the day. I felt great while I was squatting but I have to get into the chiro tomorrow. Last week squats felt heavy as crap the entire time, today felt way better. I didn’t understand why at first but then I remember that out at work the squat bar is a virtually smooth barbell while the one I squatted with today had knurling all the way across and actually stayed where it was supposed to on my back.
Why you need to train your abs:
1. Injury Prevention
2. Improved Posture
3. Improved Gym Performance
Strong abs are important no matter what you lifting goals are. When most people talk about their abs or “core” they usually are only referring to their abdominal muscles. In reality your “core” includes the abdominal muscles as well as the muscles of the back and spine. Contrary to what most think, the abdominal and other core muscles are not meant to create movement, they are meant to prevent it. Their primary function is anti-rotation, anti-flexion, and anti-extension. In order for the abs to do their job properly then the joints surrounding them must be doing their as well. Fairly often if you look at someone with back pain you’ll see that the hips are locked up tight and their upper back (thoracic spine) is locked up tight as well. This forces the lower back to compensate for the lack of mobility in those two areas by loosening what is supposed to be a very stable area. This coupled up with a steady diet of crunches, sit ups, russian twists, and improperly performed back extensions is a recipe for back pain and dysfunction.
If you didn’t follow along with all that here are the cliff notes:
1. Loosen Up Your Hips- Defranco’s Agile 8 among other things works great and is easy to perform. FWIW, if you have back pain and are blaming it on tight hamstrings you need to think again. Most likely your hip flexors are far to tight which rocks your pelvis and low back out of alignment forcing your hamstrings to get tight and stay that way. Stretch your hip flexors and see if that doesn’t help.
2. Pick Abdominal STABILITY Movements over Mobility Movements- Start with the basics like planks then move into something where you move around a stable base such as Stir the Pots, Pallof Presses, or Body Saws.
By focusing on those 3 areas you will then actually be able to move your hips, shoulders, and upper back through proper ranges of motion and allow your core to remain nice and stable like it needs to be. Once you have those three taken care of then you can move into some more advanced movements but until you can create stability then don’t try to create movement!