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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.
We live in a world of extremes and many of us have developed a very strong “all or nothing” approach to things. While in some cases this can be good, when it comes to getting your health and weight loss on track it can be detrimental.
“I can’t exercise 5 days per week so I don’t do anything”
“I can’t afford health food so I eat whatever I want”
“I don’t know what to cook so I just eat less”
These excuses all suck for one simple reason, when it comes to health and weight loss everything counts.
I say this because some changes that may seem completely insignificant can have dramatic effects. Everyone always looks to completely revamp what they are doing for diet/exercise and 99% of the time they are back to their old ways in less than a month. Massive unsustainable changes are not the answer. Changing from your regular mocha or latte to straight black coffee may not seem like much but it can save your several hundred calories. Parking in the stall farthest from the building you are going increase the number of calories you burn each day. It might only be 5-10 calories but over the course of a year it can add up to an extra 1800 calories burned. If you know a certain coworker always has candy at their desk then simply not walking by their desk and skipping out on those 2-3 Hershey’s Kisses can save you from an extra 60 calories of hunger inducing sugar. By adding 1 serving of vegetables to 1 meal each day you add a important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that help control hunger and boost your immune system.
Don’t let a lack of perceived perfection stop you from doing something that will help you get to your goals!
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!
This blog post started out with the goal of highlighting the number 1 mistake people make when attempting to lose weight. The problem was that I couldn’t just pick one! So without any more preamble here are the top 3:
#1- Lack of Consistency
It’s very common for people to attempt to mix and match training programs and diets. They take the parts they like from several different sources and attempt to create their own hybrid program. If you are a skilled trainer you can get away with this but for those who aren’t you need to pick your path and stick to it. Even if you can’t jump in the deep end and go 100% with a diet or training program then you either need to pick something else or make a plan to work into that program 100%. You have one butt, you only get to ride one horse so pick a path and stick to it. Once you have your program chosen stick with it for 8-12 weeks so that you can truly see whether or not it actually works for you. Anything less than that 8 week mark and you won’t truly know since changing the body takes time.
#2- No Method of Progression
This is an issue for both training and nutrition. Many people will jump onto a low calorie diet along with a high intensity or high volume training program. This does not work in the long term because you have nowhere to go once progression stalls other than to eat less and train more. This will eventually burn you out and tank your metabolism which sends you right back to square one or worse because you then have to fix what you old planned messed up before you can get back to making progress. In general when starting a weight loss program you need to eat as much as possible and train as little as possible and still get results. Then when progress slows you can make adjustments to your diet or training to keep progress going.
#3- Trying to Train Past Poor Diet and Sleep
Weight loss is a multifaceted issue involving sleep, stress management, diet, and exercise. Just focusing on one area and excluding all the others will get you nowhere fast. As strange as it may sound, weight loss is about 90% diet, sleep, and stress management and 10% exercise. Exercise does not make your body burn fat, it makes your body burn calories. Whether those calories come from stored fat or not completely depends on how you are feeding and resting your body. Weight loss is a hormonal game. Food and sleep affect us on a hormonal level and if they aren’t in balance then weight loss comes to a screeching halt.
Taking small steps to fix these 3 problems will go a long way to getting you back on track!
Here are my last two sets from yesterdays bench session. If anybody has any advice let me know in the comments!