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In the world of bodybuilding a lot of training advice often seems to be based on nothing more than personal opinion or internet wisdom.

One piece of training advice which is frequently given is that slow controlled reps are better for stimulating muscle growth. On the face of it this seems reasonable. After all, slow reps mean you are lifting and lowering the weight for longer and so making the muscle work harder. Also momentum is reduced at the top and bottom of the movement which again forces the muscle to work harder.

However I have always been suspicious of this advice. Type II muscle fibres which are the fibres which get bigger in response to lifting weights are also known as "fast twitch" fibres and it always seemed to me that they had that name for a reason.

The fast twitch fibres are used for any fast explosive movement which doesn't rely primarily on aerobic respiration. Sprinting is a classic example. A look at the heavily muscled bodies of most sprinters clearly shows the development of fast twitch fibres. There isn't much slow and controlled about the movement in your average sprint. Compare this to the puny bodies of marathon runners who have extremely well developed type I slow twitch fibres but extreme atrophy of their type II fibres.

I've always believed that the same holds true for bodybuilding, and I always train moving the weights as fast as I can. However I never had any hard evidence to support my theory until recently when doing some research on something else I came across an interesting study which supports my training protocol.

In the study 12 men trained each of their biceps 3 times a week for 8 weeks. However one of the arms was trained using fast reps and the other using slow reps. At the end of the 8 weeks the arm trained using fast reps had almost double the increase in strength of the arm trained with slow reps. Biopsy of the muscles showed that the increase in thickness of the fast twitch type II muscle fibres was also greater in the arm trained using fast reps.




 


 

 

 

 

 



                          
                      Increase in muscle cross sectional area for fast and slow reps

I've since come across two more studies which reached the same conclusion. So what this means in practical terms for your training is that you should perform each rep as fast as you can both while raising and lowering the weight. Your speed should only be limited by your ability to perform the exercise safely and minimize momentum.

If you've always trained using slow reps you should see your muscles get a surge of new growth.

References

Shepstone TN 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. 2005 May;98(5):1768-76  Click here to read study

Farthing JP, Chilibeck PD. The effects of eccentric and concentric training at different velocities on muscle hypertrophy. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2003 Aug;89(6):578-86  Click here to read study

Paddon-Jones D et al. Adaptation to chronic eccentric exercise in humans: the influence of contraction velocity. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2001 Sep;85(5):466-71.  Click here to read study

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