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Fast Or Slow Repetition Speed...Which Works Best For Building Muscle And Strength?

By Jeff Anderson Contributor
Updated: December 10, 2008
Lifting tempo is the technical term for how fast (or slow) you lift and lower the weights during a rep. Lifting tempo has a couple of other aliases, lifting speed and rep speed to name two. A rose by any other name as they say, because whatever you want to call it, lifting tempo has a huge impact on your training success.

Neither speed is right or wrong. Rather, different lifting tempos help you achieve different results. What's important is making a conscious decision to lift at a certain speed. Selecting a lifting tempo should be part of creating a training program.

To put it simply, high muscle tension during a lift is what makes for big muscles. The faster your lifting tempo, the lower your tension. However, a fast rep enables you to lift heavier weights. If you're looking to increase sheer power and strength, you go with a faster lifting tempo.

A slower lifting tempo, as explained above, is what increases muscle tension. To increase muscle size, focus on a slower lifting tempo.

In general, you want to let the weight down more slowly than you raise it. Cowboy up—we're going to have to take a foray into the world of technical terminology.

An exercise starts with you lifting the bar. This is called the "positive" phase of the rep. It's also called the "concentric contraction." On the other hand, lowering the weight (not surprisingly) is the "negative" phase and the "eccentric contraction."
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The positive phase is where your muscles are doing the work; the negative phase is where your muscles face resistance. You want to come down slowly because the negative phase is the phase that promotes blood flow. Increased resistance equal increased blood flow.

Why should you care about blood flow?

Because it causes "microtrauma." Microtrauma, though ominous sounding, is our friend. It's what keeps your muscles growing stronger throughout the day, post-workout.

Ok, so I've been talking about "slow" and "fast" lifting tempos, but to put this info into practice, you're going to need some definitions to go along with those terms.

Fast lifting tempo: These are the explosive-type reps. Use enough weight to really push yourself, but not so much that you can't use proper form.

Slow lifting tempo: Ten seconds total. Four seconds up, four seconds down, and a two second pause at the top.

As Goldilocks wanted something in between the hot and cold porridge, so too do bodybuilders need a middle ground in order to use both lifting strategies to maximize size AND strength. For this I actually prescribe a 2-stage repetition that allows you to target ALL of your muscle fibers and benefit from BOTH lifting styles.

You can get my full step-by-step instructions just by downloading 2 free chapters from my best-selling natural bodybuilding book, Optimum Anabolics. Just go Click Here and look for the download signup form about halfway down the page.
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