Faster is Better

Faster is better.

That’s one thing I’ve learned over the years. When physical prowess is the goal, moving faster is better than anything slower, provided you can maintain perfect technique. Now, an old person might be wise, but it’s likely he doesn’t move fast. Indeed, one of the tell-tale signs of aging is slowness.

Think about it. Boxers who lose their speed are relegated to a record with more losses and knockouts, as evident by Roy Jones Jr. When a basketball player is reaching the end of his career, it’s often said that he’s “losing his first step.” This is just another way of saying that he lost his speed. You can think of speed as being reactive ability, explosiveness, and the like.

One of the most important elements to building, and keeping, a youthful body is to move quickly. There’s plenty of research that supports the benefit of lifting fast, whether it’s for getting leaner, bigger, or stronger. And for strength and power development, research (Behm & Sale, 1993) shows that even the intent to move fast will make you a faster athlete.

In the gym, one of the simplest ways to get bigger, faster, or stronger is by accelerating your lifts as I explain in this video.

Speaking of what I’ve learned, this week the fitness world lost one of its pioneers, Jack LaLanne. I can’t say that I wholeheartedly agree with all of his mantras, but the guy maintained a youthful physique well into his 80s. You can’t argue with that. So out of respect for the man, here are three of my favorite pieces of wisdom from Mr. LaLanne.

“If man makes it, don’t eat it.”

“Scales lie! You lose thirty pounds of muscle and gain thirty pounds of fat, and you weigh the same, right? Take that tape measure out. That won’t lie. Your waistline is your lifeline. It should be the same as it was when you were a young person.”

“Go on, have a glass of wine with dinner. What is wine, anyway? Pure grapes. A glass of wine is much better for you than a Coke.”

Stay focused,

18 thoughts on “Faster is Better

  1. Looks like you ran into the Youtube file length limit 🙁

    CW: Yeah, I thought about posting the second part, but it’s basically an overview of what I already said in this video. However, I’ll be posting many more like this in the near future.

  2. Very nice video, Chad – Thanks for that.

    I have two questions, it would be awesome if you found the time to reply.

    1) With the ten second rule, approximately how many of these seconds should be concentric movements and how many eccentric movements?

    2) Why do the legs respond so greatly to a variety of rep ranges?

    Thanks again,

    1. The entire set should last 10 seconds – there’s no rule for each phase, just as fast as possible while controlling the load.

    2. Probably because they contain many more fibers so there’s a broader range of fiber types that can respond to hypertrophy. Cyclists have huge thighs and they don’t do what I prescribe. However, the size doesn’t equate to explosiveness and maximal strength.

  3. Chad,
    This is a fantastic article!
    My question is when lifting a sub-maximal load with maximal force what happens at the end of the range of motion? I’ve played with this idea since I read about Hatfield’s Compensatory Acceleration Technique; and it seems like a lot of force gets jammed into the joints by “catching” or “stopping” the weight. For example you may end up with some type of squat that brings you up onto the toes due to the speed. How do I work around this?
    Thanks for taking the time to write these articles!

    CW: Good question. The answer varies with each exercise. If the contractions lead to extension (presses, squats), it’s wise to not do an explosive lock-out. However, if the contractions lead to flexion (rows, pull-ups), keep the speed up.
    Jump squats can be great for hypertrophy and explosive strength.

  4. Speed may be better for strength but based on the 4 hour body experiments and others – a 5/5 lifting cadence sure does appear effective for hypertrophy – at least for certain phases

    CW: Everything has its place in fitness. This info is to explain why I recommend maximum acceleration most of the time.

  5. could you speak to maximum concentric and slow negative and if this is even necessary.

    CW: I assume you’re asking if slow negatives are necessary. Yes, they’re beneficial while training eccentric strength (a key component of explosiveness), however, it depends on what you mean by “slow.” Even with eccentrics, faster is better – but only up to the point where you can still control the load with perfect form.

  6. Great post.

    One comment. You seem to be advocating altering variables on the y-axis (i.e., mass and acceleration). The y-axis is the dependent variable, however. In other words, your graph is drawn in the configuration of the effect of motor unit recruitment (independent variable) on force (dependent variable). Your graph should be flipped so that the x-axis is force. I believe that the corrollary is true as well so no effect on your conclusion.

    CW: True, but in the end it’s all the same, as you mentioned. Thanks for your feedback.

  7. While we would want to promote lifting heavy some of the time, to create max force and motor unit recruitment, then at times with max acceleration – is there, or should there be, an optimal lifting intersection between the two. If so, where would that occur in regards to the percentage of 1rm?

    Thanks for the insight.

    CW: I’m not sure what you mean by “an optimal lifting intersection between the two.” However, if you’re looking for 1RM recommendations, stick to the 50-90% of 1RM range. For lighter loads keep the sets to 10 seconds or less.

  8. Hi Chad.
    Great video. It expands/clarifies much of what you have written in your books and at t-nation and your site, In your research have you come to any conclusions of what is the best way to improve the strength of those slow twitch fibers? Following is why I asked.

    After doing deadlifts as recommended by Barry Ross in his “Underground Secrets to Faster Running” I definitely was faster in short sprints and ran the same or faster with less effort than before while doing long distance training as well. His workouts consisted of a few sets of 1-5 rep max with no more than 15 total reps and usually less than 10. Each set could be followed by some plyometric jumps. Recovery was total rest for 5 minutes after the plyometrics. So sets did last than 10 seconds and the 5 minute rest allowed the CP system to recover to about 95% of previous level. Multiple workouts were done each week with no particular set rep scheme. E.G. One day might be 3 sets of 2 and 1 set of 3. The next workout in a day or 2 might be 2 sets of 3 and 1 of 4. He was also big on using your virtual max based on increasing weight in low rep ranges rather than the actual 1rm although he recommended going for it sometimes. One of the most controversial things he recommended was to do no warm-up sets, i.e. load it up and go! He claims that none of his lifters got injured by doing that and I did his program for 6 weeks with no problenms. The amazing thing is I could do some 20-40 meter flys right afterward and run the next day–and I was 68 at the time. Being an ectomorphic distance runner for 27 years I went from 165 to 225 in 6 weeks with his protocol while continuing to run 3-40 mpw.

    I think the protocol was oriented more towards sprinters. He used it with Alyson Felix, current world 200m champion, when she was in high school and her current times aren’t that much faster. As an aside, at about 124 Lbs she deadlifted over 300 in high school. Apparently some cross country coaches found it helped their runners as well.

    From what you have written about recruitment and what I and others learned from his protocol, I’m not sure how that helps an endurance runner since the faster fiber types have minimal endurance. The only conclusion I can reach is that somehow even the slower reps with heavy loads must recruit all of the slow twitch fibers and make them stronger even though, as you wrote before, picking up a pencil recruits the slow fibers.

    It would seem like it would be hard to work the slow fibers harder in the weight room than you could running 40-50 miles/week (or more) and doing 3-5 miles of track workouts at > 90% of VO2Max, but doing those deadlifts did seem to help for some reason. It also seems to help doing hill sprints and long repeats. It seems that I and many other people don’t quite understand the fiber relationship in long distance running.

    Do you think that doing more reps and sets with max speed would be better to strengthen slow twitch fibers than the “Underground” protocol I described and if so, any suggestions?

    Sorry for the long winded post but I’ve pondered this subject for years.

    Thanks for any thoughts on this subject. I understand that distance running is probably not a subject you’re that familiar with, but most distance running coaches do not have your knowledge of the muscle fiber continuum so the real question is how best to strengthen the slow fibers.

    CW: I’m not a big fan of warm-up sets either. There’s no real research to show that slow/low intensity warm-ups help. However, a few sets of plyos can help potentiate the nervous system.

    For endurance, recent research has shown that strength training will help with endurance. The subjects improved their training economy (ie, less perceived effort at a low continuous intensity) and their time to exhaustion increased. The goal of strength training for endurance is to widen the gap between the force that the muscles can actually produce, compared to what they need to produce in sport.

    With that in mind, endurance athletes also need to do longer sets than what I mentioned in the video. That info was for maximal strength/power.

  9. Hi Chad,

    With the 10 sec rule. Does this apply to higher rep/max accelerated sets? ie, If 10 reps is the approximate goal, should we be aiming for a rep a second?

    CW: Don’t worry about how long each rep takes. The key is to consider how long the set takes. There shouldn’t be any time goal with a rep, it should be as fast as possible, regardless of what that time is.

  10. Hi chad,nice video!

    I have one question.How is it possible for someone to do 15reps of squats (for example) in ten seconds?I think that the weight should be very light and also it’ll be very tough for the joints.
    Also i have a suggestion.It’ll be very useful for everyone if you could make a workout video explaining your training theory in some basic exercises like squats,bench press,deadlifts etc.
    thanks again!

    CW: How’s it possible to finish 15 full squats in 10 seconds? It’s not possible, unless the load is super light. So then you must consider that super light loads probably won’t recruit all your motor units. The answer to this problem is simple: do fewer reps to keep the duration short (thus allowing you to lift heavier loads), but do more sets to induce the volume that’s necessary for hypertrophy (if hypertrophy is the goal).

  11. Great Video Chad.
    I don’t want to get off topic here – but do you have an article or a post somewhere about your thoughts on warm-up sets. What you posted above (warm-up sets not really needed) is pretty interesting and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic a bit more…

    CW: I’ll address that topic very soon.

  12. Hi Chad,

    Great article. Just a couple of quick questions. I was doing 4-6 reps of the decline shoulder press from the get ready phase of your book and noticed while I could definitely get to 5 reps I kind of felt as though my form was off a bit. So would you recommend going down 5 pounds so that form is better even though I can get 5 reps at the heavier weight? Also, I got my friend to buy huge in a hurry as well recently and he would like to start. Now he has a bad quad that bothers him while doing dumbbell split squats. Can he substitute that excersise for another because regular squats/dead lifts for example don’t bother him? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    CW: Don’t worry if your form is off a bit. Stick with that load. However, if your form ever diminishes more than “a bit” you should reduce the load.

    If your friend’s quads are bothering him he should attack the problem with foam roller drills for his quads, IT band, glutes and hamstrings. After his workouts he should stretch his quads (rectus femoris) and psoas. In the meantime, he can do a single-leg deadlift instead of a split squat. However, a step up might be a better option since it’s quad dominant (like a split squat) but it’s usually easier for those with joint limitations.

  13. Great article as always! Lifting faster has really been the key to new strength/size gains for me. Its really helped with lessening the DOMS I used to experience with higher rep/slower tempo training I did in the past. I, like many gym rats, was programmed to do 3 or 4 sets of 7 to 10 reps to failure, and inevitably ended up sore and overtrained. I was stuck at the proverbial plateau, and regardless of my body part split, diet, exercise selection, or order, I couldn’t achieve any further progress. Thank god I saw your HUGE in a HURRY book! I can’t believe I didn’t start training like this sooner. I’ve utilized your principles to great effect, and made some minor adjustments to compensate for my personal recovery levels and goals. Thank you for helping an old-timer get on the right track again!

    CW: Thanks, TD. My pleasure!

  14. Hi Chad,
    Great article and I have enjoyed reading your books (HIAH, MR, etc.), your articles and got some good gains on your programmes. I am still looking to increase muscle mass using HFT and your speed methods, but have no equipment at home. This article has given me an idea and I would like your opinion.

    As per normal – Mon/Wed/Fri morning gym session. A total body session.

    The addition – PM. 1) Press-Up’s – as many as can be achieved in 30 seconds. Feet raised for difficulty.
    2) Ab Roller x 25 total reps (doing this anyway as it has eliminated all back pain! Hooray!)
    3) single leg squats – as many as can be achieved in 30 seconds
    4) Diamond Press-Ups (for Triceps) – as many as can be achieved in 30 seconds
    I only do each excercise once as growth is still the goal.

    To be more specific:
    1) Is 30 seconds too long? I ran a test on press-ups and got 30 reps (it will improve) on my first try with feet raised 35cm.
    2) How often should such a circuit be done? Or how can it be varied? For instance: a) only on training days, b) 6 days a week for 2 weeks and then leave for 2 weeks, c) etc.
    3) What improvements can be made and is there a good back/bicep that could be added without equpment? Would it make sense to change to one-arm press-ups with a reduced time?

    Any feedback would be much appreciated. The aim is still to increase muscle mass at this time.

    CW: 30 seconds is not too long. It’s important to vary the duration of your sets to avoid overtraining while providing a different stimulus to the muscles. However, if you’re looking for maximal strength to go with muscle growth, keep your sets at 10 seconds or less.

    The circuit can be performed as much as you want. Experiment with 2 on/1 off, 1 on/1off, or 3 on/1 off. It’s impossible to say how often you should do it since I don’t know anything about your recovery capacity.

    The best biceps exercise when equipment is limited is a chin-up or pull-up from anything you can find to hang from.

  15. This is an excellent explanation for your previous article series. After I read your series, I started counting seconds rather than reps and it made a huge difference in a short period of time.

  16. If one combined isometric holds in contracted or near contracted positions (build up metabolites that might stimulate motor unit activity) and faster reps, wouldn’t this be an ideal way to promote hypertrophy using a lesser load?

    CW: Yep, that’s one way to skin the proverbial cat.

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