Slow vs. Fast Movements?
The crazy guy is in the corner of the gym, curling as fast as possible, swaying his torso back and forth, sweating all over and screaming with his American flag bandana that is stained yellow. Meanwhile, the juicehead is over in front of the mirror, curling as precisely as possible, breathing intently and controlling every single movement with incredible precision. The thought is rolling back and forth, “Which is better? Curl like the lunatic in the corner or the juice monkey that has serious confidence issues?” It’s time to comprehend how to maximize slow AND fast movements!
Potentiation or Eccentric Damage?
When analyzing movement, it’s important to comprehend the adaptation that needs to be made and the stimulus that is required to achieve that adaptation. This can come through numerous methods but ultimately it will always come back to two aspects of training.
Are we trying to gain strength in the bicep and tricep or are we trying to get mass? This leads us down a unique flow chart that guides us with the stimulus.
If it’s strength, we know we need to focus a bit more on myofibrillar hypertrophy. When focusing on myofibrillar hypertrophy, we know we will be utilizing the anaerobic alactic energy system predominantly and that will also lead to greater gains in muscular strength.
If size is the goal, there is an understanding that we still need to focus on strength work but most of the stimulation should be geared toward sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. When the adaptation is based around sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, there is a clear understanding that the focus will be based on greater reps to elicit a greater metabolic response. This means we will need to focus predominantly on the anaerobic glycolysis system, bringing in a ton of glycogen and getting the massive pump we need to get SWOLE!
Moving ISH FAST AF!
Moving weight fast is going to alter which group we are targeting and the means in which we are targeting the growth. It needs to be recognized that the biceps tend to be slower twitch muscles while the triceps tend to be of more fast twitch muscle fibers. Generally, this means that biceps will respond greater to slow movements while the triceps will respond better to rapid reps. BUT, that doesn’t clearly answer the question.
When moving weights FAST, we have to think about the reason behind fast movement. This is going to be based around conquering a sticking point from a dynamic isometric point OR through potentiation. This is possible in both muscular groups.
One MASSIVE positive aspect behind fast movement is that it can lead to greater muscular coordination. This increase in coordination can develop greater proprioception and an improvement in the mind-muscle connection. The INTENT to move muscles fast will then carry over at a much greater rate.
When strength is the main goal, moving rapidly is typically the answer but it’s not the end all be all. Don’t forget about those sneaky slow movements!
Slow Movements for Gains
Ironically, slow movements can also work wonders in regard to enhanced mind-muscle connection. It is clear that slow movements with the biceps will stimulate a massive pump, it will also do the same for the triceps. But where should the movement be slow?
Let’s reflect back to key physiology lessons. The eccentric portion of the movement is where muscles are lengthened and strengthened. The damage occurs during this point, the muscle is forced to renovate when the eccentric portion is slow and controlled and this also stimulates a greater metabolic response.
If the concentric portion of the lift is slow, it will grow BUT it will not help with strength gains. That is just fine if you are an individual assisted by pharmaceuticals but in most cases, we need maximal strength to lead to maximal size gains! When curls or extensions of the elbow are executed, the eccentric portion can be controlled on a 4-7 second cadence while the concentric portion should be executed with the intent to move the load as rapidly as possible (that doesn’t mean it will move rapidly, just that the INTENT is to move rapidly).
Synergistic Movement Development: GET ME STRONG AND BIG
In strength and conditioning, we love to isolate principles and attack them. From a macro perspective, it would be easy to argue that slow movements hinder tricep growth while slow movements make biceps huge and vice versa for rapid movements. Fortunately for the world, nothing is usually done in isolation (except preacher curls).
The absolute best methods to develop massive biceps AND massive triceps that are also functional and able to put out serious power is through the use of BOTH fast and slow movements. Now, the rate at which you use fast movements will be higher with triceps and the frequency of using slow movements will be higher with the biceps but both work synergistically within the muscle group.
In Bize and Trize 1 we cover one of the best ways to stimulate massive growth and strength. This is what we cover:
1A) Slam Curls (hold sticking point 4-5 seconds) 5 x 4-5 reps
1B) Standing slow eccentric (5 seconds) barbell curls 5 x 12
Rest 2 minutes
Here we use a dynamic/isometric movement to bust through a sticking point on the slam curls and then continue to stimulate and fatigue the high threshold motor units through 5 second eccentrics on the standing barbell curl. This works well to not only increase strength but also to lead to massive metabolic growth of the sarcoplasm.
If we wanted to use this principle with our triceps, we would use a similar set up but with something that is a bit more dynamic. In most cases, the triceps do not respond overly well to isometrics. Here is your dynamic/slow eccentric tricep blaster for the day!
1A) Explosive push ups to boxes 5 x 6 (focus on force absorption when landing for optimal recruitment)
1B) Slow eccentric close grip bench 5 x 5 with 5 second eccentric
Notice our time under tension is less for the triceps while doing the slow eccentric. This is because the triceps respond best with under 45 seconds of time under tension. Their size will grow tremendously while power output will also continue to climb!
It’s important to understand human physiology to generate the proper programming for optimal gains. When energy systems and forms of hypertrophy are comprehended, then the body can be stimulated accordingly in the most effective manner possible. Use BOTH slow and fast movements to generate massive gains in the biceps and triceps!
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