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  1. PirateJon is offline
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    Posted On:
    2/28/2007 8:34am

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    "Improving Speed, Power and Explosiveness"

    I was searching for something else and ran across this. Definitely worth a read.

    Improving Speed, Power and Explosiveness
    Matt Brzycki
    Coordinator of Recreational Fitness and Wellness Programs
    Princeton University
    http://www.timferriss.com/improving_speed.html


    Martial artists [and all athletes] are continually looking for ways to improve their speed, power and explosiveness. Indeed, what fighter wouldn’t want to deliver punches and kicks more swiftly and more forcefully while, at the same time, be able to react more quickly to an opponent’s aggression?

    FACT OR FICTION?

    Among the methods that have been purported to improve speed, power and explosiveness are lifting weights explosively, practicing skills with weighted objects and performing plyometric drills. Before accepting these or any other methods, it’s important to separate fact from fiction.

    Explosive Lifting

    One of the most hotly debated subjects in the field of strength training is the speed at which repetitions should be performed in the weight room. There are two main schools of thought among strength coaches: One group advocates high-speed, explosive repetitions that are ballistic in nature whereas the other group recommends low-speed, deliberate repetitions that are performed in a controlled manner.

    Promoters of high-speed movements argue that in order to become “explosive” you must train “explosive.” In particular, the Olympic-style movements and related “quick lifts” have been glorified as exercises which -- when performed at rapid speeds of movement -- supposedly transfer this explosiveness to fighting skills such as throwing a punch or a kick.

    There’s simply no evidence in the motor learning literature to support the notion that doing explosive movements in the weight room -- such as a power clean -- will contribute to improving your explosiveness as a fighter. The explosiveness demonstrated during a movement such as a power clean is only specific to a power clean. Likewise, the explosiveness demonstrated during a spinning back kick is only specific to a spinning back kick. Doing power cleans will not help your explosiveness in a spinning back kick any more than doing a spinning back kick will improve your explosiveness in a power clean.

    Your potential to produce fast speeds of movement is based upon your muscle fiber composition. Your muscles are composed of two major types of fibers: fast twitch (FT) and slow twitch (ST). Relative to ST fibers, your FT fibers contract more quickly and produce greater force but they fatigue more easily. The assumption is that by lifting explosively in the weight room, the fast speed of movement will somehow convert ST fibers to FT fibers and/or preferentially recruit the FT fibers.

    First of all, there’s no definitive proof in the scientific literature to firmly support the belief that muscle fibers can be converted from one type to another. Secondly, the selective recruitment of muscle fibers is physiologically impossible. Your muscle fibers are recruited by your nervous system in an orderly fashion according to the intensity requirements and not by the speed of movement. In the beginning of an exercise, your muscular intensity is relatively low. Demands of low muscular intensity are met by your ST fibers. With each ensuing repetition, your muscular intensity increases. Your FT fibers are used only when your ST fibers cannot meet the intensity requirements. All of your fibers are working when your FT fibers are being used. This orderly recruitment pattern remains the same regardless of whether the movement speed was fast or slow. No matter what, your ST fibers are recruited first and FT fibers are recruited last. In a nutshell, muscle fibers are recruited by “need not speed.”

    This sequential recruitment of muscle fibers is actually ideal in terms of physiological efficiency. Your ST fibers -- which generate less force than FT fibers -- are recruited early when the intensity demands are low. In addition, their resistance to fatigue is advantageous in generating a sustained force output over a series of muscular contractions (i.e., a set of an exercise). It would not be economical for your nervous system to recruit the quicker-to-fatigue FT fibers in the early stages of an exercise.

    Remember, lifting weights at rapid speeds does not necessarily mean that the muscular intensity is high. In fact, one researcher suggests that there’s an inverse relationship between speed and intensity: As the speed of movement goes up, the muscular intensity goes down.

    Explosive lifting is not without its drawbacks. For one thing, high-velocity repetitions are actually less productive than repetitions performed in a slow, deliberate manner. Here’s why: Whenever a weight is lifted explosively, momentum is introduced to provide movement to the weight or resistance. After the initial explosive movement, little or no resistance is encountered by the muscles throughout the remaining range of motion. In simple terms, the weight is practically moving under its own power. To illustrate the reduced efficiency during explosive repetitions, imagine that you were using a leg extension machine and raised the weight so quickly that the pad left your lower legs halfway through the repetition.

    Think about it: The pad is attached to the movement arm of the machine which, in turn, is connected to the resistance by some means -- such as a chain, cable or strap. If the pad is no longer in contact with your lower legs, there’s no load on your muscles. If there’s no load on your muscles, then your muscles had no stimulus -- or reason -- to adapt. Sure, your muscles were “loaded” during the first part of the movement -- while the pad was still against your shins -- and you’ll get some results from the exercise. But during the last part of the movement -- when the pad left your shins -- your muscles will be severely “underloaded.” At that point, the only load or resistance your muscles encounter is from the weight of your lower legs.

    More importantly, however, explosive lifting can also be dangerous. If explosive lifting doesn’t cause immediate musculoskeletal damage, it can predispose you to future injury. One researcher notes, “actual structural damage is a possible outcome of certain types of explosive exercise.” Dr. Fred Allman, a past president of both the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine and the American College of Sports Medicine, states: “It is even possible that many injuries . . . may be the result of weakened connective tissue caused by explosive training in the weight room.”

    Using momentum to lift a weight increases the internal forces encountered by a given joint; the faster a weight is lifted, the greater these forces are amplified -- especially at the point of explosion. In one study, a subject squatting with 80 percent of his 4-Repetition Maximum incurred a 225-pound peak shearing force during a repetition that took 4.5 seconds to complete and a 270-pound peak shearing force during a repetition that took 2.1 seconds to complete -- clear evidence that faster speeds of movement increase the shearing forces on joints.

    Remember, lifting weights at rapid speeds of movement is only a temporary demonstration of power -- not a permanent adaptation. There’s absolutely no scientific evidence to suggest that “explosive” lifting leads to “explosive” athletic performance.

    It’s much safer and more efficient to lift weights in a deliberate, controlled manner. Regardless of whether you’re using machines or barbells, the weight should be raised without any jerking or explosive movements and then lowered under control. In that way, momentum will not play a significant role in the efficiency of the exercise.

    Weighted Objects

    It’s also widely believed that using weighted implements will improve speed, power and explosiveness. This has led to the practice of trying to simulate sports skills in the weight room using a variety of weighted objects including barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls and ankle weights. In the motor learning literature, practicing athletic skills with weighted implements is known as “overload training.”

    Motor learning research refers to a “kinesthetic aftereffect,” which is defined as a “perceived modification in the shape, size or weight of an object . . . as a result of experience with a previous object.” Athletes experience the kinesthetic aftereffect during overload training. This phenomenon is exemplified by fighters who throw punches while holding dumbbells or execute kicks while wearing ankle weights. Doing this merely creates a perceptual illusion that makes the fighters feel they can punch or kick faster. In a sense, their neurological pathways are fooled into believing their limbs are lighter. Another example is the fighter who runs with a weighted vest, followed by the perceived ability to run faster after the vest is removed. Essentially, the kinesthetic aftereffect is nothing more than a sensory illusion.

    Research has shown that the kinesthetic aftereffect is not accompanied by a measurable improvement in performance in the skills that have been practiced using weighted objects. For example, investigations into the effects of using weighted shoes and ankle weights found that the groups who practiced without the weighted devices actually improved their speed more than the experimental groups who practiced with the weighted devices.

    If a skill is to be performed at a given speed, it should be practiced at that speed in order to facilitate the learning of the skill. By practicing a skill at a slower speed than would normally be used in the performance of the skill, you’re training your neuromuscular system to perform at a slower speed and, as a result, may actually cause you to move slower.

    Consider fighters who throw punches while holding onto dumbbells. Will their punches with the dumbbells be faster, slower or the same as their punches without the dumbbells? Obviously, their punches are slower. Therefore, it follows that the use of weighted implements actually impairs the learning of sports skills.

    Plyometrics


    Plyometrics are highly controversial. Most of the support for plyometrics is based upon anecdotal evidence. There is little unbiased scientific evidence that definitively proves plyometrics are productive. In reality, a large number of research studies have concluded that plyometrics are no more effective than regular strength-training activities when it comes to improving speed, power and explosiveness. One plyometric guru even admits that the information about plyometrics is anecdotal and “methodologically weak.”

    More importantly, the possibility of injury from plyometrics is positively enormous. A growing number of strength coaches have been questioning the safety of plyometrics. When performing plyometrics, the musculoskeletal system is exposed to repetitive trauma and high-impact forces. This extreme biomechanical loading places an inordinate amount of strain on the connective tissues of the lower body. The most common plyometric-related injuries are patellar tendinitis, stress fractures, shin splints and strains of the ankle and the knee. Compression fractures related to the use of plyometrics have also been reported. Other potential injuries include -- but aren’t limited to -- sprains, heel bruises, ruptured tendons and meniscal (cartilage) damage. It’s no surprise that many prominent orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and athletic trainers view plyometrics as an injury waiting to happen.

    In short, plyometrics have not been proven to be productive and carry an unreasonably high risk of injury.

    IMPROVING EXPLOSIVENESS

    In order for you to improve your speed, power and explosiveness, there are two things that you must do. First of all, you must literally practice your fighting skills thousands and thousands of times. Each time, you must do the skills with perfect technique so that their specific movement patterns become firmly established in your motor memory. The skill must be practiced perfectly and exactly as you would use it when fighting. Remember, practice makes perfect . . . but only if you practice perfect.

    Secondly, you must strengthen your major muscle groups. However, this should not be done in a manner that mimics a particular skill. A stronger muscle can produce more force; if you can produce more force, you’ll require less effort and be able to perform the skill more quickly, more efficiently and more explosively. But again, this is provided that you’ve practiced enough in a correct manner so that you’ll be more skillful in applying that force. So, if your goal is to become a more explosive fighter, you must become proficient at your fighting techniques and you must strengthen the muscles of your hips, legs, upper torso and arms.

    When fighters are described as being “explosive,” essentially what is being said is that they perform, move or react quickly and forcefully. This is primarily due to the fact that their movement patterns for a particular skill are so firmly ingrained in their “motor memories” that there is little or no wasted effort. In other words, it’s because the fighters are highly efficient with their technique -- not because they lifted weights explosively, practiced skills with weighted objects or performed plyometric drills.

    Commentary - I don't agree with his take on the powerclean. It's a great lift, but I don't doubt it's not as effective as some people think.

    Thoughts?
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  2. zendeath2000 is offline

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    Posted On:
    2/28/2007 9:21am


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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Not a bad article but definately wrong in some spots. I can see what he means about using weighted items and how it can throw off the grip or kick movement but the fooling of the brain aspect is total crap.
  3. Teh El Macho is offline
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    Posted On:
    2/28/2007 9:41am

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I don't quite agree with his comments on explosive lifts or plyometrics. Explosive lifts teach how to use the entire body as a single unit in an explosive manner. Moreover, they are anaerobically demanding. Anything that's anaerobically demanding is good.

    Same with plyometrics (and HIIT). It's not only sufficient to have good technique and powerful major muscles. A fighter needs to be able to use both over extended periods of time explosively - high anaerobic capacity rules. Otherwise (and just to borrow the author's expression), it would be a temporary demonstration of power, not a permanent adaptation.

    Also, going back to a clean-and-jerk (barbell or single-armed/dumbbell), though it is true that after the lift the weight goes up on its own momentum, the muscles are being trained to both 1) initiate that explosive movement, with force, and 2) control the weight at the end of the rep.

    One (somewhat good) example of an explosive lift is when you are in somebody's guard, you jump on your feet while grabbing his lapels and lift him up explosively to break his guard. ****, just think Rampage slamming Arona. Those are explosive lifts IMO.

    It mentions that fast repetitions are not necessarily a good thing, but then, how would that fit into the obvious benefits of tabata sets? I know that can be explained, but the article fails in doing so (I'm nitpicking here.)

    It is an interesting article, and it's right on the money when it criticizes martial artists that use ankle weights and **** like that. But on explosive lifts and plyometrics, I think it's flawed.
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  4. Nid is offline

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    Posted On:
    2/28/2007 10:46am

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Explosive lifts teach how to use the entire body as a single unit in an explosive manner.
    K....
  5. LI GUY 1 is offline
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    Posted On:
    2/28/2007 11:39am

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I always lift as fast as I can. If I am lifting light the bar will move fast. If I am lifting heavy the bar moves slow, but I still move it as fast as possible. Why be deliberatley slow? He says that the weight moves due to "momentum" and little effort is used after the initial explosive move.

    Guess who supplied that momentum though? The lifter, people talk about momentum in weight lifting as if the bar does it all on its own!

    Lastly, again on the topic of explosive lifting only working a part of the muscle. Part right. If the weight is light and lifted explosively then yes the bar will shoot up fast enough that you will not be applying pressure throughout the whole lift. But if the weight is heavy and you still lift explosively (as fast and hard as you can) the bar will be fighting you all the way.

    So I say kep lifting explosively and lift heavier. Most people probably lift too light (of course that is a relativ statement, heavy for me could be light for others) in the first place.
  6. Nid is offline

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    Posted On:
    2/28/2007 11:59am

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    There's this...thing called a strength curve, and our joints go in an arc, you see, and yeah, of course the lifter creates momentum, but eh...that's not the point. Strength training..is...eh...I mean we're talking about an after-the-fact response to a degree of recruitment of muscle fibers which isn't going to change (the order therefo) and so why subject the body to potentially injurous OUTSIDE forces. Outside. When you lift a given weight (x) with virtually no acceleration you know you are both lifting and being subjected to X. A=unknown forces. "A" happens a lot in contact sports, that's why...why...wh...w........:::sets hair on fire and runs screaming in oppposite direction::

    Edit: Ok, seriously there's room for lifting as-fast-and-as-hard-as-one-can, but it's on the rep you probably won't finish. The fresh one(s) ought to be controlled cuz that's when you're strongest!. And this is about rote strength training... Not sport/strength hybrid stupidity....i.e. 'POWER LIFTING'. Well, one's hobby is one's business, it just gets messy to mix the two and expect to have a meaningful discussion.
    Last edited by Nid; 2/28/2007 12:12pm at .
  7. zendeath2000 is offline

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    Posted On:
    2/28/2007 1:56pm


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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    well i may be talking out my butt with this, but i was always under the impression that a muscle always has the ability to generate maximum kinetic force from potential energy with little to no strain. if you go from a rest postion and maximize the movement doesnt that generate "explosive" movements whether your utilizing weights or not?

    Weights just cause more muscle fiber recruitment to perform that maximum potential... if the body is trained to move utilizing more fiber recruitment from training with the weights, would it not stand to reason that it would do so without the weights holding it down?

    my example being: ice skating/speed skating (after your done and take off the skates your muscles tend to over compensate while walking; this is not due to inner ear equilibrium)
    Last edited by zendeath2000; 2/28/2007 2:00pm at .
  8. Nid is offline

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    Posted On:
    2/28/2007 2:23pm

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    That is food for a very good discussion, Zendeath. Thank you.

    Weights just cause more muscle fiber recruitment to perform that maximum potential...
    That's interestingly put. I can't say I understand it completely. Maybe could you rephrase that?

    if the body is trained to move utilizing more fiber recruitment from training with the weights, would it not stand to reason that it would do so without the weights holding it down?
    Ah, but it doesn't neccesarily. Not the way you're thinking of... if I follow you.

    Fibers are recruited AS NEEDED. From an energey conservation stand-point (which is what basic evolutionary surival revolves around...and mating STP!), it only makes sense that your body will NOT generalize the need to engage it's energy-hog musculature any more than absoloutely neccesary, much less grow more of it.

    Absoloutely neccesary means inferred from practice. "This guy seems to be doing this movement over and over again and keeps adding weight. Rather than waste ENGERY building more tissue, let's just streamline the neurologic **** and see if that suffices." AKA noob gains. Strength from practice, let's call it.

    The more complicated the movement is (the more joint functions come into play) the more the coordination of the neurologic system will have bearing. More things to improve incrementally in terms of things other than physiology... timing, mental practice, conscious changes etc.

    The simpler the movement, the quicker the body will reach it's dead end in terms of neurologic improvement and have to start thinking about other alternatives...liking growing more meat provided the needs of rest, nutrition, etc are met.

    These simpler movements (one or two joint functions devoid of intentionally incurring advantages LIKE MOMENTUM), have less to do with tweaking an athletic endeavor (involving non-physiological matters) and more to do with cutting to the chase of adding more cubic inches in the engine. All else being equal, a bigger given muscle fiber will produce more force....for everyting external against which it contracts. So it should take a less intrusive recruitment of fiber types (with bigger fibers) to achieve the same goal have previously required more (fiber types). It's energy frugality.

    Muscle fibers orchestrated together to produce more force per unit of time (whatever that may be) is a matter of neurology. The thing is, it does NOT generalize well at all. Again, energy frugality. Who needs a rapid recruitment of all possible fibers and types, respectively, to undertake a task which the body has no reason to believe you may never do again?

    I'm just gonna have to keep respectfully disagreeing with someone who makes nebulous claims of engineering a body to generally "work together better" by doing X,Y,Z tasks....usually Olympic style sport lifts or romanticized "strong man" events. Fun, fine. As efficient as it could be when we're talking about empirical reality? In terms of what task or process in the gym ACTUALLY benefits you on the mat? I say no.

    Don't get it. It disagrees with the most basic assumptions about how animals even exist.
    Last edited by Nid; 2/28/2007 2:35pm at .
  9. PirateJon is offline
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    Posted On:
    2/28/2007 3:16pm

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    Very interesting stuff!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kein Haar
    Edit: Ok, seriously there's room for lifting as-fast-and-as-hard-as-one-can, but it's on the rep you probably won't finish. The fresh one(s) ought to be controlled cuz that's when you're strongest!. And this is about rote strength training... Not sport/strength hybrid stupidity....i.e. 'POWER LIFTING'. Well, one's hobby is one's business, it just gets messy to mix the two and expect to have a meaningful discussion.
    I'd agree that powerlifters get their fair share of nut-huggery (omg teh strongest squat evar!) but if what of the speed lifting stuff like westside's dynamic lifts? over rated for gains or for carry-over to the mat/ring?
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  10. zendeath2000 is offline

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    Posted On:
    2/28/2007 3:18pm


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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    right... energy conservation of the muscle; however atp/calcium output needed to perform muscle contractions in just one muscle is regulated by the autonomic nervous system. As you know when you move one muscle consentrically the opposing muscles eccentrically contract to slow or "brake' the speed of the working muscle. When a weight is added the eccentrically contracting muscles have to recruit more to slow the kinetic output of the contracting muscle to reduce injury... (please correct me if im wrong, its been about 5 years since bio-mechanics/exersize physiology class).

    During virtually any routine movement, eccentric contractions assist in keeping motions smooth, but can also slow rapid movements such as a punch or throw. Part of training for rapid movements such as pitching during baseball involves reducing eccentric braking allowing a greater power to be developed throughout the movement by using a heavier ball during practice and then utilizing a regulation ball during actual games.

    if you believe that man is an intelligent animal, then the theory of genetic environment adaptation/evolution can be aplied. If a creature remains in a specific environment where specific stresses are a constant or needed to be over come; the body adapts. in the case of frogs (not that im compairing frogs genetics with human) and thier propotionate strength/reaction-recovery time; it is plausible that a muscle can generate maximum kinetic output with minimum energy used.
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