Reverse the rep and get stronger. Here’s how.
Think about the bench press. You lay down on the bench, unrack the bar, lower it to your chest, then lift it. But what if we reverse that?
Instead, set up the bench in a rack. Adjust the safety pins so that the bar is a few inches off of your chest, slide under it, and press up. Now you’re performing the concentric action of the rep – the lifting part – first. And the lift starts with the bar at a dead stop.
Here’s what it looks like (bands optional):
The main benefit? We’re not able to use the elastic abilities of skeletal muscle. By lifting from the pins, you’re negating the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC), starting from a dead stop on each rep. (Just don’t bounce the bar off the pins between reps.)
Using pins affords us the ability to train specific ranges of motion or sticking points. You can develop maxes from multiple heights and learn where you may be most limited. Pin work is also fun and changes up your training and loading capacity.
Now think about doing a regular squat. You unrack the bar, lower it to the bottom, then lift it back up. Let’s reverse that by doing an Anderson squat, probably the most famous variation of dead-stop lifting. Here’s a quick overview:
You can use this same idea and apply it to other exercises that conventionally begin with an eccentric or negative phase, and turn them into lifts that begin with the concentric phase instead.
- Variance: Using concentric movements is another tool in your toolbox that can be done in a variety of ways with different pin heights, different bars, and accommodating resistance.
- Supramaximal: By using pins, you’ll be working with a partial range of motion, which will provide the neurological advantage of allowing you to use loads that are greater than your current one-rep max. This allows you to build confidence with weights you’re not accustomed to handling. Working with a partial range of motion can also increase loading capacity.
- Lockout Strength: You can specifically target your “mini-maxes” or your sticking points and vary joint angles that may be less favorable based on individual anthropometrics.
- Rate of Force Development (RFD): Improving RFD is important. By starting from a disadvantage (bottom/dead-stop) you’ll be forced to use higher-threshold motor units fast.
- Developing Tension: Max effort work requires the ability to create tension. Most people forget about this aspect of training, but with concentric movements you’re forced to develop tension prior to initiating the lift. Essentially, you’re starting from a disadvantage. You’re also unable to use the stretch reflex.
- Absolute Strength: Pin variations are an incredible tool to increase absolute strength, improving the amount force you can exert.
- Recovery: Concentric-only variations don’t elicit the same amount of muscular soreness because you’re omitting the eccentric phase of the lift while working with maximal loads.
Now, you don’t have to use pins to make lifts only begin on the concentric. Lowering the weight TO the pins, pausing briefly, and then restarting the lift through the concentric phase can have major benefits too.
Lowering to pins still allows you to break up the phases of the lift and develop your reversal ability – the ability to stop and start without the aid of the SSC.
Here are two examples:
- Vary the pin height.
- Use a specialty bar.
- Use accommodating resistance (bands, chains, or both).
- Do for 1-3RM lifts.
- Use submaximal loading, build to a 4-6RM.
If you’re using these for max effort work, make sure you take note of your exact height setting and retest in 12 weeks.