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Speed Work: Does It Work?

There’s a debate online about the merits of Speed Work.

One camp is saying: “So I guess Louie doesn’t know what he is talking about, and the countless Westside All-Time World Record holders wasted their time doing speed work? Riiight…”

Whereas the other camp is saying: “At least Speed Work doesn’t work for the reasons you think it does”.
I’m not saying, “Don’t do it”
I’m not saying, “It doesn’t work period”
I’m not saying, “Westside is useless”
What I AM saying is that I understand physics behind F=ma. But I’m telling you that in all the data I’ve collected, I don’t see the real life force production in highly submaximal weights. That holds true with the straight-weight work and also when using accommodation. I’m sorry if that upsets some folks, but I’m just reporting the numbers.

What is everyone’s thoughts on it? I for one don’t incorporate traditional Speed Days into my training, but I like Jumps, Throws, and other plyo work before the start of my training session; more along the lines of neural activation work than anything else.

my elbows hurt less now that I don’t do it and I haven’t really noticed a difference since I stopped doing it.

This is just anecdotal evidence I’ve experienced.
I had a 5 month stint of heavy olympic lifting training focusing mainly on the traditional lifts. Obviously, the first pull portion of any olympic lift resembles a deadlift at greater speed than usual deadlifts. My deadlift max when starting my oly training was 425.

After 5 months, without any deadlift training whatsoever, my deadlift max skyrocketed to 475.
The “speed work” component integral to olympic pulling and the great force-transfer required, in my opinion, led to greater speed off the floor in my power-pulling movements.

So yes, speed work is beneficial. It trains explosiveness in crucial portions of lifts that can make or break an attempt.

I think Speed Work can be useful for a specific type of lifter that has a “slow” nervous system, meaning he can’t fire his muscles as quickly as other lifters and tends to grind out his lifts. If you are already able to recruit your muscles quickly, I don’t think Speed Work will be much benefit to you.

[quote]detazathoth wrote:
What I AM saying is that I understand physics behind F=ma. But I’m telling you that in all the data I’ve collected, I don’t see the real life force production in highly submaximal weights. That holds true with the straight-weight work and also when using accommodation. I’m sorry if that upsets some folks, but I’m just reporting the numbers.[/quote]
Couple things:
I’m not defending speed work either, but from what I have read, the actual Westside guys and the guys who have come out of there didn’t use weights nearly as light as most people trying to implement “speed work” do these days. I have never been to Westside, but it was my understanding that in reality, they did their dynamic effort work with percentages quite a lot higher than people think. Not to mention they hardly ever thought about things in terms of percentages in the first place according to what I have heard.

Anyway, I don’t even use conjugate training or speed work ever; I just found the above to be interesting.

My real thoughts on pretty much anything powerlifting are to regurgitate whatever Ed Coan thinks. He says he never did speed work per se, but on all of his warm ups, he would try to move the weight using maximal force production. Thus you could make the case that he got his speed work in as he was warming up to his work sets. The Lillibridges also clearly implement this training philosophy. On all their warmups, Eric and Ernie Jr. move the weight as fast as possible.

Were those guys getting the benefits during their warmup sets that Westside attributes to dynamic effort days? I don’t know. It’s also possible that doing your warmups as forcefully as you can also just builds confidence and puts you in a better mindset to move your heavier weights (which I think it certainly does), but that the dynamic nature of the lifting itself didn’t actually increase their speed on the lift like Westside promulgates.

That being said there are a plethora of lifters who could pretty much trump my thoughts on the matter with their results (Mike Hedlesky on this forum for one lol). There are a lot of conjugate system lifters much stronger than I am who would probably swear up and down that the dynamic effort method is essential. Also Brandon Lilly is destroying the platform these days, and obviously explosive work is one of the cornerstones of his program.

I won’t confirm or deny speed that speed work does or doesn’t work. I haven’t had enough experience using it.

I used to work with a weightlifter who grew up training with and learning the Russian System. He told me speed work with light weights was worthless. I was kinda dumbfounded that he would say that, and I even brought up Louie and all the people he’s trained. The guy told me that Louie was misunderstanding all the Soviet literature he had read lol.

I wasn’t able to accept what he said at the time, but right now I honestly find myself thinking along the same lines. For that reason I never really attempted much speed work. I just stick with heavy weights and the intent to accelerate.

This has a bit more relevance to sports in general, but still a good listen.

Speed work is simply another facet of a training methodology. Louis has said that the DE stuff was created because most people didn’t respond well two 2 max effort training days per week. The DE was developed so that you train heavy as fuck one day and then semi heavy another. If you can squat heavy twice a week, good for you. Once a week isn’t enough for me but 2 is too much so WS is a good fit for me.

Some people are also naturally fast and can recruit their muscles to fire faster while others need to learn this. As usual some people fixate on percentages and other minutia. The 50% gets one into the ballpark. It’s always up to the user to figure out what what weight works for them. I found for me If I work in the 60-70% range I did best. My lifts improved because I learned to fire faster, which gets the weight moving. Once I trained the muscle I had, I could lessen the DE stuff and focus on a bit more RE stuff. When I’d gain mass, I would do DE to keep up the speed. This may sound strange but 3 seconds is longer than you think. I’ve seen dudes doing “DE” bench and they bang out 3 reps in about a second and a half. Then they say the DE don’t work for them.

Well, the weight is too light, add some and slow down. This might sound dumb but get a metronome app and set it to 60 BPM, then bench to it. 3 reps, 3 seconds. Is an exact 3 seconds required, probably NOT but again, it’s a target to shoot for. I’ve also seen dudes lower the bar real slow and only explode on the up motion. You are supposed to let the bar come down as quickly as you can control it. Trying to reverse a rapidly falling object takes a bunch of force, which is the goal of DE movements, Rate of force development.

Another thing to remember is that as we age, we slow down. I don’t know what the average age of West-Sider is but judging by the pics I’ve seen it’s an older bunch. Will anyone here state emphatically that they are as fast as they possibly can be and that there is no room for improvement?? I bet I get no takers on that…

does one “need” DE movements? no, but why not give it a shot to see if it works for you? You will likely have nothing to lose and odds are you will learn something about yourself and improve on your lifts in some manor.

[quote]detazathoth wrote:
There’s a debate online about the merits of Speed Work.

One camp is saying: “So I guess Louie doesn’t know what he is talking about, and the countless Westside All-Time World Record holders wasted their time doing speed work? Riiight…”

Whereas the other camp is saying: “At least Speed Work doesn’t work for the reasons you think it does”.
I’m not saying, “Don’t do it”
I’m not saying, “It doesn’t work period”
I’m not saying, “Westside is useless”
What I AM saying is that I understand physics behind F=ma. But I’m telling you that in all the data I’ve collected, I don’t see the real life force production in highly submaximal weights. That holds true with the straight-weight work and also when using accommodation. I’m sorry if that upsets some folks, but I’m just reporting the numbers.

What is everyone’s thoughts on it? I for one don’t incorporate traditional Speed Days into my training, but I like Jumps, Throws, and other plyo work before the start of my training session; more along the lines of neural activation work than anything else.[/quote]

By camps, you Laura Phelps-Sweatt and Mike Tuchscherer, yeah? Haha.

I don’t train any speed work. Never really felt like I got anything from it.

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:

[quote]detazathoth wrote:
There’s a debate online about the merits of Speed Work.

One camp is saying: “So I guess Louie doesn’t know what he is talking about, and the countless Westside All-Time World Record holders wasted their time doing speed work? Riiight…”

Whereas the other camp is saying: “At least Speed Work doesn’t work for the reasons you think it does”.
I’m not saying, “Don’t do it”
I’m not saying, “It doesn’t work period”
I’m not saying, “Westside is useless”
What I AM saying is that I understand physics behind F=ma. But I’m telling you that in all the data I’ve collected, I don’t see the real life force production in highly submaximal weights. That holds true with the straight-weight work and also when using accommodation. I’m sorry if that upsets some folks, but I’m just reporting the numbers.

What is everyone’s thoughts on it? I for one don’t incorporate traditional Speed Days into my training, but I like Jumps, Throws, and other plyo work before the start of my training session; more along the lines of neural activation work than anything else.[/quote]

By camps, you Laura Phelps-Sweatt and Mike Tuchscherer, yeah? Haha.

I don’t train any speed work. Never really felt like I got anything from it.[/quote]

Yup.

It’s getting kind of ridiculous at this point, but I feel this discussion can still have merit.

I’ll leave this here: facebook.com/notes/westside-barbell-the-official-fan-page /the-dynamic-method-speed-work-/546807092031342

I’m not taking sides, just saw this pop up and thought i’d share.

[quote]Broski wrote:
This is just anecdotal evidence I’ve experienced.
I had a 5 month stint of heavy olympic lifting training focusing mainly on the traditional lifts. Obviously, the first pull portion of any olympic lift resembles a deadlift at greater speed than usual deadlifts. My deadlift max when starting my oly training was 425.

After 5 months, without any deadlift training whatsoever, my deadlift max skyrocketed to 475.
The “speed work” component integral to olympic pulling and the great force-transfer required, in my opinion, led to greater speed off the floor in my power-pulling movements.

So yes, speed work is beneficial. It trains explosiveness in crucial portions of lifts that can make or break an attempt. [/quote]

Ya cause theres no way anyone could put 50lbs on there deadlift in 5 months. It must be the speed work…

I implement DE days but I use weights heavier than Westside says to use. Instead of the 50-65% I stay more around 65-75% of my 1rm and I have def seen improvements but, could just be the ME and accessory work pushing the PRs.

I am explosive from my nature. Speed work did nothing for me. Also, as previously noted, it beat the crap out of my elbows on the bench, and my upper back in squats/deadlifts. You want speed work? Jump, sprint, and use a medicine ball.

Interesting comments.

Whenever I have removed DE Benching & deadlifting from my workouts, there has been an almost instant and considerable decrease in performance on the following max effort days. I will say that at a certain point, I don’t think that you need to do “speed work” every week. Right now I am doing upper body speed work every other week. I do speed pulls every 3rd week and dynamic effort box squats once a month. It seems to be working for me.

I do feel there are other soft benefits that the arguments against speed work are excluding.

  1. Technique work – if you are doing “speed work” I am assuming you are following a “West-side-ish” routine or at least following an ME/DE split. You are likely not hitting the competition lifts on a regular basis. In this scenario speed work is extremely important because you’re practicing your setup and execution of the competition lifts 8-16 times in a single day.

  2. Fatigue – doing 8-16 sets with 30 seconds rest is a great way to teach your body how to perform in a fatigued state. It’s also a great way to boost your overall conditioning level.

  3. Speed work is used to compliment the max effort work – read the article on Facebook that was posted a few comments above mine.

One thing that you have to realize about the “West Side” method articles as posted by Louie Simmons. He posts the basic version and tries to speak about the concepts. The implementation of the method evolves constantly, but the fundamental underlying concepts are always the same. Max Effort, Dynamic Effort, Repeated Effort with a focus on special exercises to bring up weak points. Even at West Side, some of the best lifters didn’t follow the “West Side program” by the book. I know that AJ Roberts specifically did not do upper body speed work because it beat up his elbows.

Lastly, I saw Mike T’s article about speed work and it intrigued me. I am a fan of his lifting, and his articles and I appreciate his very well thought out training plans. But, what’s his best competition bench?

Speed work has helped me lately but maybe for a different reason then what most people are thinking. I was a very casual, slow grinder in all my lifts whether it was 65% or 95%, bar moved at same speed. I wasnt explosive at all, I mean ZERO!

Since incorporating speed work I now get off the box with fing purpose and when I pull, I pull right threw my old sticking point. My squat and dead are steadily rising again.

So maybe it does have some merit for a few people. Or it can help a lazy lifter like myself learn to blast through old sticking points.

Hahah I saw all this stuff on facebook.

I never got anything from speed work, personally. Speed work being at that standard 40% 1RM mark… but then again, I’m not sure how this applies to lifters using bench shirts, squat suits, etc.

Speed work did wonders for my squat and zero for my bench and pull. The latter two have always responded better to what people would call RE work. And, speaking of RE work, some of the things people are mentioning as benefits of speed work (form practice, lifting while fatigued) can also be achieved with RE work.

As a raw lifter, I have not received much benefit from speedwork. My case study was 4 months of dynamic squat and bench press. My lifts stagnated or suffered. Granted, other variables could have played into this mix.

What I have incorporated that has helped greatly is 1) Paused work, and 2) back off sets

  1. works on starting strength without a stretch reflex

  2. is similar to speed work in that I will do a few sets of doubles and triples with the sets of doubles being 10% lower than my top set, and the triples 10% less than that figure.