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Speed Work in Powerlifting

How important is speed work for the big 3? Has anyone trained for years without doing speed work and then incorporated speed work and noticed a drastic rise or fall in their numbers? And is speed work more important for one of the big 3 lifts than the others? I’ve always thought that pause work would be better for the big lifts especially the bench and squat but I could be wrong.

Depends wut you mean exactly by speed work.


Or dis?

Dropping to relatively low percentages and moving the bar as fast as possible or moving the bar as fast as possible and attempting to accelerate thru the whole ROM with every rep of every set i.e. compensatory acceleration training.

I do the latter. Never done the former on advice of peeps who have tried.

Google “JTS Speed Work” should come up with so good info.

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Yes I was referring to CAT bench, squat and deads lol. Thanks for the info, I will read into it and try applying it

Careful not to trigger any fans of Westside lel.

Pause bench of various lengths from 0-4 seconds/count is good stuff. Specific therefore carrys over well to the competition lift.

Short/no pause trains the lifter to maximal utilize the stretch reflex. Long pause reduces the stretch reflex and longer pauses get rid of almost all of it. This makes the hardest part of the lift harder and this emphasis trains you to produce maximal/more force thru the sticking point of the lift. Use both in training for max benefits.

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Power Training

The term “Speed Works” that was coined by Westside is a misnomer. Speed Work involves employing loads of 10 - 40% of your 1 Repetition Max.

Power Training is the correct term. Power Training utilize loads of 48 - 62% of your 1 Repetition Max.

Yes, It Works

Essentially, Power is the grease that helps you slide through a sticking point.

Newton’s First Law, “A body in motion tend to stay in motion.”

Power Training is an effective training tool for all three of the Powerlifts.

Pause Work

There are various applications.

  1. Heavy Pauses in the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift builds strength out of the bottom part of the movement.

  2. Moderately Heavy Pauses followed by exploding up with the weight builds Power out of the bottom part of the movement.

  3. Speed Training Pauses followed by exploding up with the weight increase “Starting Strength” (Rate of Force Development) out of the bottom part of the movement.

Length of Pause

You need to pause the weight in the bottom part of the movement for at least 4 seconds. Doing so kills the Stretch Reflex which build Limit Strength out of the bottom and Rate of Force Development as a means of increasing Power and Speed out of the bottom of each movement.

Conjugate Training

This mean you combine different type of Strength Training into your Training Cycle.

Conjugate Training provide a synergistic effect. “The sum is greater than it’s parts.”

It is somewhat like adding 2 + 2 = 5.

Research and empirical data show that combining each type of Strength Training into your Training Cycle contributes to an increase in your overall Strength.

Westside Training Protocol

The foundation of it’s success is built on the combination of: Max Effort (Limit Strength), Speed/Power Training and Repetition Training (Hypertrophy).

Dr Michael Zourdos’ Research

Zourdos research supports the Westside Method…

Physiological Responses to Two Different Models of Daily Undulating Periodization in
Trained Powerlifters https://liftvault.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Daily-Undulating-Periodization-Research-Zourdos-et-al-2012-LiftVault.com_.pdf

The above is Zourdos 118 page dissertation that explain it in depth.

Kenny Croxdale


That’s a lot of pages for “Our findings suggested that both traditional and modified DUP models are effective for improving muscular strength following 6 weeks of training in collegiate powerlifting athletes. Further, the modified DUP model (HPS) may produce greater maximum strength gains in the bench press over a 6-week training period possibly due to an increased TV of exercise.”

Due to an increase in training volume… brb adding more volume to my program

Juggernaut Training Systems has a series of articles, “How I Built My Best ____ Ever.”

Big lifters talk about some special exercise or some special execution of a lift that helped them get a bigger Comp lift. You could check out;

How I Built My Best Deadlift Ever: CAT Deads
How I Built My Best Bench Ever: Dead Bench
A New Approach To Paused Benching

What comes up is Mike Tuchscherer’s article “Why Speed Work Doesn’t Work”. First of all, this was largely a marketing ploy to attract attention to himself and promote his coaching service, and that was not the only time he did that. Next, Mike T actually does use and program a form of speed work. Not quite the Westside style, but much more similar to how Josh Bryant uses a heavy top set (Mike uses singles) followed by multiple low rep/low RPE sets with a lighter weight. He has actually used several of Josh Bryant’s methods, such as isometrics (I saw the conversation of Facebook). And as for Westside, Mike has softened his stance against their methods after talking with people who have actually been there such as Blaine Sumner:

Add “Squatting Big” by Sam Byrd to the list, also on JTS. Most of his training was “speed work” with light weights and he set world records. But don’t forget that it doesn’t work…

“I personally use a very basic 5×5 program the majority of the time using weights about 60% of my training max (which is about 90% of limit max).”

Don’t waste time with light weights. If you want to train for explosive power, use singles with at least 70% (preferably more). Pause squats and pause benches. Most are not advanced enough to need the variety of bands and chains. Most can and will still grow and get stronger using straight weight.

If you have a sticking point in the bench towards lockout, start using a slingshot with heavier weight. If you stick 2-3" from the chest, start pausing sub max singles and pushing them as hard/fast as possible. Most raw lifters suck out of the hole in the squat so start pausing sub max singles and blowing them up as hard/fast as possible. DO NOT SLOW DOWN TOWARDS THE TOP! Blow it up fast all the way thru.

Alright, now some good stuff is bubbling up.

If you can just Light Weights, and get stronger, Just Do That!

If your into “heavy” lifting and “light” lifting, don’t waste the light work. Be strategic!

If you need more mass, do Repititions like West Side 4 Skinny Bastards. Or Louie’s illegal wide Bill Seno bench volume routine. Or the “classic” 3 x10 for mass.

If you’re squirrelly out of the hole, or off your chest, or around your knees, try pause work. Or spoto presses. Or something to build the stability you need.

If you need work on set up and execution, do 20 sets of 2-3 like Dave Tate recommended for beginning squatters. Emphasize first reps and tight execution.

If you need more power, try CAT or Speed Work or Lightning Deads. Or bench throws in the Smith machine.

If you can’t be bothered with this B.S. just do Heavy first and Lighter second, and you’ll automatically push the light stuff faster.

If you’re slender, and you train for speed, you’ll stay slender. If you bench loose and heave your shoulders and do lots of reps, you end up doing a bunch of reps with shit technique. Use light day to develop something good.

Power Output

Research has demonstratd that optimal Power Output is produced and developed with loads of 48 - 62% or 1 Repetition Max.

Anecdotal data (Westside) has demonstrate for decades that the 48 - 62% of 1 Repetition Max works.

While loads of 70% plus of 1 Repetition Max have a place in training, it is not as effective.

With that said, the exception to the rule is Olympic Movement in which the greatest Power Output is produced and developed with load of 70 - 80%.

Good Point

Almost anything and everything works for novice lifters.

However, the use of “Accommodation Resistance” (Band/Chain) works for all.

In any given exercise, only 1/3 of the movement overloads the muscles. The remaining 2/3 of the exercise underloads the muscle in the exercise.

As we know, overloading the muscle in an exercise ensure a greater number or muscle fiber are innervated, worked. The greater the number of muscle fiber your innervate and simulating, the greater the increases in strength and hypertrophy.

Thus, attaching band and/or chains ensure a greater overload of the muscles in an exercise.

2 - 3 Inch Sticking Point

The sticking point in virtually every “Ascending Strength Curve” is the first 2 - 3 inches.

Paused Repetitions

  1. Heavy Paused Heavy Reps: The foundation of Power and Speed are built on increasing Limit Strength off the chest in the Bench Press. Heavy Paused Repetition lay the foundation.

  2. Low to Moderate Paused Reps: Performing Paused Repetitions with Low to Moderate Loads in the Bench Press increase your Rate of Force Development, your learn to produce a greater amount of force quickly.

  3. Touch and Go Benching. The use of Low to Moderate Loads elicit and develop the Stretch Reflex. This method should be use in a training program at some point.

Compensatory Acceleration

This works. However, the issue with using low to moderate load is…

“…as much as 75% of a movement can be devoted to slowing the bar down.” (Flannagan, 2001). Elliot et al. (1989) revealed that during 1-RM bench presses, the bar decelerates for the final 24 % of the range of motion. At 81% of 1-RM, the bar deceleration occurs during the final 52% of the range of motion. The accompanying deceleration phases result in significantly decreased motor unit recruitment, velocity of movement, power production and compromises the effectiveness of the exercise." Source: Plyometric Bench Press Training for More Strength and Power

Resolving The Issue

The most effective method of ensuring Power Output is maintained and developed throughout the greatest range of the movement for Traditional Exercises (Squats, Bench Press, Deadlift, all "Ascending Strength Movements) is by attaching bands and/or chains.

Attaching bands and/or chains allows lifter to continue to accelerate the bar through a greater range of the movement without slowing down.

Kenny Croxdale

I’ve always said try to perform every rep as a “speed rep”. I use my warm ups as trying to lift them as fast as possible. That being said I don’t do any dedicated speed work days. I think it’s hard on the joints over time. Speed doesn’t mean sloppy though as you don’t want to be stupid with it and get injured.

Is that powerlifting research or Olympic research?

I can only speak on this concerning my experience. It’s been very effective for me.

None of the guys I train with use bands or chains for the main 3. Most are record holders using straight weight. It’s possible at some point there may be a good reason to use them or maybe in blocks of training from time to time, I’ve just never found them to be of much use.

Good info tho. Thanks.

When I’m slow speed work helps, as I get quicker heavier rep work helps. I’m naturally pretty quick so rep tends to be my go to but I cycle them.

Powerlifting Power Output

The training percentages that I listed are for the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift. The percentages are applicable to Traditional Strength Training Exercises.

“…loads in the range of 46–62% also allow for high power outputs.”

Source: The Load That Maximizes the Average Mechanical Power Output During Explosive
Bench Press Throws in Highly Trained Athletes, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2001, 15(1), 20–24

The above is one of many research articles that has determined these training percentages are the most effective for Power Training.

Westside Protocol has utilized and recommended loads of around 40 - 60% of 1 Repetition Max for decades; the anecdotal data.

Power Training provide some benefits for Powerlifting that Limit Strength doesn’t, and vise versa.

Why do you need to lift weights quickly, to get fast?

“…muscle fiber during high-velocity movements, neural drive is massively increased. Motor unit recruitment is full despite the light weight, and rate coding is many times higher than when we lift heavy weights.”

greater retention of type IIX fibers

Side Note: Fast Twitch Type IIa Muscle fiber are utilized for Limit Strength Movements. “Super Fast” Type IIb/x are employed for Power and Speed Movements.

The training modality will shift Type IIa to IIb/x and Type IIb/x to IIa.

Limits Strength Training only converts Type IIb/x to IIa. This shift produces more strength; Power and Speed decrease.

Thus, there is some truth to the adage, “Lifting weights will make you slow.”

Power and Speed Training along cause a shift of Type IIa to IIb/x. Power and Speed increase at the expense of a decrease in Limit Strength.

This take us back to…

Conjugate Training

Simply put, it is the combination of different typesf of Strength Training within the same program.

The end result is a well written and executed Conjugate Training program elicits a greater training effect.

increased activation (neural drive)

Side Note: Neural drive is the “Light Switch” for muscle activation.

“…high-velocity strength training increases primarily in the early phase of a contraction…in the first 50–100 milliseconds.”

Thus, you initiate greater Power in the bottom part of the movement.

increased activation levels of the opposing muscles

:“Training with light loads and fast speeds also reduces opposing muscle activation, which decreases resistance to the movement. Heavy load strength training tends to increase this resistance, …”

Side Note: The opposing muscle group is know as the Antagonist Muscle. An example in a Bench Press, the Lats and Biceps are the Antagonist Muscles to the Pecs and Triceps.

If the body perceives the force you are moving might hurt you, the Antagonist Muscles provide a “Braking Action”. It amount to driving with one foot and the gas and one on the brake.

Power and Speed Training allows you to reset you body’s force threshold; allowing you to produce greater force production without “Riding the brake”.

Olympic LIft Power Output

Peak power for the Olympic lifts typically occurs approximately 70-80% of 1 RM.

"Heavy RT could decrease power output over time unless accompanied by explosive movements**.[25] The inherent problem with traditional weight training is that the load is decelerated for a considerable proportion (24-40%) of the CON movement. This percentage increases to 52% when performing the lift with a lower percentage (81%) of 1 RM lifted

"Ballistic resistance exercise (explosive movements which enable acceleration throughout the full range of motion resulting in greater peak and average lifting velocities) has been shown to limit this problem".

Source: Program Design Recommendations for Increasing Muscular Power
Nicholas A. Ratamess, Ph.D.; Brent A. Alvar, Ph.D.; Tammy K. Evetoch, Ph.D., FACSM; Terry J. Housh, Ph.D., FACSM (Chair); W. Ben Kibler, M.D., FACSM; William J. Kraemer, Ph.D., FACSM; and N. Travis Triplett, Ph.

No Band/Chains or Power Training

You can get strong “Using Straight Weight”.

However, research and anecdotal data have demonstrate that some type of Conjugate Training Method provides a synergist effect.

Kenny Croxdale

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