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Strength and stretch-shortening cycle

My question is what is more beneficial regarding the development of the stretch-shortening cycle, maximal strength (85%+ of 1RM) or explosive strength (30-60% of 1RM)?

My thoughts are this:

  1. The stretch-shortening cycle is the rapid INITAIL force attained eccentric to concentric contraction. It is the display of the elastic properties of the muscle in some form of movement. For all intense purposes I will limit the stretching-shortening time frame to < 0.15 seconds.
  2. The use of maximal resistence training (>85% of 1RM) is most beneficial in the intra-muscular coordination aspect of training.
  3. The use of explosive strength training (studies show anywhere btwn 30-60% of 1RM that power output is optimal) is beneficial in regards to the AMOUNT of force produced of the entire movement.

Obviously it’s a great advantage to have a greater number of motor units activated but it is also an advantage to have explosive power. My first thoughts on this and a couple of other strength consultants was that one should go the route of explosive strength. However, upon further examination of this I seem to think that maximal strength would be more conducive to the DEVELOPMENT of the STRETCH-SHORTENING CYCLE. Either maximal or explosive strength training would be used a supplementary exercises. If any of the t-mag readers have insight to this little mystery then I would be appreciative.-


Duke, it sounds like you know more about the SSC than me (I have done some limited reading on it), and I came to the conclusion that if you want big muscles, you need to diffuse the SSC by either pausing at the bottom of the lift, or lifting with a 3 to 4 second eccentric phase (which is what I do). However, it has been shown that utilizing a slow cadence on the concentric phase has no advantage. So, in summary, for big muscles, you should lift with a 4 second eccentric and a somewhat explosive concentric. This is also what Athur Jones taught 30 years ago. The guy was a genius IMO.

I have had very good muscle growth using this method however some people have criticized me for being rather muscular but not being very strong. This is in contrast to when I used to lift explosively, weighing 30 lbs less but lifting 50% more than I do know.

I wouldn’t mind having large muscles and impressive strength and perhaps this could be accomplished by peroidization. In other words lift with a slow cadence for x months then switch to a explosive style. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. I’m not sure from your post if your goal is primarily strength, large muscles or both.

If people are going to answer the question then people should reply to what I’m asking.

Question - what is more beneficial to the development of the stretch-shortening cycle, maximal strength (>85% of 1RM) or explosive strength (30-60% of 1RM)?

I will also add that I do realize that all of these types of strength are related to a degree but I just don’t want the answer of “why not do both?” Thanks again t-mag readers.

Good Question. Why not do both? I can think of no reason. Both have benefits/drawbacks. Personally when lifting maximal weights for the development of explosive strength I like the tempo of 21X0. That’s for lifts such as Squats, presses, Chins, etc. The throw in some Olympic type movements done explosively and your good to go.

hey duke, my thoughts:
obviously in order to increase maximal strength you would use maximal methods, but i think strictly as far as developing reversal strength (stretch-shortening) explosive methods are the way to go. maximal methods will allow you to increase the weight you’re training with so you can use greater weight when you do train explosively. so maximal methods are necessary in that regard, but again explosive training will decrease the transition time between eccentric and concentric portion of lift, increase the initial power of the concentric motion, increase the acceleration of your lifts, as well as increase the amount of weight lifted in more of a sport-specific (or just as quickly as possible kinda of way) time frame.

so i’m not saying “just do both.” i’m saying explosive is the better of the two as far as increasing reversal strength. i’m not an expert. these are just my thoughts. by the way, thanks for asking a question that wasn’t about quick-fix supplements, increasing arm size or the latest BB training/diet fad. this should be the stuff that we talk about here. anyway duke, i hope i was able to say somethinig of worth. if not just say so and i’ll try again.

i really think this is a good question and more people should at least think about it and attempt to reason out a conclusion one way or the other. especially since understanding basic principles such as this will yield results that the latest supplement or newest training/diet craze couldn’t ever hope to touch. too many people wonder “how?” without considering the “why?”. if you start with the “why?”'s, then most all of the “how?”'s tend to fall into place. people who train should educate themselves. there is really a science behind training and the training effect. zatsiorsky, verkoshansky, siff…

Duke, what are your goals? Powerlifting? BB? Sports? I’m going to hazard the guess that the SSC is best trained in the 50-60% range, at least intially. Obviously, it can be exploited in the higher intensities (ex: Doc Squat’s “dive bomb” singles) but the whole point of SSC is quick reversal, and this can’t be trained at max velocities with maximal weights. As said previously, I don’t see a real need for SSC training for BB ends. I know that the Westside philosophy for PL applications is to train for reversal on their speed (light) days. And I can’t really think of any sports in which you have to reverse a crazy load (maybe throwers “wind up” before their realease, I dunno. This is an interesting discussion.

Shit, why not do both?

What do you mean by “developing the SSC”? Do you mean shortening reversal time?

Most importantly, what are you training for?

No matter the question, if you don’t have a training goal (hypothetical or otherwise), there is no sport specificity to work with, which makes any answer pretty much useless unless you’re writing a term paper.

There are A LOT of factors around shortening the SSC. What you may not realize is that the main issue is not the SSC, but Rate of Force Development, or RFD (I’m all about acronyms).

RFD can be trained for using max effort, plyometrics, ballistics and reversable action (the last three are all very similar, but with highly individualized nuances).

If you’re a beginner, max effort can be used and your RFD will go up. If your max effort movements become to slow for your particular sports goal though, just working absolute strength isn’t enough. Sometimes, switching completely over to ballistics is the best move. Other times, you use both, ala Westside.

Finally, how do you plan on measuring that .15-second interval when you finally get it? If you have an inexpensive way to measure reversal speed down to the tenth of a second, DUDE, I wanna know how it’s done!


Duke, before I answer your question, I’ll say that I think you’re getting a little mixed up in the terminology. The stretch shortening cycle does in fact refer to the transition from the eccentric to concentric, but it is influenced by factors greatly outside the realm of 0.15 seconds. Elastic energy build-up occurs during the entire eccentric portion. The speed of the entire eccentric is just as important as the actual speed of transition. That being said, on to your question…

The "stretch shortening cycle" is specifically trained with the quickest transition possible. If your goal is simply to develop this transitional strength, then choose the load that allows the quickest, most powerful transition. (In your example 30-60% 1RM). BUT, and this is a BIG but, focussing primarily on the dynamic training of this one aspect of a lift will greatly reduce the training effects on the other portions of the lift. In other words, using 30-60% of your 1RM with hyper-fast movements may very well produce great adaptations in dynamic (directional changes) strength, but little will be accomplished in the way of neural or hypertrophy adaptation. This "stretch shortening cycle" training is often referred to as Plyometric Training, and in my opinion is best suited to methods of training outside the weight room, such as speed/jump drills for athletes, dynamic upper body movements with body weight, etc... The athletes that benefit most from this type of training are tennis, squash, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, and running position football players.

Okay, so my suggestion if you want to train the stretch shortening cycle, while still reaping some neural benefits is this. Go with your lower end weights (30-60% 1RM), but use the highest load in that continuum (60%). I might even go as high as 70%, depending on what your ultimate goals are. The higher, maximal weights are simply too heavy to allow a rapid transition. Read up on Louis Simmons' training methods, as this type of training is his forte, and he's very effective with it.

Your question is one that many researchers are very interested in also…There is some on going research here my school with regards to “ballistic” training, involving jump squats, bench throws, etc., on a smith machine. This type of ballistic training is good because you can exert maximal force throughout the movement (since you jump/throw the weight, etc.) This is important because in a traditional squat or bench, you have to slow the weight down at the top of the movement, and produce dynamic force throughout the ROM. The initial results (very early), would show that this would possibly be optimized at a level of approximately 25-30%(which has been found in other studies as well).

There is a second school of thought that would say that it is not the speed at which the contraction is achieved, but rather moving it through the intended ROM as quickly as possible, even though that speed may not be very fast. However, I don’t feel that this would be as conducive to your goals of improving the SSC. If you want to train to be more explosive, do more explosive movements (e.g. ballistic training, plyometrics, etc.)