Timed Sets for Speed-Strength

Speed-strength seems pretty self-explanatory, as a muscular quality.  You want a good mix of speed and strength, but the emphasis should be a little more on speed than strength.  Strength-speed, which is a different quality, also is a mix of speed and strength, but with a little more focus o strength.  They’re both an expression of power, but with a focus more on strength, or speed, depending on the one you’re focusing on.

Strength-speed uses heavier weight and focuses on recruiting motor units.  Speed-strength focuses on speed of movement and is closer to the actual speed of the sport.

In the end, both are important, but as you’re getting closer to competition you want to get closer to the speed of the sport- i.e. more speed than strength.

As you can see in the chart above, loads for speed-strength development are kept under 60% of 1RM.  If you’re familiar with the application of percentages, you know that below 60% is pretty light.  The focus should always be on the speed at which you’re moving the load.  The quality of every single rep is important.  You usually don’t get very tired from this type of work, and you might even feel like it does nothing.

Granted, it doesn’t create a lot of localized muscle fatigue.  That’s why I always tell my athletes when doing this type of work that they shouldn’t expect a lot of fatigue, and that they should focus on QUALITY; every single rep should be done as explosive as possible.

One good way to develop speed-strength is to use timed sets.  This is a very simple training method to use.  You simply program sets for as specified duration, rather than a certain number of reps.  This might look like this:

A) DB Chest Press                 4 x 5sec      Rest: 90sec

In this example, you would basically perform as many reps as you can in 6 seconds.  Simple enough, right?

The thing that I really like about this method is that it challenges you to do as many reps as possible every time.  If you’re even just a little competitive or have any will to get better (ehh…who doesn’t?) you’ll wanna try to do one more rep every time.  Doing this will ensure that you’re moving the bar at the greatest possible speed.

As a warning, I wouldn’t advise that to anyone that is not an advanced lifter.  There are obvious risks with this method.  First of all, moving a load at a high speed is simply not safe for someone who doesn’t master the major lifts perfectly.  Also, one might be tempted to “botch” reps simply to be able to get more reps in (compromise range of motion, use sub-optimal form, etc).  When using this method you MUST understand that in no circumstances it is OK to sacrifice form for more reps.  If you’re smart you’ll get it.  It is not supposed to turn into Crossfit.

  You know what I’m talking about….

The other thing I like about this method is that it can also be used to progress into speed-strength-endurance.  You simply need to modify the prescribed time for the set to make it closer to the duration of your activity.  For a hockey player you would prescribe 15 seconds per set and try to perform as many reps as possible.

Timed sets can have other purposes as well.  It’s all a matter of how you incorporate it into your programs.

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