How do you know if you are really trying? The key factor for effective training.

In this fascinating article, you will discover how to determine if you are training efficiently and how to use speed in your exercise routines to maximize your results in the gym.

How do I know if I am training efficiently? Training speed.

Surely you have heard different opinions regarding the speed of execution on the phases of a movement (eccentric or concentric) and even surely you have seen different personalities in your gym training with different speeds and wonder which of them is training correctly. Well, in this article I will explain in detail the importance of speed and how to use it to our advantage.

What are the phases of a repetition?

Well, let’s start by identifying the two phases that make up the movements we perform in the gym, let’s think about the traditional movement of a barbell biceps curl, the concentric phase that, explained in a very simple way, is that phase where we defeat the weight ( for example when you raise the bar towards your face) while the eccentric phase occurs where the weight overcomes us (for example when lowering the bar towards your hip, when extending your elbows) and finally we could talk about a third point which would be the isometric phase; where our muscle is neither in a complete stretch, nor in a complete shortening, where returning to our previous example, our biceps curl would be held halfway, forming an angle of almost 75 degrees.

What do I need to gain muscle mass?

As mentioned by different authors, for example; Helms & Schoenfeld the training volume (which is the total work we do per mesocycle/micro cycle) generally expressed by number of weekly sets per muscle group and the other important concept…   muscle failure(Defining this as the inability to generate one more repetition within a lift or movement due to the fatigue that has been generated locally or generally (Schoenfeld & Grgic, 2019) they will be the foundations that we will need to prepare our muscle mass. The above means that we must quantify the series of our muscle groups by establishing a minimum/maximum recoverable threshold and that these series must also be effective. Simply put, our series must require effort, because if we train further away from failure, the worse quality our training will have, what we are looking for in a training focused on gaining muscle mass is to recruit the greatest number of motor units and not only that we also need to fatigue them.

How relevant is speed in my training?

Perfect, then once we have understood these two phases of movement, that we control the training volume, that we must work close to failure, the next thing is to apply the speed to our training and no, you don’t need a stopwatch, it’s much simpler than it seems, I’ll explain how; When you start a lift or exercise, the concentric phase has a certain speed and if when you reach the last or penultimate repetition you continue to have the same speed as at the beginning, you are probably training at a very low effort and you are not recruiting all the muscle fibers of that muscle. On the other hand, if in the last 3 repetitions there is a significant loss of speed in the concentric phase and it is more difficult for us to complete those repetitions (for example, raising the bar or bringing the weight closer to us), it means that this series is being highly effective and that we are obtaining the maximum benefit.


So… Do I always have to reach failure in each series?

The most recent studies suggest that although muscle failure is important, it is not necessary to fail in every lift or set, it is best to stay as close to it as possible. This means that if we leave at least 2-3 repetitions in reserve before failing, our training can be of great quality. This is where speed can be our thermometer that can help us self-evaluate and measure our loads and repetitions based on really trying.

In summary:

  • Control the weekly training volume , remember that between 5 and 15 sets per week per muscle group can be enough to obtain great gains, recover and avoid any risk of injury, more is not better, the quality is better.
  • Use speed to your advantage; Your intention will always be to move the bar, dumbbells or pulleys at the maximum possible speed in the concentric phase regardless of whether the speed is lost as we advance in the repetitions/series and control the eccentric. The key here is that at the end of each effective series the speed is lower than the initial one, so that it becomes increasingly more difficult to move the weight. Another important point is that you take into account that no significant differences have been found in maintaining prolonged concentric/eccentric phases, so it is not necessary to train super slowly and spend more than 10 seconds in both phases.
  • Another indicator that can work in your favor is the perceived exertion scale or RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion, Bor Scale) where we can scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being zero effort and 10 being effort. At most, our intention will be to train at an RPE 8 to 9 in each series of our training if our main objective is hypertrophy.
  • Pay attention! We have two types of attentional focuses ; an external one where we are going to focus on global movement (for example moving the bar from point A to point B) and the internal attention focus , where we are going to concentrate on feeling each repetition locally, this last point will be of utmost importance to generate maximum muscle mass gains, as tip; Yes, it is still difficult for you to generate this type of mind-muscle connection. I recommend placing your hands or the tips of your fingers on the target muscles to work, for example; If you have a hard time feeling your quadriceps in a leg extension, place your hands while you execute your series and bring all your attention to feeling the work distributed in both legs, this way your work will be even more efficient.

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