Explosive Repetitions and Variable Resistance
By Mike Berry, President/Owner
of Power-Up USA, Inc.
Explosive Reps and Variable
Resistance - Past and current research and logical validity
lend support to much anecdotal evidence indicating that
training with explosive repetitions or explosive repetitions
and variable resistance can increase squatting strength, bench
pressing strength, and vertical jump power more effectively
then traditional or standard free-weight training alone. We'll
begin this article by looking at some past hypotheses and
The CAT is out of the bag -
In 1982 Dr. Hatfield (7) wrote about the concept
of compensatory acceleration training or CAT. Hatfield claimed
the following benefits for CAT: greater efficiency, fewer
injuries and greater explosive power. Hatfield defined
compensatory acceleration as "pushing as hard as possible
throughout the movement" , i.e. a high action velocity.
Interestingly, years later a study by Jones et al. (8)
supported Hatfield's contentions by finding that CAT was
superior to traditional standard weight training for
developing upper body strength and power.
However, it is generally agreed that a major
shortcoming of both CAT and traditional standard weight
training is the large negative acceleration phase that
typically occurs (10,11), especially when lighter weights are
used. For example, Elliot et al. (5) revealed that during 1-RM
bench press, 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 (5). Some years
before the compensatory acceleration article was written by
Hatfield, Dr. Gideon B. Ariel had recognized the problem with
the deceleration phase and had designed and developed his
Dynamic Variable Resistance exercise machine to compensate for
Pedal to the heavy metal -
"Repetitions should be performed as fast as
possible with maximal mental concentration for recruitment of
the maximum firing levels of muscle fibers as required in
maximal human performance." — Gideon B. Ariel, PhD
The above quote from Dr. Ariel (1) was in a
twenty page booklet that was written almost thirty years ago
introducing Universal's new Dynamic Variable Resistance (D.V.R.) weight machine. The name of the booklet was
"Understanding the Scientific Basis behind our Universal
Centurion". The booklet and subsequent research study done by
Ariel are of particular interest to me because of my patented
free-weight variable resistance system that I have been
working on since 1996.
The section I pulled the quote from was entitled
"Resistance Exercises and Ballistic Contraction". In this
section Ariel laid out his two central variable resistance
1. The resistance exercise should be performed
using multiple joint motion.
2. The resistance exercise should be performed
with explosive repetitions.
The D.V.R. machine used accommodating leverages,
(i.e. lever arm and fulcrum) in order to increase the
resistance in a linear manner over the range of motion of the
exercise movement. Unlike cam or chain and sprocket variable
resistance machines, explosive repetitions could be performed
with this machine. Ariel claimed that by incorporating his two
training principles with the DVR machine that... "The total
muscular performance exceeds 85 percent of maximum muscular
involvement throughout the range of motion permitting maximum
muscular training for the particular muscular system
It was very clear in this publication that
Universal and Ariel, knew, understood and appreciated the
importance of explosive strength for athletes and centered
their scientific presentation and marketing efforts around
that need. Many variable resistance machines have come and
gone since, but to the best of my knowledge, this was the only
one that advocated "explosive repetitions" and "variable
resistance" as a superior way to train.
Look what I found ...wow! -
Recently, I was surprised to discover that just
like Hatfield had his hypothesis proven by later research, Dr.
Ariel did too - except in this case the later research was
Ariel's own. While paging through my "Designing Resistance
Training Programs" text book looking for something else, I
just happened to stumbled across this paragraph that gave a
brief summary of his finding.
"Comparisons of strength increases as a
result of DCER (dynamic constant external resistance, e.g.
free-weights) and variable resistance training are
unequivocal. After 20 weeks of training, variable resistance
training demonstrated a clear superiority over DCER training
in a 1-RM free-weight bench (Ariel 1977). DCER and variable
resistance training produced gains of 14% and 29.5%,
The title of this specific article was "Barbell
vs. Dynamic Variable Resistance" (4). I enlisted the help of a
UW-LaCrosse student acquaintance of mine, and although he
could not find this particular published article, he was able
to find another earlier published version entitled "Variable
Resistance vs. Standard Resistance Training" (3). Below, is a
brief summary of that earlier published version of Ariel's
research study article.
The D.V.R research study -
Summary of findings: Twenty university
athletes with at least two years of weight training experience
took part in a 20-week study to determine which method was
better - Variable Resistance Training or Standard Resistance
Training. Results: The Variable Resistance Training group
increased their free-weight Bench Press 74.5 lbs. (252.5 lbs.
to 327.0 lbs. - a 29.5% increase), while the Standard
Resistance Training group increased their free-weight Bench
Press only 36 lbs. (259.5 lbs. to 285.5 lbs.- a 14% increase).
A total of 100 workouts were performed during the 20-week period.
(Read the entire study here: Variable Resistance Training
Vs. Standard Resistance Training)
That right! It's not a typo. Variable Resistance
Training group had an increase of 74.5 lbs. to only 36.0 lbs.
for the Standard Resistance Training group. For lack of a
better expression, I found the results absolutely amazing. The
numbers speak for themselves. The combination of explosive
repetitions performed with variable resistance is undeniable
superior to traditional standard resistance training.
The above results could be termed a chronic
training adaptation because they took place over a five
month period. What about short-term or acute training adaptations? I
consider short-term adaptations a litmus test for training
methods. Do you get results in the short-term! If you don't
- don't expect results of any magnitude over the long-term. We have to go no further then a soon to be published
study that was completed recently at Cornell University that
was less than two months in length.
BNS Bands Cornell University Study -
of findings: Corey Anderson,
MS, CSCS (1) conducted a 7-week long research study at Cornell University to
determine if combined elastic and free-weight resistance (CR) training
provided different strength and power adaptations than free-weight (FW)
training alone. The initial subjects were 22 male and 22 female university
athletes with at least 2 years of resistance training experience. The
CR experimental group improved significantly more than the FW control group on their squat, bench press and
vertical jump power. The CR
groups squat improved by 36.2 lbs and their bench press by 14.7
lbs compared to only 15.0 lbs and 7.3 lbs for the FW
group. Vertical jump power improved by 68.55 watts for the CR group
and only 23.66 watts for the FW group. A total of 10 lower body workouts
and 10 upper body workouts were performed during the 7-week period. See
Abstract here: Medicine
& Science in Sports & Exercise:
Volume 37(5) Supplement May
2005 p S186
Does free-weight variable resistance meet the
Explosive repetitions or maximal voluntary
contractions performed with a free-weight variable resistance
system like the BNS
Bands System clearly meets the criteria
for an "explosive strength training exercise" as defined by
Stone (9) in his Position Statement and Scmidtbleicher (8) in
Strength and Power in Sport......
Stone - "Exercises used to develop explosive
strength are defined as those in which the initial rate of
concentric force production is maximal or near maximal and is
maintained throughout the range of motion of the exercise."
Scmidtbleicher - "Explosive strength can be
defined as the neuromuscular system's ability to generate high
Just as Ariel and Hatfield have stated, the
individual should make a willful effort to push the weights as
hard and as fast as possible throughout the range of motion on
every repetition. Because of the additional resistance
provided by the bands as they stretch in a linear
fashion, the action velocity, muscular contraction speed and
the resulting force production can be kept at a high level
throughout the range of motion. Without the variable
resistance provided by the bands, the deceleration
phase of squats and benches etc. would adversely impact the
effectiveness of those exercises as explosive strength
exercises - as defined by Stone et al.
S.A.I.D. so! -
The principle of Specific
Adaptation to Imposed
Demands logically leads to the conclusion that as adaptation
occurs as a result of using free-weight variable resistance
methods, there will be an increase in one's ability to
accelerate a mass (Newton’s Second Law: F = M x A). This is
due to the rapidly increasing force that must be applied by
the lifter during training with this method and can be
compared to the force production required to explosively
accelerate any mass under normal conditions. Force is directly
proportional to acceleration. The greater the force production
through the range of motion - the faster the mass is
accelerated. As an example, think of the importance of this
when a track athlete is shot-putting
When you train with free-weight variable
resistance, peak power occurs near the end of the range of
motion where the force that is produced is at it's highest -
and not near the middle where some studies I have seen show it
occurring. As a result an accentuated strength/power training
adaptation will take place. Accentuation can be defined as
increasing muscular strength at the position at which maximal
efforts are developed during the main sport event, principally
near the extreme points of angular motion (12). As an example,
think of the importance of this when a football lineman
executes his "punch" when pass blocking.
The linear resistance provided by the
Bands Free-Weight Variable Resistance System is identical in concept to the linear resistance of
Ariel's D.V.R apparatus, but with the advantage of using
free-weights instead of a machine. In addition, the BNS
Bands System has been proven
to be more effective then traditional standard free-weight
training in a research study performed at Cornell University.
Bands Free-Weight Variable Resistance System meets the criteria for explosive strength
training as defined by the experts. Moreover, training with
will result in a superior training adaptation and with a
higher level of specificity then that of traditional standard
C.E., The Effects of Combined Elastic - Free Weight Resistance Training in Experienced
Athletes, Master of Science Thesis, 2004.
(1) Ariel, G., Principles of Ballistic Motion In
Resistance Exercises, Understanding the Scientific Bases
behind our Universal Centurion, pp 16-17, 1974.
(2) Ariel, G., Variable Resistance vs. Standard
Resistance Training, Scholastic Coach 46(5), Dec 1976,
(3) Ariel, G.1977 Barbell vs. Dynamic Variable
Resistance. U.S. Sports Association News 1:7.
(4) Elliott, B.C.,
G.J. Wilson. A Biomechanical
Analysis of the Sticking Region in the Bench Press. Med.
Sci.Sports. Exerc. 21:450-462. 1989.
(5) Fleck, S. J.,
W.J. Kraemer, Designing
Resistance Training Programs. Wilmoth, ed. Champaign, IL:
Human Kinetics. 1987. pp. 40.
(6) Hatfield, F.C. Getting the Most From Your
Training Reps. NSCA Journal. 4(5):28-29. 1982.
(7) Jones,K., G. Hunter, G.
Fleisig, R. Escamilla, L. Lemak. The Effects of Compensatory Acceleration
on Upper Body Strength and Power. Abstract. J. Strength Cond.
Res. 10(4):287. 1996.
(7) Scmidtbleicher, D. Training for Power
Events. In: Strength and Power in Sport. P.V. Komi, ed.
Oxford: Blackwell Science Ltd. 1992. pp.381.
(8) Stone, M.H. Position Statement. Literature
review: Explosive Exercises and Training. NSCA Journal.
(9) Wilson, G.J.,
R.U. Newton, A.J. Murphy, B.J.
Humphries. The Optimal Training Load for the Development of
Dynamic Athletic Performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc.
(10) Young, W.B.,
G.E. Bilby. The Effect of
Voluntary Effort to Influence Speed of Contraction on
Strength, Muscular Power, and Hypertrophy Development. J.
Strength Cond. Res. 7(3):172-178. 1993.
(11) Zatsiorsky, V.M. Science and Practice of
Strength Training. Mischakoff, ed. Champaign, IL: Human. 1995
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