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Explosive Repetitions and Variable Resistance


BodybuildingPro.com Articles Database Articles by Writer Articles Written by CriticalBench.com Explosive Repetitions and Variable Resistance



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 research.

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 it (2).

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 training principles.....

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 involved."

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%, respectively." (6)

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 research study that was completed recently at Cornell University that was less than two months in length.

The BNS Bands Cornell University Study -

Summary 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

BNS Free-Weight Variable Resistance System

Does free-weight variable resistance meet the criteria? -

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 action velocities."

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.

I 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.

Conclusion -

The linear resistance provided by the BNS 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.

The BNS Bands Free-Weight Variable Resistance System meets the criteria for explosive strength training as defined by the experts. Moreover, training with the BNS Bands System will result in a superior training adaptation and with a higher level of specificity then that of traditional standard free-weight training.

References -

(1) Anderson, 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, 68-69;74.

(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. 15(3):7-14. 1993.

(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. 11:1279-1286. 1994.

(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 pp 151-152

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