Are Slow Reps More Effective Than Fast Explosive Reps? Find Out Here
When it comes to maximizing muscle gains, many people often wonder if slow reps or fast explosive reps are the way to go. Both have their advantages and drawbacks, but one style of lifting may be more effective than the other depending on your goals.
In this blog post, we’ll unpack why this is so important and explore the pros and cons of both techniques so that you can make an informed decision on what’s right for you.
By gaining a better understanding of how each technique works, you will ultimately become a smarter gym-goer with improved physical results.
Are Slow Reps More Effective Than Fast Explosive Reps?
Slow reps are great for increasing time under tension, improving control over the muscle and movement pattern, and helping to prevent injury from incorrect form. This is especially beneficial for beginners who need more focus on form and technique or lifters who feel weak during a lift. Slow-eccentrics (the lowering phase of the exercise) can also be useful for targeting muscle fibres and helping to make the most of accessory work. On the other hand, fast reps allow you to lift heavier weights and are great for improving power, speed, and explosiveness. This style is particularly useful for Olympic lifting movements such as cleans and snatches or when performing explosive exercises like box jumps or sprints. The type of reps you should use largely depends on the exercise and your goals. If your main goal is to increase muscle size, slow reps may be more beneficial for maximizing time under tension and improving form than fast explosive reps. On the other hand, if your goal is to increase power or speed, then faster reps are more appropriate.
Knowing what tempo to lift weights can be confusing, so let’s look more in-depth to see what works best…
Why does speed matter?
The speed at which you lift weights affects the muscles and CNS differently. Slower reps require more control, helping to recruit muscle fibres and increasing time under tension for hypertrophy (muscle growth). Faster reps on the other hand are great for improving power and explosiveness by allowing you to lift heavier weights with a faster tempo.
In addition to this, the speed of lift can also affect muscle recruitment. Slow reps recruit more slow-twitch muscle fibres whereas fast explosive reps are great for activating more fast-twitch muscle fibres. Both styles of lifting should be included in your training program as they both have their benefits and drawbacks.
Slow and fast twitch muscles
There are two types of muscle fibres: slow-twitch and fast-twitch. Slow twitch muscles are used for endurance activities such as jogging or swimming whereas fast twitch muscles help to produce quick, powerful movements like sprinting or jumping.
Slow reps are great for targeting the slow-twitch muscle fibres, helping to increase time under tension and improve form. This is beneficial for endurance-based exercises such as long-distance running or cycling. On the other hand, fast explosive reps are great for targeting fast twitch muscle fibres and improving power and speed for activities like sprints and Olympic lifts.
Slow twitch muscle fibres are activated when you lift weights in a slow, controlled manner. This type of fibre is more resistant to fatigue and great for improving endurance. Fast-twitch fibres on the other hand respond better to explosive movements like sprints or jumps as they help to increase power output and speed.
Slower reps increase time under tension
Time under tension is the amount of time that your muscles are being worked during a given exercise. Higher amounts of time under tension lead to greater muscle growth over time. Slower reps increase the amount of time that your muscles are working and can help to improve control over the movement pattern, making it easier for you to hit those deeper muscles.
Fast reps on the other hand are great for producing explosive power and speed, however, there is less time under tension. If your main goal is to increase muscle size then slow reps may be a better option than fast explosive reps as they can help to maximise the amount of time your muscles are working.
Slower reps improve control
Slower reps can help to improve control over the movement pattern, allowing you to focus on isolating those deep muscles and making sure your form is correct. This can reduce the risk of injury and help to make the most of accessory work.
Slow-rep training reduces momentum and forces the muscle to do more of the actual work, leading to greater gains in strength and muscle size.
You have to remember that slow doesn’t always mean better if you have sloppy form. Make sure you focus on maintaining good form throughout all of your reps, regardless of the speed.
Fast explosive reps are great for increasing power output but can often lead to sloppy form as they rely more on momentum than actual muscle activation. If your goal is to increase power then fast reps are the way to go, however, if you’re looking for improved control and form then slower reps may be a better option.
Slow reps good for beginner
Slow reps are great for beginners as they help to improve control and form, allowing you to hit those deeper muscles. You will see beginners time and time again attempt to lift weights without any control and form which can lead to injury.
Slow reps also help to gradually increase strength and muscle over time, meaning beginners don’t need to worry about breaking themselves down with heavy weights at the start of their fitness journey.
Slow reps but lighter weights are a great starting point for any beginner and are highly recommended, as they will give them the opportunity to learn good form and technique before they progress onto more complex movements like Olympic lifts or power cleans.
Slow reps if you are Feeling weak
If you’re feeling weak or fatigued then it might be a good idea to switch over to slow reps. Slow reps are great for targeting those slow-twitch muscle fibres which are more resistant to fatigue and can help you get through your workout when you don’t have the energy or strength to lift heavy weights.
Slow reps can also help to improve form, allowing you to hit those deeper muscles and get the most out of your workout.
If you aren’t feeling like working out but decide to anyway, a slower more controlled workout might be just the thing you need to get through. As pushing yourself to attempt a high-intensity workout when you don’t have the energy and strength could lead to injury.
Related: Why am I getting weaker at the gym?
The eccentric phase of the lift is where the muscle lengthens under tension. This is the lowering part of the lift, where you are “letting go” of the weight. Slowing down the eccentric phase can help to increase time under tension and allow you to target those deep muscles.
Slow-eccentrics also help to reduce momentum, forcing the muscle to do more of the actual work which leads to greater gains in strength and muscle size. If you focus on performing the eccentric phase slowly and with control, you can get the most out of your workout.
Slow eccentrics are great for building strength as they put more stress on the muscles, forcing them to work harder.
Accessory work is an important part of any training program. It helps to build up weak areas and correct muscular imbalances. Slower reps may be a better option for accessory work as they force you to focus on form and control, allowing you to target those deep muscles more effectively.
When performing a biceps curl, slowing down the isometric contraction phase can help to stimulate deeper muscles to gain more. By sustainably holding the weight longer, you are inducing higher tension in your muscle which will lead to greater results.
Many miss out on this part of the workout, thinking that faster reps will get them results faster but this is not always true. Slower reps can be just as effective and are great for developing control and increasing time under tension.
Fast reps and heavier weights
Fast reps are great for explosive power and allow you to lift heavier weights. This is great for those of us who have a powerlifting or weightlifting background, as the focus is on moving heavy weights quickly.
This is true especially for Olympic lifters and powerlifters, who need to be able to lift very heavy loads quickly and with perfect form. Fast reps are great for developing speed and power.
For example, if you are trying to perform a power clean, the focus should be on moving the weight as quickly and explosively as possible with perfect form.
This type of training is also beneficial if your goal is to increase muscle mass as it allows you to lift heavier weights with less fatigue. This type of training is usually more intense and requires more focus, as you will have to move the weight faster.
The faster you can move a given weight, the more power you have and the heavier you can lift. This is beneficial for those of us who want to increase strength and power, as it allows you to challenge yourself at a higher level.
Fast for explosive power
Fast-twitch muscle fibres produce the greatest muscle force (i.e., strength) and have the highest potential for growth. Working these muscles at a fast pace helps to stimulate them and encourages growth. Fast-twitch muscle fibres also help with power production as they allow you to move quickly from one movement to another.
Explosive exercises such as box jumps, burpees, jump squats and sprints are great for developing power and speed. Performing these exercises at a fast pace encourages the muscles to produce more force, allowing you to develop greater power and strength.
All professional athletes train by focusing on both strength and power. Explosive drills are great for developing speed, agility and coordination.
They need those fast-twitch muscles to fire rapidly and explosively for fast reactions and movements.
Related: Why do I only feel stronger in the gym on some days?
Both speeds beneficial
Both slow and fast reps have their place in any training program. It depends on the type of exercise you are doing and your goal.
For example, if you want to increase strength, slow reps with heavy weights can help as they allow you to stay in control and focus on form. If your goal is power or speed, then fast reps with lighter weights are better.
It is important to remember that both speeds are beneficial and should be included in your training program. Different exercises require different techniques and it is important to find the right balance for you. By focusing on a variety of speeds and rep ranges, you will be able to reap the most benefits from your workouts.
If you are looking to lift heavy weights, then powerlifters provide the best example. However, if you want more explosive strength with lighter weights, Olympic lifters will demonstrate the correct form for that purpose. Heavy lifting (less than 6 reps) is typically done slower in order to maximize its effectiveness while heavier-ish lifts can be executed quickly and still produce desired results.
Depends on exercise
It is important to remember that the speed of your reps depends on the exercise you are doing. If you are focusing on compound movements such as squats, deadlifts and presses then a slower rep speed with heavier weights will be more beneficial for strength gains.
If you’re performing an Olympic lift such as a clean or snatch, then a faster rep speed will be more beneficial for power and explosiveness.
It all boils down to your objectives. For bodybuilders, slow and deliberate reps are ideal…for athletes, however, the focus should be on developing fast twitch muscle fibres which lead to explosive power output.
However, as you should have already figured out, a mixture of both explosive and slow reps is the ideal solution for anyone looking to get the most bang for their buck. Performing the concentric phase of the lift faster with a slower eccentric phase will help to maximise muscle tension and increase time under tension.
Slow isometric contractions are also important to ensure that all the muscles of your body are stimulated adequately and evenly. By varying your rep speed you can target different muscle fibres, improve muscular control and stability, and reduce the risk of injury.
It really does depend on the exercise and your goals. Are slow reps more effective than fast explosive reps? Not necessarily! Both can be beneficial depending on what you are trying to achieve. It is important to mix up both types of rep speeds in order to gain maximum benefit from your workouts. Keep experimenting and find what works best for you!
Do you think slow reps are more effective than fast explosive reps and have these tips helped? Let us know in the comments below.