Speed Principle

To a big extent, this popular method is contradictive to the usual training methodologies, that recommend us to mostly use an even and regular pace throughout the whole motion of the given exercise. This, of course, allows us to keep constant tension on the working musculature.

The advantages to this type of training were talked about in the previous articles. Besides the fact there are numerous advantages for the full ROM/constant tension method, there is still the limiting factor of negative adaptation. That, of course, can easily bring us to a state of plateau in physical development.

There are a couple of options when it comes to De-adaptation, but a natural, in a sense, alternative, is the ‘Speed method’. Doing the exercise with the maximum possible speed for the given weight, builds up the power of the individual.

Of course, 95-100% of 1RM can not be lifted explosively and quickly, and complete muscle activation is not possible with 20-30% of 1RM. However, explosive work can successfully be achieved within the range of optimal intensity, that is, 75~85% of 1RM.

Even if there isn’t a noticeable increase in the speed of the movement, the effort you put in to lift it faster, leads to a better muscle mobilization and perfect synergistic involvement.

It would be wrong to think that slow and fast exercise execution, activate the slow and fast twitching muscle fibers, respectively. No matter the speed of the lift within a set, we only activate the fast muscle fibers. The slow fibers are activated under aerobic circumstances (extensive, 200+ seconds duration), and that type of training has no muscle building qualities.

Here, we can note that when we talk about the speed method, we don’t take speed as our end goal. If it was that way, a bodybuilding workout would be close to the workout of a boxer, where lightning fast strikes are required.

We all know that the extremely fast movements with little to no weight carry a high injury risk.

In reality, our goal with the speed method is to achieve powerful contractions, that are as close to the maximum power as possible.

Shown strength x Distance of the movement
Power     = ______________________________________
Time needed for completion

According to experimental analysis of the Bulgarian National sports academy, the biggest power for most of the bodybuilding-strength related exercises is shown at around 2/3 of the maximum strength capabilities.

This is explained with the fact, that as the weights go up to 60-70%, the shown muscle strength compensates the decreasing speed of exercise execution. After those levels of intensity, such compensation is not possible, and even more, when reaching 100% intensity, completion time is increased by 500-700%.

In other words, it’s not possible to compensate for the significant decrease in speed when you are going above 2/3 of your 1RM. As a result, we have a decrease in power.

Exceptions for this rule are the dynamic-strength exercises that weightlifters use: Snatch, clean and jerk, etc.

These differences find their explanation with the fact that this type of exercises can not be completed with slow or moderate speed, but rather require explosive strength at 90-100% of 1RM.

Due to the uneven nature of the explosive loads, and the lack of constant tension during a speed set, partial recovery is achieved during the set. This classifies the speed method as a De-adaptation and a recovery tool.

As a whole, we can say that the speed method should not be constantly used, even though it has a positive, De-adapting side. The nature of it’s low levels of energy depletion, does not allow our muscles to reach the so-called ‘energetic hunger’, that is a stimulus for hypertrophy.

From this, we can conclude that the speed method can not be applied all the time in our bodybuilding preparation. Its inclusion must be episodic, in the right moments (When there are signs of muscle exhaustion).

The possible advantages this method offers can be looked for in two directions:

  1. The used weights are moderate, the reps are limited- Failure is not reached. With this option, the energy exhaustion is not significant.
  2. The speed repetitions recover and tone the activated musculature during the set itself.

How To Apply This Method

As a conclusion, we can recommend the following options, when it comes to the application of this method:

  1. Usual exercises, done in 3-4 sets of 3-6 reps, using 75~85% of 1RM, with maximum possible power speed of movement.
  2. Usual exercises, done in 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps using 60-70% of 1RM, with maximum possible speed of movement.
  3. Dynamic-strength exercises, used by weightlifters in 5-6 sets of 1-2 reps, using 90~100% of 1RM.

Such methodic of training can successfully diversify your bodybuilding preparation, and be used as an additional type of strength training with other sport disciplines.


This untypical bodybuilding method is linked to the principle of progressive overload, only through the achievement of maximum power- Something unusual for the specialized bodybuilding methods.

The same argument (power) also determines this method’s De-adapting capabilities.

Even though the speed method does not have a hypertrophy effect upon the musculature, the high accent upon the white B fibers points it towards the methods used in the off-season.

Even more, it’s stress nature doesn’t successfully co-respond to the priorities during a cutting phase.