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Lifting Fast vs. Lifting Heavy

A debate that seems to be never-ending amongst strength coaches, track coaches and general performance specialists is whether speed athletes should lift heavy in the gym, or whether they should lift a lighter weight, but faster.

The two sides of the argument, in a summary, are –

1. the people who believe, that if you lift heavy loads frequently (90-95% one rep max), and build up your maximal strength, then when you are running or competing in your sport and you don’t have a high amount of resistance (only bodyweight), you will be much faster, as you are used to moving against a much higher load.

2. On the other hand, you have the group of people that believe you must train fast in the weight room – moving less weight, but the weight is moved faster. This means you have to learn to contract muscle fibers faster, which more effectively carries over to speed activities.

My personal opinion is that they are both great strategies.

So why, then, do we need to implement just one or the other? Why can’t we gain the benefits from using both? If we lift heavy loads to build maximal strength (which will increase our potential to build power), and then use lighter loads (lifted at a faster speed) to increase power, or explosiveness, wouldn’t we garner the benefits of both methods?

This has been the philosophy used (to much success) by one of the world’s premier powerlifting groups, Westside Barbell. The call them the Max-Effort Method and the Dynamic-Effort Method, and they don’t believe them to be mutually exclusive.

Nor do I.

James Garland

James is an educator, frequent ranter, teller of terrible jokes, lover of all-day breakfasts, and the Education Manager for The Fitness Playground. Feel free to tell him whether you loved, or hated, this article below.

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