Speed training. Dynamic effort work. Dynamic training. However you choose to refer to it, are you doing it correctly?

Many fail when they choose to try this type of training because they are not doing it correctly. Many have read that speed work should be done for 8x3, typically used for the bench. For me, I have a 475 raw bench. I use 265-315 for my 8x3. As seen below in Prilepin’s Chart, for percentages between 55-65% of your one rep max, the optimum number of reps is 24, reps per set are 3, and the total number of reps is 18-30. Simply put, at 55-65% a lifter should do between 6-10 sets of 3 with the optimum number being 8 sets.

prilepin's chart

Okay, that’s the easy part. So where do so many lifters go wrong?

1. Bar Speed

It is simple physics.

Force = Mass x Acceleration

If I have a 500-pound bench and it takes me four seconds to complete that max lift then it should take me two seconds to complete a lift using 250 pounds to have the same applied force. Too often we see lifters not pushing with force. They push on 250 pounds like it is 250 pounds, not 500. Each and every rep you should be trying to push the bar harder and faster. If you move the bar faster it means you are generating more force which is our primary goal which means you are getting stronger. As you are doing your speed work and you are trying to push the bar harder and faster, you are triggering a neurological response for better muscular control, working to better utilize the muscle you already have. You can’t improve if you are just going through the motions and calling it "speed work" because you are going by some chart that tells you a rep scheme at a certain percentage.

2. Training Speed

What is this? It’s the rest time between sets. We all have heard talk about tonnage lifted. So yes, if you want to improve your bench you need to increase your tonnage lifted. But that’s not where the issue is. Lifters want to train using dynamic effort, but they want to post selfies to their Facebook page, text their girlfriend between sets, or video tape their training. This is all good if you don’t give a shit about actually getting stronger or being the best. But when you aren’t getting stronger, it isn’t because of the program. If I use 295 for 8 sets of 3 reps, the tonnage lifted is 7080 pounds. If I do a set every 20 seconds, it will take approximately 184 secs to complete all 8 sets. That comes out to be 38.5 pounds/second. Compare that to taking the time to fumble with your phone for whatever reason in between sets and your rest is 60 seconds. Your work density drops to 14 pounds/second. Work density has an effect on lactic acid levels, general physical preparedness, as well as mental fortitude.  The higher your work density, the more muscle you will build, the better shape you will be in, and the stronger mentally you will be to push yourself through fatigue.

RECENT: Squat and Deadlift Coaching Lessons from the XPC Training Cycle

3. Form

Especially with beginner and intermediate lifters where form may be an issue, dynamic work can be very useful. The use of lighter weight gives you the ability to work on form issues that you can’t accomplish when straining under max weights. And that is where the key to this is. If the lifter is pushing on the bar but not focused on form and bar position then the form issues will be more of a factor under heavy weights. This is where the work density becomes important. Using 55-65% of your max should be very easy to move. But when you do 8x3 and if you keep at a fast pace, as you get closer to the end, fatigue sets in and this is where breakdowns in form becomes evident. Through verbal cues from coaches or training partners, the lifter can focus more on correcting the form breakdowns. Also, the lifter and those around the lifter can determine why the breakdown occurs. Is it conditioning? Weak triceps? Weak shoulders? Weak upper back?

Here is a video of a speed bench session. Pay attention to how quickly Travis and I trade sets. We don't rest between sets. As soon as the other person goes, we're up again.

I recently had a conversation with Dave about aggressive nature and speed. The more explosive lifters had that killer attitude, the kill or be killed mentality. When doing speed work, to get the most out of it, you have to go into kill mode. Explode into every rep as if it is trying to kill you!