elitefts™ Sunday Edition

Dynamic training is a huge part of a successful strength training program, and it is also a very misunderstood part. You really can't argue with the equation Force=mass X acceleration, which basically means that in order to meet your true potential, you need to train speed and strength. This is a sound principle that will give you great results if done correctly. However, the problem I keep seeing is that it is rarely done correctly.

The principles of dynamic training are really pretty simple: you're trying to increase your speed or explosion. You're training your body to be able to generate maximal force with sub-maximal weights. This, in turn, will allow you to generate maximal force in a split second. In terms of powerlifting, it will allow you to get the weight moving faster because all of your muscles will fire faster and all at once. This will then allow you to keep generating more force throughout the lift. Basically, all of this breaks down into lifting heavier weights. In terms of all other sports (for which dynamic training is also great), it means that you will throw farther, push or hit people harder, be faster, and overall just perform better.

The main principle of dynamic training is accommodating resistance.This is extremely essential in dynamic training with weights. Basically, it means that there will be increasing resistance throughout the concentric phase of a movement, and the resistance increases in the area of the movement where the body structurally becomes stronger. The resistance also decreases throughout the eccentric phase. In a bench press, for example, there will be more resistance at the top of the movement, and it will decrease as you lower the bar. The resistance will then increase as you push it back up.  In other words, there will be less resistance at the bottom of the movement (where the body is structurally the weakest) and more resistance at the top of the movement (where the body is the strongest). This, in turn, does two major things: 1) It makes the muscle have to work all-out through the whole range of motion. Take a standing barbell curl, for example: from the beginning of the movement to two thirds of the way into the movement, it is very difficult to bring the bar up and towards you. However, the last third of the movement is very easy. With accommodating resistance, the whole movement will be difficult and the muscle will have to work just as hard through every part of the movement. 2) The second and maybe most important part of accommodating resistance is that you will not have to decelerate through the movement. Instead, you will be able to push as fast as possible throughout the whole movement. For example, if you are benching with 50 percent of your max, you will have to slow down somewhere around the two thirds point because you have already generated enough force or momentum for the bar to finish the lift without any more strength.  If you did not let off the pressure, the bar would try to keep going, forcing you to throw it out of your hands or hold on to the bar as it would pull your back off the bench. This is not ideal for training and can cause needless injuries. With accommodating resistance, you will be able to push as fast as possible through the whole range of motion without backing off any speed, while simultaneously stressing the muscle through the whole range of motion.

Weight training with accommodating resistance can be achieved one of two ways. One way is with chains that are usually 5/8 inches thick and 20 pounds. They are set up so that most of the weight is felt on the bar at the top of the movement and deload onto the ground during the eccentric phase of the movement. Then, as the concentric phase starts, you will gradually pick up almost the full weight of the chains. Key points to setting up chains is to remember to set up the big 5/8-inch chain so that it is almost the length of the movement. This means that at the bottom of the movement almost all of the chain is on the ground and at the top of the movement almost all of the chain weight is felt on the bar. In order to do this, you cannot just drape the big chain from the bar (unless you are doing a short movement like floor presses or deadlifts). You must use a smaller chain looped around the bar and thread the big chain through that one. Another point to remember is that the chains tend to sway a lot. Therefore, you must make sure that just one or two links are on the ground at the top of the movement to help minimize the sway. It may take awhile the first time you set the chains up to get the right set-up, but that's okay. Also, I have always used carabiners or snap hooks to connect the heavy chain to the smaller chain instead of just draping the heavy through the small. It is more stable that way and easier to set up. I will also use strips of athletic tape around the links to mark my squat and bench set-up links. This way, the next time I use them, I do not have to spend time figuring my set-up. I just snap the carabiner to the link for the bench and get to work.

The second way to achieve accommodating resistance in weight training is with bands. I have to admit that I can be pretty lazy, so I find this to be the best and easiest way because they are much faster and easier to set up. I also feel like they give better results than the chains. There are a couple key things of which you need to be aware when using bands. For instance, always make sure that there is resistance at the bottom of the lift. You do not want to go from zero tension to suddenly having tension partway through the lift. It is terrible for your technique, along with being hard on your joints and muscles. You want a steady increase in tension throughout the lift. This isn't so much of a problem with the bench because of how the mini bands are hooked up, but I see this a lot when box squatting. About two inches before people hit the box, the bands will go completely slack. Then, on the first two inches of the concentric phase, there is no tension. Therefore, when you first set up the bands for a lift, do the movement with just the empty bar (which you should be doing for your warm up anyway). Watch closely at the bottom of the lift to make sure that there is still tension on the bands. If there isn't any, you need to choke the band around the bar or widen the base of how you have the bands set up. Another key factor when using bands concerns the angle of the bands. For example, if you place the bands to0 far in front of you on the squat, you will tend to squat backwards and pull away from the bands. However, if you have them behind you, you will squat forward and be pulling away from the bands. All this will do is mess up your technique and screw with you when you use straight weight. What you need to make sure to do is to set up the bands so that they will be in a straight line in the correct bar path. In the squat this means that the band should be set up directly in front of your ankle so that your bar path will be straight up and down. In the bench the bands should be set up in a straight line from where the bar touches your upper abs, or whatever is the proper touching point for you style of benching. This way the band is in a straight line in the proper bar path. In addition to offering accommodating resistance, I also think bands do a great job of teaching you how to control the movements, as well as helping to work stabilizer muscles due to the way they produce tension.

In terms of powerlifting, the rep/set schemes are pretty simple. In the box squat, you will always do reps of two, while the sets can go from six to 12 depending on how advanced you are and for what you are training. It is most important to stick to the two reps, both of which are as explosive as possible.  In the box squat, you will take a moment to re-set up and get your second breath. In the bench press, you will do reps of three and sets from six to 12 again. In the bench, it is important to do the reps of three as explosively as possible, with no pause on the chest/abs. These will also be done in one breath. Always remember to be as explosive as you possibly can.

The weight percentages used in accommodating dynamic training have large variations. There are standard percentages out there that you can use, but keep in mind that this is all very individual. The standard percents are a great place to start, but the key to dynamic training is speed. The speed of the bar is much more important than the amount of weight on the bar. It's about increasing the amount of force you can generate with sub-maximal weights. When I start someone on dynamic training I will start with a very low percentage and watch his/her speed. I will then gradually work him/her up in weight while looking for his/her speed to slow. Once I see the speed start to drop off, this is the weight at which I will keep him/her. If the speed is slow even with light weight, then I will actually keep him/her at a medium to slightly lower weight until the speed increases. Some people genetically have stronger or more fast twitch muscle fibers and will be fast with 50+ percent of there max. On the other hand, some people will have weak or fewer fast twitch muscle fibers and will not be able to generate much speed even light weights. I feel that these people benefit more from lighter percentages of their max. So, when I am going through this set-up with people, I am really only concerned with their speed, not the weight on the bar. I am only interested in the weight so that I can give them a good training weight with which to start.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is using too high of a percentage of their max and having little to no speed. I am an 800(plus)-pound competitive bench presser, and I do my dynamic work with 205 to 245 pounds depending on how I feel that day. I have squatted official high 1,100-pound squats, and I do my dynamic box squats with 465 to 545 pounds depending on the day. I quite often see 300-pound bench pressers doing so called "speed work" with 225 pounds, and the bar moves like standard sets. Just a few weeks ago, I was talking to a guy who told me that he was going to do his speed pulls and I just had to watch. Each rep took close to four or five seconds, and that is a long, long way from speed pulls. Yet, he was convinced that he was training dynamic work. One of my partners is a 700(plus)-pound bencher, but he has trouble with his bench speed, so he prefers to us 185 to 205 pounds to keep is force up. I cannot stress enough that dynamic training is about bar speed, not weight. I understand it's a huge hit to the ego to use light weight, but always focus on the big bump your ego will get when you go to the meet and slam some huge weights.

This leaves the problem of how a lifter is supposed to know if his or her speed is where it should be...

The best way is to spend some time with a knowledgeable lifter/coach that can set you up with good weights and let you experience what the right speed feels like. If you do not have that option, there are some tips that could help. When dynamic bench pressing, you do three consecutive reps (no stop). Those three reps should take the same amount of time as one max effort rep at about 95 percent. In the squat, you want the two reps to be equivalent to one rep at a 95-percent max squat. Keep in mind that this is the eccentric and concentric phase of both squats, and you're not counting the set-up time in between them. With my speed bench, I like to find a weight that is just above the point were I can bench fast enough to pull my back off the bench. This means that I am benching as fast as possible while still keeping good technique. Once the speed of the bar pulls your back off the bench, you will no longer be in a good position for the next two presses. You can use this principle in the squat if you're using chains, but with bands that are at your strength level, it's very difficult to squat fast enough to get the bar off your back even with no weight. As I said, there are some basic percentages you can use to get started. For me and my team, we have  learned that our dynamic box squats are really good at about 50 percent of our max effort box squat in briefs. In the bench, our weights are close to 40 or 45 percent of our raw maxes. However, keep in mind that we do not train our full raw bench as hard because we are shirted lifters. I have always felt that as you advance with dynamic training, you will be able to feel your lifts from day to day and adjust the weights to get maximal speed for that day.

Dynamic training is an essential part of any great strength program for powerlifting, and especially sport specific strength training. If you do not do dynamic effort in your training now, it is a great way to break through current barriers and will help you in achieving your long-term goals. Just remember, it's about speed, not necessarily the weight on the bar. You are working to become more explosive and to be able to generate more force.

For information on purchasing chains and recommended amounts of chains, look at the elitefts™ Chains Complete Set.

If interested in purchasing bands, elitefts™ has a vast array of band offerings.

For more information about band tensions and recommended ranges, check out the article, Long Band Calibrations.

Give it a try and see the great results you can achieve with dynamic training using bands and chains.