We all have different goals, but when we hit the gym many of us lift the same way. This might be for good reason, since the basic exercises like the bench press are great for the results most athletes seek. The basic gym lifts are good for developing general strength, which we all need, but it’s possible that we could change our perceptions of these exercises to more closely align with our goals.
In a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, researchers examined the bench press exercise to find out exactly what effects it had on an athlete doing one of four various protocols. The methods they chose were as follows:
- Strength endurance: Done with slow reps at 55% of the athlete’s max.
- Fast force endurance: Lifting the same 55% of max, but explosively. Think “dynamic effort.”
- Hypertrophy: Lifting at 70% of max, with reps shorter in length than in strength endurance, but longer than the other methods.
- Maximum strength: Lifting heavier than all the others at 85% of max, and performed explosively just like the fast force.
The first variable researchers looked at was power. Despite the name of the sport, most people know that the highest power isn’t achieved with the heaviest weights in powerlifting. It is actually the fast force endurance method that demonstrated the greatest peak power output, followed closely by the maximum strength method. The other two protocols fell way behind. Although training for power might be a very specific endeavor, if you can perform the lifts you wish to focus on using a fast and light method, you will see a greater expression of total power.
Amount of Work
The total amount of work performed followed a similar trend, but with hypertrophy and strength endurance methods being much closer to the max effort method. The fast force was still far and away above the others.
Time Under Tension
There was real change once looking at the time under tension. Max was the lowest, with fast force and hypertrophy roughly matching each other in the middle, and strength endurance taking the lead. This makes sense, as developing endurance requires a lot of exposure to the tension-causing stimulus.
For VO2max, the fast force method was the only one different from the others, being substantially higher. This might prove to be a good way for endurance athletes to train, as these athletes may want to develop strength while still working towards their main goal of improving cardio. Similarly, but with different results, the total amount of oxygen needed was correlated to both the time under tension and to a lesser extent correlated inversely with the load. Endurance protocols take the oxygen crown.
Lactic Acid and EPOC
In some areas there was little or no difference. All the protocols produced lactic acid about the same, except maximum effort, which produced less than all others. There was no difference in post exercise oxygen consumption for any of them.
Looking at these results should show you that there might be a better protocol to suit your needs. It’s possible to use the gym lifts for more than just developing strength, but rather for endurance, and even cardio.
1. Sebastian Buitrago, et. al., “Mechanical load and physiological responses of four different resistance training methods in bench press exercise,” Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27:4 (2013)
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