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Learning how to manipulate the pace of your reps
can drastically affect your gains

Goals: Strength, Size & Shape
Bodypart: Chest

Slow and steady wins the race. This fable-inspired mantra may hold true for the tortoise and the hare but in the weight room, "slow and steady" is only part of the story. While most people favor slower, deliberate reps - about two seconds on the positive, two seconds on the negative - there is a place in your routine for faster, more explosive reps as well as reps where the weight slows to a snail's pace.

Think about your typical set of bench presses. You select one weight, unrack the bar and let the weight descend to your chest - one, two - then press it back up to full extension - one, two. Working at this pace, each full rep takes roughly four seconds, making for a 40-second set if you're performing 10 reps. These "normal" paced reps are great for muscle growth, but what types of gains can be had with even slower reps? What about faster ones?

Slow reps - and we are talking much slower - can help you train your muscles in a way that you rarely do. By taking 7-10 seconds on both the positive and negative parts of the rep with a lighter load - 50-70% of your 1RM - you can better tap into your slow-twitch, endurance-geared muscle fibers. But during each rep, as within a set using lighter weights, as your slow-twitch muscle fibers fatigue, your fast-twitch muscle fibers are called into play to help move the weight. The resulting burn can bring great detail to working muscles.

Training explosively, as you do in plyometrics, helps you to focus on your growth-prone fast-twitch muscle fibers. How fast is fast? A second or less. An example would be a jump squat where you descend into the bottom portion of the rep, then explode up so that your feet leave the floor at the top. Ideal with bodyweight exercises, but easily translated into weight room loads of 50-70% of your 1RM, fast reps help you build size, strength and power. Faster-rep sets also place a high demand on your lungs toward the end of a set as your body burns through its explosive energy stores and starts relying more heavily on oxygen.

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To get the most out of what speed reps have to offer, try this chest routine that blends three different paces - fast, slow and normal. This will help to ensure that no muscle fiber is left untouched. The result? Pecs that can push more weight and that look better for the effort.

Exercise Sets/Reps
Dumbbell incline press
2 / 5 fast, 5 slow, 5 normal
Smith-machine bench press
2 / 5 fast, 5 slow, 5 normal
Push-up 2 / 5 fast, 5 slow, 5 normal
Fast = Less than one second on the positive
Slow = 7-10 seconds on the positive and the negative
Normal = 1-2 seconds on the positive and the negative

--Use this routine as an introduction to speed reps training and try adding one set and one rep each week until you are performing 5 sets of 8 reps at the three different speeds.
--For each set, use 50-70%, or a weight that you can perform about 20 reps with.