Faster concentric movement = more progression with bench press

Experienced strength athletes can increase their maximal weight for bench presses by ten percent in just a couple of weeks by raising the bar faster than normal – and lowering it more slowly than normal. Researchers at the University of Rome write about this in the International Journal of Sports Medicine.

The researchers believe that lifting weights at higher speed gives muscle growth extra impetus. They also suspect that strength athletes tend to train at the speed they find easiest – which is probably not the speed that will produce the best results.

The researchers performed experiments with 20 subjects in their forties, all of whom had been doing weight training for 18-19 years. The researchers divided their subjects into 2 groups. The subjects in one group continued to train as they were used to doing, moving the weights at their own preferred speed for the bench press [SPS]. This was the control group.

The experimental group did bench presses at a fixed speed. The subjects pushed the weights up at 80-100 percent of their maximal speed [FPS].

The figure below shows that the upward, concentric movement took the experimental group 0.8 seconds to perform. This movement took the control group 1.3 seconds. The downward, eccentric, movement took 2 seconds in the experimental group and 1.5 seconds in the control group.


Both groups trained twice a week using weights that were 55 percent of the weight at which they could just manage 1 rep [1RM]. Between sets they rested for two minutes. For the experimental group bench press training ended when the athletes could only lift at 80 percent of their maximal speed; the control group continued training until the point of exhaustion.

After three weeks the researchers observed that the maximal strength of the control group subjects had remained constant, but that of the subjects in the experimental group had increased by 10.2 percent. The maximal speed had also increased by more in the experimental group than in the control group.


The researchers suspect that speeding up the concentric movement resulted in the muscle tissue receiving stronger electrical impulses from the nervous system. And as a result, more muscle fibers contracted, and therefore developed, than otherwise would be the case.

“This study shows that the speed execution of an exercise leads to a specific muscle recruitment during the whole period”, the researchers conclude. “This information is useful as a guideline to work out an optimum training as well as training protocols particularly useful to resistance trained subjects.”

Effect of different pushing speeds on bench press.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect on muscular strength after a 3-week training with the bench-press at a fixed pushing of 80-100% maximal speed (FPS) and self-selected pushing speed (SPS). 20 resistance-trained subjects were divided at random in 2 groups differing only regarding the pushing speed: in the FPS group (n=10) it was equal to 80-100% of the maximal speed while in the SPS group (n=10) the pushing speed was self-selected. Both groups were trained twice a week for 3 weeks with a load equal to 85% of 1RM and monitored with the encoder. Before and after the training we measured pushing speed and maximum load. Significant differences between and within the 2 groups were pointed out using a 2-way ANOVA for repeated measures. After 3 weeks a significant improvement was shown especially in the FPS group: the maximum load improved by 10.20% and the maximal speed by 2.22%, while in the SPS group the effect was <1%. This study shows that a high velocity training is required to increase the muscle strength further in subjects with a long training experience and this is possible by measuring the individual performance speed for each load.

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York.

PMID: 22318559 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]