This topic has been hot for years.  Increasingly, however, trainers are looking to find out if there is a most efficient means of improving speed while also improving power.  In the past sport science seemed to focus only on the number of sets and reps to increase power and improve speed.

With advancements in sport science, we now know of much more effective methods at achieving these goals. Before diving into them, however, we must first break down the various types of contractions:

  • Concentric Contractions:
    Occur when a muscle is under tension and actually shortens.  Examples include when pressing a barbell off of your chest during a bench press.
  • Isometric Contractions:
    When a muscle is under tension, but there is no change in the length of muscle.  Examples here include holding a barbell at the chest or holding it once extended.
  • Eccentric Contractions:
    When a muscle is under tension, but the muscle fibers actually lengthen. Examples here include lowering the barbell to the chest or what many people call, “Doing negatives”

Many exercises involve various types of contractions and sport science has studied these in detail while examining which ones are best to create improvements in specific sports. It is largely believed that Olympic lifts are a gold standard in improving athletic performance. Although this is true to a certain point, they are not the most effective when it comes to improving both power and speed and this is mainly due to the fact that Olympic lifts are best performed by engaging in slow eccentric movements as opposed to fast ones.

The key in this case, is in finding the best exercises that include fast eccentric movements like barbell squat jumps and plyometric depth jumps. For those athletes that are significantly heavy and/or play sports that place stress on their knees, they can hold dumbbells and release them as they jump onto the platform that they are jumping onto.

Is there An Ideal Time To perform Fast Eccentric Movements?

In short, yes. Fact eccentric movements are always best performed when the nervous system is rested and ensuring that  they are performed before slow eccentric contractions. 

An example sequence could be:

START with Power Snatches

MOVE ON TO box jumps  with dumbbells

END WITH deadlifts

The bottom line is that there are many ways of improving athletic performance and that a balanced approach is the best means of ensuring that you can improve strength, speed, and power. 







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