What is the best rep speed for strength?

When it comes to building strength, there's often a debate about the ideal rep speed. Should you perform your reps slowly and methodically, or should you aim for explosive, fast reps? In the world of velocity based training, faster is usually better for building strength, but there is a catch - fast doesn't necessarily mean fast readings in the Metric app, it's more about contextual velocity.

Fast Reps vs. Slow Reps - Contextual Velocity is Key

The truth is, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of rep speed. The optimal speed for strength development depends on various factors, such as the specific exercise, your training goals, and your individual characteristics. However, one key concept to understand is contextual velocity.

Contextual velocity refers to the speed at which you perform your reps relative to your current strength level and the specific exercise you're doing. For example, a "fast" rep on a heavy deadlift might be significantly slower than a "fast" rep on a lighter bicep curl.

What is a Good Velocity to be Lifting At?

Rather than focusing on a specific rep speed, it's more important to track your velocity over time. Velocity is a great indicator of progress in strength and power, even if your top weight isn't changing.

There's no perfect velocity to always be hitting. Instead, aim to consistently beat your own previous velocities. The easiest way to track this is by looking at your "compared to 6-week average" number. Your velocity should trend faster over the weeks, but it may dip lower on some days due to fatigue or low intent.

Barbell velocity tracking with the Metric VBT app

One powerful tool for tracking velocity is the Metric VBT app. This app uses your smartphone's camera to track the barbell's movement and calculate velocity during your lifts. By monitoring your velocity over time, you can gain valuable insights into your progress and make data-driven adjustments to your training.

When to Do Slow Reps for Building Strength

Slow reps can be beneficial for building strength, particularly when you're focusing on technical proficiency and muscle activation. When you perform reps slowly, you have more time under tension, which can lead to greater muscle fiber recruitment and adaptations.

Slow reps are especially useful when learning a new movement pattern or working on weak points in your technique. By slowing down the rep speed, you can better focus on proper form and develop a strong mind-muscle connection.

Are Faster Reps Better for Building Strength?

While slow reps have their place - especially on the eccentric side of things, faster reps can also be highly effective for building strength. Explosive, fast reps help develop power, which is the ability to generate force quickly. Power is a critical component of athletic performance and can carry over to improved strength.

When performing fast reps, it's crucial to maintain proper form and technique. Focus on generating speed through the concentric (lifting) phase of the movement while controlling the eccentric (lowering) phase to avoid injury.

What is the Best Rep Speed for Strength?

For most barbell exercises, you probably want to be doing your working set reps below 0.65m/s. This velocity range is generally considered the "strength zone" and is associated with greater strength adaptations.

However, there are exceptions to the 0.65m/s rule. Conventional deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, and barbell bench press tend to move slower at all weights, regardless of strength levels, This is due to the nature of the movements and the short range of motion.

For these exercises, chasing a speed below 0.55m/s is more likely the tipping point for the strength zone.

There is no perfect barbell speed for building strength, instead aim for progress

The optimal speed depends on various factors, and it's essential to consider contextual velocity in your training. By tracking your velocity over time using a bar speed tracking app like Metric VBT, you can monitor your progress, make data-driven adjustments, and push your strength gains to new levels.

Ultimately, the best approach is to incorporate a variety of rep speeds and focus on consistently improving your own contextual velocities on all exercises and all weights over time.

Metric VBT for teams & coaches

Leverage the benefits of velocity tracking with your clients and athletes without the price tag. Easy to use, improve outcomes, increase retention, and save precious coaching time.