Why you need E-Lifts in your training program
Phil Campbell explains the mechanics of E-Lifting and why E-Lifts are essential to your strength-training program.
If you have been in the gym during the past few years, you have heard these strength training strategies tossed around; light weight / high reps and heavy weight / low repetitions. The latest strength training strategy is Slow Reps, which refers to a slow-moving weight lifting tempo. Think about doing a standard barbell curl in super-slow motion, and that is what Slow Reps look like.
I have been in the gym for 38 years, I have seen fitness fads, and gimmicks come and go. Moreover, I have even seen some training gimmicks reinvented under different names, as if they were new revolutionary discoveries. New training techniques can be positive, particularly if they evolve from an established and proven system of training.
Plyometrics is a good example of the positive evolution of training methods
Plyometrics take different forms, but these exercises are closely related to callisthenics that were used by coaches and drill sergeants in the 1940's. Then some Russian engineers took callisthenics, applied some basic science for sports specific training, and evolved this form of exercise to a new level. Today we call these exercises plyometrics. Coaches use plyometrics worldwide to improve athletic performance by developing fast-twitch muscle fibre.
The evolution of plyometrics teaches us that it is important to challenge training methods and improve them when possible. On the positive side, the Slow Reps method reinforces the need to isolate muscle groups during strength training. Since Arthur Jones and Dr. Ellington Dardin hit the training scene in the 70s with their versions of high-intensity training (HIT), the principle of isolation has been one of the three key concepts in my strength-training programs.
Isolation means to train one muscle group by eliminating other groups that attempt to jump in and assist the targeted muscle group once those muscles get fatigued. This allows the muscle group to get more work, and the targeted muscles adapt to this training method by becoming bigger and stronger.
Isolation is an important training strategy and the Slow Reps method clearly helps to isolate targeted muscle groups. That is positive, but Slow Reps can be limiting because muscles adapt. You cannot be around an exercise physiologist very long without hearing the word "adaptation," because that is what muscles do. When muscles are trained, they adapt. Training slow develops slow-twitch muscle fibre, but it is necessary to train fast to reach fast-twitch fibre.
Slow repetitions, as well as the traditional lifting tempo of up on two and down on four work slow muscle fibres. Again, that is positive because slow-twitch fibre is close to half of your muscle fibre, but that leaves you with the other half of your muscle fibre decreasing in size and strength. Now, if you plan living life in slow motion, or play a sport where being slow is positive, then you may not want to add E-lifts to your training program. However, if you want to work all of your muscle fibre, then just try E-lifts one time, and you will know that this method is the real deal.
Why you need to work all muscle fibre types
There can be swings in muscle fibre composition, but we all have three types of muscle fibre that need to be trained, (Muscle, Genes, and Athletic Performance, September 2000, Scientific American, Jesper). The fast-twitch muscle actually has two types of fibre -- fast and super-fast. The fast muscle (what the researchers call IIa) moves 5 times faster than the slow muscle, and the super-fast (called IIx or llb) moves 10 times faster than the slow muscle fibre.
Sprinters, who train fast, have higher percentages of the super-fast (IIx). Endurance trained individuals, who train slow, have more slow muscle fibre (type I). While we are born with slightly different muscle composition, the point is; super-fast muscle can be developed, if it is trained correctly. Moreover, E-Lifts do the job. Since we live life in-motion at varying rates of speed, and most sports movements are dynamic (if not ballistic), E-Lifts, therefore, offers a more functional strength development method for sports applications and life in general.
E-Lifts for Professional Athletes and Older Adults
Many new studies show explosive lifting to be more effective than traditional lifting:
Professional athletes use explosives types of lifting because Olympic lifts are proven to yield better results in power than traditional powerlifting (bench press, squat, and deadlift). Researchers show that 88% of US professional football coaches use Olympic lifting in their training and 94% use plyometric drills. (Strength and conditioning practices of National Football League strength and conditioning coaches, 2001 Feb, J Strength Cond Res, Ebben W).
The reason so many professional teams use explosive techniques in their strength training programs is simple, superior results and a complete body of research showing that E-Lifting yields better results in performance. Researchers report:
Results suggest that Olympic lifting can provide a significant advantage over powerlifting in vertical jump performance changes, (Comparison of Olympic vs. traditional powerlifting training programs in football players, 2004 Feb, J Strength Cond Res. Hoffman JR).
E-Lifts are clearly superior for athletes, but what about the rest of us?
E-Lifts again outperform other training methods. In a major new study, researchers show that older adults respond better to rapid-rate-of-force movements, and this type of training can be performed safely even at older ages;
Progressive resistance training that incorporates rapid rate-of-force development movements may be safely undertaken in healthy older adults and results in significant gains in muscle strength, muscle power, and physical performance. Such improvements could prolong functional independence and improve the quality of life. (Improved physical performance in older adults undertaking a short-term program of high-velocity resistance training. Gerontology. 2005 Mar-Apr;51(2):108-15, Henwood, TR).
A new, landmark study shows that explosive lifting is the most successful training strategy for older adults:
Therefore, using heavy loads during explosive resistance training may be the most effective strategy to achieve simultaneous improvements in muscle strength, power, and endurance in older adults. (Optimal load for increasing muscle power during explosive resistance training in older adults, J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2005 May;60(5):638-47, De Vos, NJ ).
We are not talking about using lightweight and moving through a set with many quick up-and-down (fast) repetitions. We are talking about using heavy weight with an explosion during the movements away from the centre of the body. There is a big difference in performing repetitions quickly as opposed to explosively.
E-Lifts is short for the explosive technique and is an attempt to take the best from the world of Olympic Lifting -- Clean & Jerk, Snatch -- and the best from traditional lifting techniques used by bodybuilders and fitness trainers. Simply adding an explosive movement on all push and press exercises will accomplish the fast-fibre training goal, which means you are working more muscle fibre than with slow movements. That is why E-Lifting yields better results. Train fast to get fast, train slow and you are only using the slow muscle fibre.
Exercises performed as a push or a press type of exercise is connected to muscle groups loaded with fast-twitch fibre. In addition, these muscle groups require a fast, explosive tempo when pushing the resistance away from the body in order to reach the fast fibre. Examples of exercises would be bench press or any chest press type of machine, leg press, shoulder press, and even calf raises qualify as a push type of exercise.
E-Lifting involves a brief, 1- to 2-second pause at the bottom of a lifting exercise. This will fully stretch the muscle and make the Slow Reps fans feel more comfortable with the technique. Then push the resistance with explosive thrust away from the body.
The down movement prior to the explosive thrust should be similar to the traditional weightlifting tempo of a 2 to 4-second pace. For safety, there are two key points. There should be a warm-up set performed using the traditional lifting tempo of up on two, down on four. In addition, you should fully extend the repetition all the way out on the push away from the body, but stop the explosive pushing at the 90% point to avoid injury to the elbows or knees. You do not stop at 90%, just stop pushing at 90% and fully extend.
Since 1970, I have worked with thousands of athletes and individuals in my speed camps and personal training. When it comes to strength training, I have experimented with every new method that makes sense. I have found no other training method that comes close to getting these results from strength training. Not just for athletes preparing for the pro or college combines, but adults of all ages get superior results with E-Lifts.
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About the Author
Phil Campbell is a personal trainer and a master athlete holding several USA Track and Field Master titles. He has a black belt in Isshinryu Karate and has competed and won titles in martial arts and weightlifting competitions. His Sprint 8 cardio program is featured in award-winning Vision Fitness treadmills and exercise bikes.
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