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  • Britt Johnson

Should athletes lift slow or fast?

When it comes to strength training, athletes often face the dilemma: should they lift weights fast or slow? Both methods have their place and unique benefits. Let's break down the pros and cons of each approach and explore how explosiveness plays a role.

Lifting Fast:


1. Increases Power and Explosiveness:

- Lifting weights quickly, especially with lower resistance, enhances the body's ability to generate force rapidly. This is crucial for sports requiring sudden bursts of speed and power, like sprinting, jumping, and throwing.

2. Improves Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers:

- Fast lifting predominantly targets fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are responsible for short, powerful movements. Training these fibers can improve overall athletic performance.

3. Enhances Neuromuscular Coordination:

- Moving weights quickly trains the nervous system to fire muscles more efficiently and in better coordination, which is beneficial for dynamic sports.


1. Higher Risk of Injury:

- Fast lifting can increase the risk of injury if not performed with proper form and control. The rapid movements can place undue stress on joints and connective tissues.

2. Less Muscle Hypertrophy:

- Although fast lifting builds power, it may not be as effective for muscle hypertrophy (growth). Slow, controlled lifts are generally better for maximizing muscle size.

Lifting Slow:


1. Promotes Muscle Growth:

- Slow, controlled lifting emphasizes time under tension, which is highly effective for muscle hypertrophy. This can lead to increased muscle size and endurance.

2. Better Form and Control:

- Lifting slowly allows athletes to focus on their form and technique, reducing the risk of injury and ensuring that the target muscles are being properly engaged.

3. Increases Muscle Endurance:

- Slow lifting can enhance muscle endurance by forcing muscles to sustain contraction for longer periods, which is beneficial for endurance athletes.


1. Less Power Development:

- Slow lifting does not train the muscles to generate force rapidly, which is essential for explosive movements in many sports.

2. Potential for Reduced Athletic Performance:

- If an athlete's training focuses too much on slow lifting, they might miss out on the benefits of developing fast-twitch muscle fibers and overall explosiveness.

Integrating Both Methods

For optimal athletic performance, a balanced approach that incorporates both fast and slow lifting is often recommended. Here's how athletes can integrate both methods:

1. Periodization:

Structure training programs to include phases of both fast and slow lifting. For example, a power phase might focus on fast lifts with lighter weights, while a hypertrophy phase emphasizes slow, controlled lifts with heavier weights.

2. Combination Workouts:

Include both fast and slow lifts within the same workout. Start with explosive, high-intensity exercises like power cleans or plyometrics, then transition to slower, strength-building lifts like squats or bench presses.

3. Sport-Specific Training:

Tailor the lifting speed to the specific demands of the sport. Sprinters and jumpers might benefit more from fast lifts, while endurance athletes might focus more on slow, controlled movements.


The debate on whether athletes should lift fast or slow doesn't have a one-size-fits-all answer. Both methods have distinct benefits and drawbacks. Fast lifting enhances power and explosiveness, essential for many sports, while slow lifting promotes muscle growth and endurance. By integrating both approaches, athletes can build a well-rounded physique and improve overall performance, ensuring they're ready for any challenge their sport throws at them.

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