Effects of Different Pushing Speeds on Bench Press [Research Review]

Effects of Different Pushing Speeds on Bench Press [Research Review]

Rob Shugg from Kinetic Performance brought this very interesting study to my attention.

Padulo J, Mignogna P, Mignardi S, Tonni F, D’Ottavio S. Effect of different pushing speeds on bench press. Int J Sports Med. 2012 May;33(5):376-80.Abstract

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.

Please read John Cissik’s summary HERE.  I am reposting my modified comment(awaiting moderation) at John’s blog here.  In my opinion this study is “fishy” and let me explain why.


Even if it is VERY interesting, this study is fishy in my opinion.

Padulo et al. reported that FPS group (speed group) have improved from 7(0.08) sets of 2.33(0.52) reps to 9 sets of 3.17(0.75) reps at 85% 1RM bench press.

The SPS group (self-selected; to exhaustion group) improved from 7.98(0.04) sets of 7(0.42) reps to 9 sets of 8.33(1.03) reps with 85% 1RM bench press.

Baselines for both groups were around 100kg (1RM) at BW of 75-77kg. Their relative strength is about 130% BW.

According to THIS table, that performance is not so ‘advanced’. One would expect 42 year old guys with 18 year training experience to bench press more than 130% BW.  My bench press sucks (around 120kg at 92kg BW, which is also 130%), but I am not training for 18 years now as those subjects.  (Note to myselfdon’t report your BP performance publicly until 150% BW reached)  

Anyway, my point is that with 85% (in this case 85kg) advanced lifters are hardly able to do 7sets of 7 reps with 2min rest in between. Take a look at Dan Baker’s table for calculating 1RMs based on reps-to-failure HERE

If we calculate 1RM from 7 reps with 85kg for experienced lifters we get 85kg × 1,23 = 104,5kg.

After 3 weeks, they proceeded to 7 sets of 9 reps.  Let’s assume that if they really push the first set (only one set) they could get 10reps. Recalculating improvement we get 85kg x 1,33 = 113kg.

Note: Factors are taken from Dan Baker’s table for experienced lifters

The study reported 0,17% percent change (improvement), but from these two predictions we get (113-104,5)/104,5 * 100 = 8%. When it comes to FPS group, they improved over 10%. And all of this in 3 weeks. Please note that Dan Baker reported 11% increase ( 128kg to 142kg at about 100kg BW) in 1RM in bench press in 6 YEARS time span with elite rugby players and those are young studs (20.3 years old on average). (see Baker, D. Six-Year Changes in Upper-Body Maximum Strength and Power in Experienced Strength-Power Athletes. J. Aust. Strength Cond. 16(3)4-10. 2008).To quote Dan Baker (Strength & Conditioning Coach. 5(4):2-8. 1998.):

By reviewing the normative data for different ages and training stages, a generalized picture of the strength improvements can be gained. From experience beginners make between a 1.5-2% increase per week in upper body strength for 6-12 weeks. Intermediates increase by about 1% per week for 8-12 weeks, a finding that is also reported in numerous studies (Berger, 1962; Hakkinen & Komi, 1981; Stowers et al.,1983; Hakkinen, 1985; Gater et al., 1992; Willoughby, 1993; Baker et al., 1994; Baker, 1995b).
The lower body strength changes are much larger, circa 4% per week for beginners and about 1.5-2% per week for intermediates over 6-10 weeks (see also the references listed above).

Improvement of 10% in 3 weeks with advanced lifters is red-flag in my opinion.

In most (percent based) strength training programs (i.e. TIER System by Joe Kenn), training cycles with 85% call for 3-4 reps). And as Poliquin reported years ago, as you become more advanced you tend to lift LESS reps at same percentage of 1RM. For example real beginner can get 8 reps at 85%, while advanced can get 4-5 reps at 85%. This is also showed in Dan Baker’s table. And here we are talking about ONE all-out set. The study report 7 sets with average 7 reps. 

I would love to contact author and ask him these same questions and maybe post his response here aw well with permission.

Anyway, this study is very interesting and show how the training with C.A.T (Compensatory Acceleration Training) without failure yields better result than training to exhaustion at slow velocities. We recently got GymAware which we use to measure ‘freshness’ of the players, so I plan playing with Dynamic Effort a little bit.

There are some other’s studies I wanted to comment about (one regarding RSA patterns  in soccer game by Carling et al. ), but that would need to wait for some other time. 


I am a physical preparation coach from Belgrade, Serbia, grow up in Pula, Croatia (which I consider my home town). I was involved in physical preparation of professional, amateur and recreational athletes of various ages in sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, martial arts and tennis. Read More »

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