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Kyseinen artikkeli on osa Louie Simmonsin kirjaa Westside Barbell Book of Methods
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TRAINING METHODS by Louie Simmons, osa V
Contrast and Reactive Methods
Another method for developing explosive strength is weight releasers. Hook chains or bands
to the weight releasers (we welded bar attachments to ours) to accommodate resistance while
lowering the bar. A key point to remember is not to lower the bar slowly. This diminishes the
effect of added kinetic energy production. Weight releasers provide one overload rep on each
set. The recommended load on weight releasers is 20% of the barbell load (e.g. 400 lbs on the
bar and 80 lbs on the weight releasers). Use chain weight on the weight releasers for best results.
Bands are a contrast method. We use only jump stretch bands. Only higher ranked lifters should
use bands. For speed-strength, 65% of the total weight should be barbell weight and 35% should
be bar tension. For strength-speed or slow strength used with maximal weights, 65% of the total
weight should come from band tension and 35% should be barbell weight.
I will outline some of the more common ones. One reactive method is heavy-light sets. First,
lift a heavy barbell for 1–3 reps. Take a short rest of 10–20 seconds, reduce the weight 20%, and
repeat for 1–3 reps. The best method is to use two sets of jump stretch bands. Perform a set of
bench, squats, or pulls. Rest 10–20 seconds and remove a set of bands. Then do a second set.
Bands work best when used with bar weight. They accomplish several objectives including (1)
accommodating resistance, (2) the near elimination of the deceleration phase that exists with bar
weight alone, and (3) added kinetic energy by the accelerated eccentric phase, which provides
extra elastic excitatory deformation in the muscle and connective tissue. Using the bands to
increase the speed considerably in the eccentric phase causes a greater amount of kinetic energy
through which a maximal dynamic force is developed quickly. The loads can be made greater by
using a combination of bands plus bar weight. If only bar weight is used, it would be too heavy in
the bottom. If only bands are used, the weight at the bottom would be too light. By using strong
bands to increase the rate of fall or eccentric speed, greater kinetic energy is developed producing
even greater muscular force development at the instant of switching from eccentric to concentric
work plus a shorter amortization transition.
While discussing the reactive method, we must also look at the contrast method. Let’s move
on to two methods that develop explosive and absolute strength. The fi rst is static overcome by
dynamic work. Static means isometric, and dynamic can refer to concentric, eccentric, or what
I’m going to address—reversal strength.
Reversal strength is developed, for example, by fl oor presses, board presses, and box squats.
The value of these exercises is also a second means of strength development—relaxed overcome
by dynamic work. When doing the three exercises noted above, both of these methods occur simultaneously. Some muscles and connective tissue are held relaxed while other muscles are
Box squatting is an example. By sitting back, not down, on a box of any height, the
squatting muscles are stretched maximally. Relaxing the hip fl exors, glutes, and obliques
for 30 seconds to one minute and 30 seconds and fl exing off the box dynamically in a box
squat will also increase your pulls off the floor. A bar on the fl oor is static, and this
position must be overcome dynamically. You can use a box height that duplicates the
position of the second pull relative to the hip position. Rest the bar on the thighs and
execute the second pull. For the fl oor press, lower the bar until the elbows are in contact
with the fl oor. Relax the triceps and other pressing muscles and then fl ex dynamically
and press upward. For the board press, we use two, 2x6s attached together. Lower the
bar quickly onto the boards, relax, and then explode concentrically.
If one does a pause squat or bench press, the bar’s eccentric speed will be gradually reduced
to zero. By using a box, a board, or the fl oor, the bar has speed as it reaches any level, creating
kinetic energy that greatly contributes to the concentric phase. Remember, lower, relax, and then
contract dynamically. Don’t forget, the stretch refl ex lasts up to at least two seconds.
All this illustrates that we have combined two proven methods of strength development, both
used during each week. When using barbells for the reactive method effect, it is best to use a large
amount of band tension or a large amount of chains on the weight releasers and a small amount of
Many strength coaches call me about power and speed training, but very few ask about
building absolute strength. If your reactive strength grows, your jumping and running ability will
increase. That is why men can outperform women in the 100-meter, shot put, basketball, football,
and weightlifting. Most coaches are constantly working on speed and quickness, but that’s the
trait they recruited. Why constantly work on what they already have? Most stay away from heavy
weight training for fear of overtaxing their athletes. However, when running full speed, four, fi ve,
and sometimes six times body weight is produced during foot contact. Still, a 300-lb lineman is
lucky to squat twice his body weight. Relative strength is much lower for large men compared
with smaller, lighter men. What about lifters and other athletes who aren’t very strong? How
can they increase their explosive power? They can increase their explosive power by using the
reactive method. Here’s how.
One reactive method exercise is weight releasers. Here, extra weight is added to the bar on
the eccentric phase by the use of weight releasers. It is common to lower 80% of your 1RM
and raise 60%. This is done by putting 20% of the load on the weight releasers. As they release
the load, the body reacts to the sudden reduction of weight and then accelerates concentrically
to completion. The lifter reacts as if the original 80% was on the bar. This develops maximum
acceleration and reversal strength. The eccentric phase should be as fast as possible, preferably
fi ve- to six-tenths of a second. Lowering slowly will build only muscle size and will cause most
muscular soreness. The squats are done for two reps, 6–10 sets. This method is frequently used by
Matt Smith and John Stafford.
Basically, the same method is used for bench pressing. We do 6–10 sets of three reps. Of
course, only the fi rst rep is a contrast rep because the weight releaser device falls off. This is good
because eccentric work causes the most muscle soreness due to muscle spindle damage.
A second method for contrasting a load is the lightened method. At Westside, a strong pair of
jump stretch bands are attached to our seven-foot power rack at the top. In the bottom of a squat,
135 lbs weighs zero. By adding 90 lbs to the bar, it now weighs 90 at the bottom but 225 at the
top. By adding a second set of 45 lbs, the weight at the top is 315 and 180 at the bottom. Your
brain quickly learns that the load, while very light at the bottom, becomes quite heavy at the to.
This teaches one to accelerate maximally to completion and not to decelerate near completion,
which occurs with just barbell weight.
This system was fi rst used in youth training overseas. If one could squat only 90 lbs, the load
would seem light at the bottom after starting at the top with 225. Unlike the weight releaser
system, the total load is reloaded as one stands. An extreme set up would look like this. Fix the
bands so that there is 250 lbs less at the bottom of a squat. Load the bar to 1000 lbs. Set up with
the 1000 lb s.
The weight becomes lighter as one descends to the bottom until it is reduced to 750 lbs. The
weight reduction is caused by the bands supporting part of the load. Then return to the top. As the
weight is raised, the bands gradually reload to the original 1000 lbs.
This is a very effective reactive method. One becomes accustomed with a heavy load at
the start of the squat while maximizing strength at the bottom and explosively returning to
Westside often uses this method for benching as well. While the deadlift does not require an
eccentric phase in contests, we do deadlifts in a similar fashion. The bar is reduced by 135 lbs
on the fl oor by the support of the jump-stretch bands attached to the top of the power rack. After
locking out the deadlift, the entire 135 lbs is lifted out of the bands. This method teaches an
explosive start and acceleration to the top.
Let’s look at a slightly different method—the heavy-light method. The fi rst system employs
bands. For benching on speed day, use two sets of mini-bands with your prescribed amount of
barbell weight after a thorough warm up. After doing fi ve sets of triples, take off a set of minibands
and do the remaining sets. The bar will feel extremely light.
Fred Boldt does 205 lbs bar weight plus two sets of mini-bands equaling 170 lbs at the top
and 80 at the chest. After four sets of three reps with two sets of bands done with a bar speed of
about 0.75 meters/second, Fred takes off a set of mini-bands. Now, the bar speed increases to 0.8
meters/second. Fred’s body reacts as if the original two sets of bands were still on the bar.
The contrast between the heavy and light load causes added stimulus to the central nervous
system, producing added acceleration. This method can be used for squatting and deadlifting or
even Olympic pulls.
If you don’t have weight releasers or jump-stretch bands, the heavy-light method can be done
by fi rst using a weight of roughly 90% for 1–2 reps for 2–3 sets. Then reduce the bar weight to
40–60% and do 2–3 sets of 2–3 reps. This can be done on all lifts in addition to weighted dips,
weighted pull-ups, or box jumps. Keep the reps low to conserve energy. A note to ball players—
it’s great to be quick, but quickness is just one component of speed. Quickness is defi ned as an
action of the body that does not require muscular effort or the complex coordination requiring
energy (Soviet Training and Recovery Methods by Ben Tabachnik).
By attaching bands to the top of the power rack or Monolift, the total barbell weight can be
reduced in the bottom of the lift. The percent reduction can range from 15–25%. This method
builds your rate of force development by overcoming a load with a medium to heavy concentric
movement. The lightened method is used often at Westside.
Place a set of jump stretch bands over the top of a power rack. Hanging at seven feet, a 155-lb
barbell will weigh zero at your chest with blue bands, but after locking it out, it returns to 155.
With sub-maximal weight, this does not seem to be productive, but when max or near max
weights are used, it teaches one to accelerate to the top. It will develop acceleration or strengthspeed.
If done as recommended, it will duplicate your top bench with a bench shirt. If less band
tension is used (purple band), it is very close to your shirtless best. Do pressing without gear. This
will also work for the overhead press and push jerks.
Use the same process for deadlifting or power cleans. While the bar is on the fl oor, 135 lbs is
deloaded. For squatting, attach the bands to the top of the rack to deload the weight in the bottom.
At Westside Barbell, we often use the contrast methods—bands, chains, and, of course, the
lightened method. For squatting, we use three different bands: the light band, the monster miniband,
and the mini-band. A light band hung over the Monolift will reduce the load around 200
lbs in the bottom of the squat. Remember, we always box squat just below parallel. A monster
mini-band will reduce the load 110 lbs, and a mini-band will unload the bar about 55 lbs. If our
intention is to become stronger, we start with the mini-bands. We add weight for three weeks,
wave back, and then start a second three-week wave with the monster mini-bands. Again, we
wave back and start a new three-week wave with the light bands. The stronger the band, the
greater the contrast.
A nine-week wave would look like this.
With a mini-band at the top:
Week Weight Sets Reps Weight at top Weight at bottom
1 455 8 2 455 400
2 505 8 2 505 450
3 555 6 2 555 505
4 605 8 2 605 495
5 655 8 2 655 545
6 705 6 2 705 595
With a light band at the top:
Week Weight Sets Reps Weight at top Weight at bottom
7 755 8 2 755 555
8 805 8 2 805 605
9 855 6 2 855 655
This series of squats is done off a box just below parallel. The rest between sets is one minute and
15 seconds to one minute and 30 seconds.
We use this system at Westside on a regular basis. It is less taxing on the body. It is important
to learn acceleration and even more important to change the rate of acceleration. The lightened
method is just one way to accomplish this. This method is also used on max effort day as one of
Harold made a lightened method squat of 1115 at the top and 1000 at the bottom. His best
squat is 1005. Matt Smith has used the same method with 1150 at the top and 1035 on the box,
which has produced an 1102 squat. As you can see, Tim’s effort falls short of Matt’s, but this sets
a standard to realize a contest potential.
Although this method was used for youth training in the old Soviet Union, at Westside it is
used in many of our exercises with great success. It has helped produce two 1100 squats—one at
268 body weight for Chuck Vogelpohl (a world record)—plus fi ve, 1000 squats.
Westside often uses the lightened method in the bench press. For benching, we use four
different strength bands. For max effort work, we primarily use the strong bands and the medium
bands. The bands are choked at the top of a seven-foot power rack. This reduces the bar weight
at the chest by 155 lbs. With 455 lbs on the bar, the weight is reduced to 300 at the chest, but
the weight is reloaded progressively until lockout, which is again 455. In a second max effort
workout, we would use a medium band to reduce the load 95 lbs at the bottom. After unracking
the bar loaded to 455, it reduces to 350 at the chest and returns to 455 at lockout. A light band at
the top of the rack will reduce the load at the chest by 65 lbs. This time, 455 at the top will weigh
390 at the chest.
As you can see, the greater the band strength, the greater the contrast. This system builds
speed or absolute strength depending on band tension. For speed benching, we use a light band
or a monster mini-band. A 500-lb raw bencher would use a bar weight of 315. Light bands would
reduce the bar weight to 250 or 50%, at chest level. This is a good alternative to other speed
work. The three most common are bands, chains, and weight releasers.
For pulling, we use a strong band looped over a pin 5’6” off the ground, which will unload the
bar at fl oor level about 135 lbs. Joe Bayles pulled 745 with the lightened method. This resulted in
a 775 PR at a meet. This was greater than a 30-lb positive result. Tim Harold pulled 900 and later
pulled 855 at a meet, which was a PR but a 45-lb negative result.
Regardless, this will give some guidelines to go by.
This method is also very good for high pulls as well as increasing the second pull. Kneeling
cleans, snatches, and squats are used in the same way.
Use you imagination. You can use the lightened method for JM presses, triceps extensions,
overhead presses, inclines, and declines. It is a fantastic tool for all sports. It will increase not
only your vertical jump and long jump but also your hand speed. It teaches you to accelerate
throughout the entire range of motion. Conventional weight training has a distinct deceleration
phase. The lightened method will help eliminate this phenomenon.
Look at it this way. With this method, a young ball player can unrack 135 in the squat, but at
the bottom, it weighs nothing. So 225 at the top would be 90 at the bottom and 315 at the top
would be 180 in the hole, and so forth. This teaches acceleration. One must take advantage of all
training methods to succeed.
People are getting stronger every day and are smart enough to make the most of their
equipment. Don’t be a hater. Take advantage of everything at your disposal. If the great lifters
of the 70s, 80s, and 90s had shirts and suits, you can bet the bank they would use them. Some of
these lifters lasted only fi ve or six years. If they had modern day gear, maybe they would still be
competing with today’s stars.