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Changes in Maximal Strength, Velocity, and Power After 8 Weeks of Training With Pneumatic or Free Weight Resistance

Frost, David M.1; Bronson, Stefanie1; Cronin, John B.2,3; Newton, Robert U.3

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: April 2016 - Volume 30 - Issue 4 - p 934–944
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001179
Original Research

Frost, DM, Bronson, S, Cronin, JB, and Newton, RU. Changes in maximal strength, velocity, and power after 8 weeks of training with pneumatic or free weight resistance. J Strength Cond Res 30(4): 934–944, 2016—Because free weight (FW) and pneumatic (PN) resistance are characterized by different inertial properties, training with either resistance could afford unique strength, velocity, and power adaptations. Eighteen resistance-trained men completed baseline tests to determine their FW and PN bench press 1 repetition maximum (1RM). During the FW session, 4 explosive repetitions were performed at loads of 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, and 90% 1RM to assess force, velocity, and power. Participants were then assigned to a FW or PN training group, which involved three 90-minute sessions per week for 8 weeks. Both intervention groups completed identical periodized programs with the exception of the resistance used to perform all bench press movements. Free weight participants significantly increased their FW and PN 1RM (10.4 and 9.4%), and maximum (any load) force (9.8%), velocity (11.6%), and power (22.5%). Pneumatic-trained participants also exhibited increases in FW and PN 1RM (11.6 and 17.5%), and maximum force (8.4%), velocity (13.6%), and power (33.4%). Both interventions improved peak barbell velocity at loads of 15 and 30% 1RM; however, only the PN-trained individuals displayed improvements in peak force and power at these same loads. Training with PN resistance may offer advantages if attempting to improve power at lighter relative loads by affording an opportunity to consistently achieve higher accelerations and velocities (F = ma), in comparison with FW. Exploiting the inertial properties of the resistance, whether mass, elastic or PN, could afford an opportunity to develop mixed-method training strategies and/or elicit unique neuromuscular adaptations to suit the specific needs of athletes from sports characterized by varying demands.

1Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;

2School of Sport and Recreation, Sport Performance Research Institute New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand; and

3School of Exercise and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Australia

Address correspondence to David M. Frost,

Copyright © 2016 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.