In this article, we look at a training technique that’ll help us overcome our sticking point: the Slingshot.
Existing definitions of the sticking point (or region) in the literature fail to capture the phenomenon of practical interest adequately. (Kompf & Arandjelović, 2016).
Based on Kompf & Arandjelović (2016)’s review, it is defined as “the point at which failure occurs when exercise is brought to the point of momentary muscle failure”.
Understanding the multifactorial mechanisms that lead to the emergence of the Sticking Point, as well as the different training strategies that can be used to overcome it, is important for the optimisation of the methodology and planning of sports training. (Kompf & Arandjelović, 2016).
Sticking Point Training Strategies
The Sticking Point is multifactorial and is based on complex interactions between different contributing factors that are athlete and exercise-specific.
A systematic approach is needed: guided by empirical observations made under rigorous, controlled and reported conditions in well designed studies, and a detailed analysis of an athlete’s performance should be used to identify the most appropriate training strategy.
Isolated Muscle Work
Considering the biomechanical context (lever arms, elongation, etc.) in which different muscles contribute to lifting in the vicinity of the sticking point, it’s possible to identify the muscle (a functional muscle group) that can be considered the weak link.
Example: Bench Press
The inclusion of chest isolation exercises by athletes experiencing the sticking point at the beginning of the concentric phase during bench press, or the use of various isolation exercises for elbow extensions by athletes having difficulties in the final stages of the lift.
Partial Repetitions and Isometry
Increasing the effective force that the athlete can exert against the load at the moment (in terms of ROM) the failure occurs during a lift, is a performance optimising tool.
Due to the principle of specificity of force adaptations, the most direct way to address the sticking point is to use partial repetitions or isometric training.
It’s been noted that the sticking point during a lift does not necessarily occur at the point of greatest biomechanical disadvantage.
These findings lead to a popular training strategy employed by strength and power athletes that focuses on increasing strength and its rate of development (RFD) in the phases of a lift preceding a sticking point.
In particular, the so-called speed work involves the use of repeated series of low intensity (50-60% of 1M), with short periods of rest (45-60”), executed at maximum speed.
Unlike speed workout training, where the load receives momentum through the action of the muscles involved in a particular exercise, external momentum (known as Cheating) is developed through the use of muscles that would not otherwise be involved in a lift.
On the other hand, recent models suggest that when used in moderation and in single-joint isolation exercises, external momentum can be safely used to apply greater force to the target muscles and increase the time under tension (TUT).
Modifying the Technique
This provides a means of modifying a lift in a way that eliminates or reduces the impact of a sticking point by changing the exercise execution style and the biomechanical context.
The aim is to reduce the difficulty of the lift
From a practical point of view, the following examples should be noted:
- Changes in grip or posture;
- Variations in work planes;
- Adjustments in the synchronisation of movements through different joints.
An unknown biomechanical context in itself can cause injuries, so any changes should be made gradually and using conservative loads until the lifter is familiar with the newly adopted technique.
Variable and Comfortable Resistance
Accommodative resistance refers to “intentional modifications of the effective load experienced in an exercise during repetition”.
This technique is most often used in Powerlifting training, but also by other types of athletes in general strength and conditioning work.
One way to introduce variable and accommodative resistance involves the use of an elastic resistance band between the load (like a bar) and the floor (or another fixed object, for example a power rack).
Generally, as the weight is lifted, the band stretches and the resistance is greater.
Another alternative is the use of heavy chains, which unfold and rise from the ground during the lift, resulting in increased resistance.
Slingshot: Practical Applications
The Slingshot is an elastic support tool (Pedrosa et al. 2020; Dugdale, Hunter, Di Virgilio, Macgregor & Hamilton, 2019) based on exerting elastic tension during the eccentric phase of movement, and returning it during the concentric phase (Guzmán, 2018).
They can be used as part of sports training planning and methodology:
An effective training tool for performance improvement
(Kinematics and 1RM of Bench Press) in male powerlifters (Dugdale et al., 2019).
- Absolute increments of 20kg.
- Increases in average speed (3 times faster).
- Can be used as a speed training device, with data clearly showing that speed improves substantially while using the Slingshot.
- Unloading (decrease of RMS) of the brachial triceps in all ranges of repetitions.
- Assistance in maintaining bar speed under fatigue during subsequent repetitions.
- Usefulness during the loading phases of training.
- Ease of use compared to other training unloading tools (elastic bands or chains).
- Increase in range of motion (ROM) based on total bar displacement.
- Strategic and complementary use with traditional bench press training.
Independent of training experience
The Sling Shot is an alternative tool for increasing the maximum number of repetitions (MNR) and decreasing the average duration of repetitions in multiple sets during Bench Press. (Pedrosa et al., 2020).
There were no significant differences in MNR and average repetition duration between groups, regardless of condition (with or without Sling Shot) or set.
The external elastic force provided by the Slingshot enhances the stretch-shortening cycle during each repetition.
- Practical device for increasing bar speed.
- The average duration of each repetition was significantly shorter when the Sling Shot was used, regardless of the group.
Allows trained men to perform higher workloads (repetitions x kg) with maximum loads.
(1RM Bench Press) (Niblock, & Steele, 2017).
- Increase in the number of repetitions (from 2 to 5 additional repetitions).
- Useful training tool that allows people to accumulate a greater workload during Bench Press training with heavy or high loads.
- Possible functionality for strength enhancement and hypertrophy adaptations.
Improve neural strength
The elastic tool (Slingshot) improves the maximum neural strength of the Press Banca in young, well-trained people. (Ye et al., 2014).
- Alternative medium to the Bench Press Shirt in Powerlifting
- Similarity in assistance and ease of use.
- Significant increases of the average 1MR (17.8 kg).
- Inter-subject differences: different body structures
- Improvements in average power output and average bar speed.
- Decreased EMG amplitude of the chest muscle and brachial triceps..
- Kompf, J., & Arandjelović, O. (2016). Understanding and overcoming the sticking point in resistance exercise. Sports Medicine, 46(6), 751-762.
- Pedrosa, G., Da Silva, B. C., Barbosa, G., Dos Santos, M. R., Simoes, M., Ferreira, G. A., … & Diniz, R. R. (2020). The Sling Shot increased the maximum number of repetitions in the barbell bench press in men with different resistance training experience. Human Movement, 21(1), 22-31.
- Dugdale, J. H., Hunter, A. M., Di Virgilio, T. G., Macgregor, L. J., & Hamilton, D. L. (2019). Influence of the “Slingshot” bench press training aid on bench press kinematics and neuromuscular activity in competitive powerlifters. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 33(2), 327-336.
- Guzmán, A. (2018). Descubriendo el Slingshot. PowerExplosive.
- Niblock, J., & Steele, J. (2017). The ‘Slingshot’can enhance volume-loads during performance of bench press using unaided maximal loads. Journal of Trainology, 6(2), 47-51.
- Ye, X., Beck, T. W., Stock, M. S., Fahs, C. A., Kim, D., Loenneke, J. P., … & Bemben, M. G. (2014). Acute effects of wearing an elastic, supportive device on bench press performance in young, resistance-trained males. Gazzetta Med Italiana, 173, 91-102.
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