Doing the concentric portion of an exercise (the upward part) slowly tends to be more difficult than doing it quickly, but doing it quickly helps build explosive power. It’s not a bad idea to practice both, and keep in mind that doing the eccentric (negative) part of a movement slowly will also help build strength and is ideal since doing this portion quickly basically amounts to letting yourself fall. Keep in mind that for the purposes of strength training you should strive to keep any kipping and momentum to a minimum no matter how fast you are going.
I typically don’t go to failure, maybe on the last set. Some people go to failure all the time, some people never do. Strength gains are typically had when an exercise is challenging enough that you can do no more than maybe 12-15 reps in a set. 20 is really getting into endurance territory, and if you’re doing relatively high rep sets this amounts to general conditioning, not necessarily a strength focus. What I would do is pick a rep range to stick to rather than a specific rep number for a given exercise, then put in a solid effort for each set while leaving some left in the tank. Typically I find that I can do more total reps for given exercise in a given workout this way than if I were to go to failure every set. The reason CC suggests working to really high reps is to ensure that you have the joint integrity for the next exercise, although I personally feel that some of the progressive standards are overly cautious, but it’s designed to be more approachable for more people.
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