Strength & Conditioning

Discover 11 Training Oscillatory Exercises & Strength Effects

man performing oscillatory exercises

If you’re looking to improve your athletic performance then you should consider oscillatory exercises.  

This under-utilized type of training method has several benefits over more traditional forms of strength training.  

Recommended Reading – 8 Sagittal Plane Exercises For An Improved Physique

In this article we’re going to look at this unique form of exercise and why it’s worth incorporating into your workout routine.  

What Are Oscillatory Exercises?

Oscillatory exercises, also referred to as oscillatory movements, are exercises that are performed to high rep ranges but with a very short range of motion. Reps are performed quickly to produce a ‘pulsing’ action.  Essentially, all oscillatory exercise reps are short and fast.  

They are resistance based exercises which are performed at submaximal load.  

These high-velocity movements are designed to train your muscles to contract and relax quickly.  

Knuckle Push Up

Over time, this can help to improve your overall power and speed.

The use of OC methods can be used to train a variety of muscle groups, including the legs, arms, and core.

One of the key concepts behind oscillatory exercises is simple harmonic motion.

This is the motion of an object that moves back and forth in a regular, repeating pattern.

Think of pendulum clocks – the pendulum swings back and forth in a regular pattern, driven by the force of gravity. 

Oscillatory exercises aim to replicate this type of motion in your muscles.  

During oscillatory contractions, muscle actions rapidly alternate between contracting and relaxing.

This can help to improve your muscle’s ability to generate force quickly, which can be useful in sports that require explosive movements, such as sprinting, jumping or weightlifting.  

Sprinting On Road

Because of this, this form of training is popular amongst elite athletes who partake in athletic competition.  

Oscillatory exercises can be performed during any phase of muscle action, including the concentric, isometric, and eccentric phases. 

This form of training became popularized by Cal Dietz, a strength and conditioning coach, who incorporated oscillatory exercises into his triphasic training method.  

Why Perform Oscillatory Exercises?

The primary reason for doing oscillatory exercises is to increase your force production.  

This is the amount of muscular force that your body will produce when performing a specific exercise.  

Muscles tend to work in antagonistic pairs when performing an exercise.

These are known as agonist (or the prime movers) and antagonist muscles.  

Antagonist Muscles

During a movement, the agonist will contract and generate force.  

Conversely, the antagonist (the opposing muscles) will relax to some degree so that the movement can occur smoothly.  

Let’s take a look at the dumbbell bicep curl as an example.

When you lower the dumbbell this is known as the eccentric contraction and means that your muscles are lengthening.  

The muscle activation phase during this movement is as follows:

  • Your triceps brachii are the agonist muscle and engage whilst driving extension of the arm. 
  • Your biceps brachii are the antagonist muscle and (whilst engaged to some extent) will relax to allow extension of the arm.  
bicep curl

When your raise the dumbbell this is the concentric phase and means that your muscles are shortening.  

During this phase the muscles work as follows:

  1. Your biceps are the agonist and will contract to flex your elbow so you can lift the dumbbell. 
  2. Your triceps are the antagonist and will relax to allow for elbow flexion.   

When you perform oscillatory movements, quick execution is required to switch between the eccentric and concentric phases as they are performed within such a small range of motion.  

Over time, this increases the rate at which the antagonist learns to relax which in turn elevates force production.  

Whilst you can perform oscillatory exercises to a specific rep range it’s usually more beneficial to aim for a set time and doing it this way also makes it easier to track.  

Imagine if you were to complete 5 full range of motion bench presses within a 10 second period.  

You’d likely double the number of reps when performing them as partial reps.  

partial rep bench press

Oscillatory Exercises For Different Body Parts

All of the exercises mentioned below would be completed with a small range of motion at either the top or bottom of the movement.

These should be done quickly and to high level of reps or for a specific time period.  

No movement should be performed at one rep max but instead at around 60 to 80% of this.  

Exercises are usually performed at the weakest point of that movement.  

These are sticking points where you might find it difficult to control the weight.  

For example, at the bottom of the squat or when the barbell is closest to your chest during a bench press exercise.  

When you improve strength and performance at these specific joint angles this will improve performance and force production.  

Here are some examples of oscillatory exercises for different body parts:

Upper Body

  • Chest: Oscillatory bench press
  • Shoulders: Oscillatory overhead press
  • Back: Oscillatory pull-ups
Oscillatory dumbbell press

Lower Body

  • Quads: Oscillatory squats
  • Hamstrings: Oscillatory deadlifts
  • Calves: Oscillatory calf raises
Seated Calf Raise Bodyweight

Back Muscles

  • Lats: Oscillatory pull-ups
  • Rhomboids: Oscillatory rows
  • Erector Spinae: Oscillatory back extensions
Oscillatory Back Extensions

Active Muscles

  • Glutes: Oscillatory hip thrusts
  • Abs: Oscillatory sit-ups
Oscillatory Hip Thrusts

Benefits of Oscillatory Exercises

Here are some of the benefits of incorporating oscillatory exercises into your training routine:

Improve Central Nervous System

Oscillatory exercises can potentially have a positive impact on your Central Nervous System (CNS) due to challenging the CNS in the following ways:

Neuromuscular Recruitment

Oscillatory exercises require rapid changes in muscle contractions, engaging a larger number of motor units and muscle fibers.

This increased recruitment can lead to improved neuromuscular coordination and efficiency.

Motor Control and Coordination

Oscillatory movements demand precise motor control and coordination to execute rapid and controlled back-and-forth motions.

Practicing these movements can enhance neural pathways responsible for movement precision.

Explosive Power Development

Oscillatory exercises often involve rapid and explosive contractions.

This can stimulate the CNS to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are responsible for generating explosive power.

Rate of Force Development

The quick transition that’s required between contractions when performing oscillatory exercises can contribute to improved rate of force development, which is the ability to generate force rapidly.  

This is beneficial for many people who perform certain sports such as basketball players, football players and other field athletes.  

Better Muscular Coordination

Performing oscillatory exercises requires smooth and precise transitions between muscle contractions and this can take time.

However, practicing these movements regularly can lead to more refined movement patterns and greater control over muscle activation.

Muscle Development

A previous study has shown that regularly performing oscillatory exercises results in an increased likelihood of structural changes to your muscle tissues.

This is because they place a unique stress on the muscles, causing them to adapt and become stronger.

By incorporating oscillatory exercises into your training routine, you may be able to achieve greater gains in muscle mass and strength.

Improved Top Speed

Oscillatory exercises can also help to improve your top speed.

This is because these exercises train the muscles to contract more quickly and forcefully, which can translate into faster sprint times.

If you’re an athlete looking to improve your performance on the field or track, incorporating oscillatory exercises into your training routine may be a good option.

Enhanced Muscle Fiber Recruitment

Oscillatory exercises can potentially recruit more muscle fibers compared to slow, controlled movements to a full range of motion.  

This is due to the rapid and repetitive nature of the contractions.

The dynamic and explosive nature of oscillatory exercises can lead to increased muscle activation and recruitment. 

As they tend to emphasize explosive movements, this can lead to better recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers.

These fibers are responsible for generating high levels of force quickly and are activated during rapid and powerful movements.

Reduced Risk of Injury

Oscillatory exercises can also help to reduce the risk of injury.

This is because these exercises train the muscles to be more responsive and adaptable to sudden changes in direction or force.

By improving your body’s ability to handle these types of stresses, you may be less likely to experience an injury during training or competition.

Improved Metabolic Response

Oscillatory exercises can increase metabolic response due to their dynamic and explosive nature, which can elevate heart rate, oxygen consumption, and energy expenditure.

A better metabolic response can lead to the following:

  • Burn more calories helping with fat loss. 
  • Helps to preserve lean muscle tissue which is good for body composition. 
  • Better insulin sensitivity helping to regulate blood sugar levels.  
  • An increase in energy levels. 
  • Improved muscle recovery post exercise. 
  • Positive effects on cardiovascular health which can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  

It’s important to note that the metabolic response to oscillatory exercises can vary based on factors such as exercise intensity, duration, your fitness level, and the specific exercises performed. 

Oscillatory Training Methods

There are different oscillatory training methods that you can adopt as part of your workout.  

These include the following:

Plyometric Oscillations

Plyometric oscillations involve explosive, rapid movements that usually involve a combination of jumping and rebounding (think of box jumps).

These movements utilize the stretch-shortening cycle, which enhances the elastic energy storage and release in muscles, leading to increased power development.

Ballistic Oscillations

Ballistic oscillatory training combines explosive and rapid movements but using resistance.

This resistance can be added in the way of bands, ropes, or free weights to perform rapid, dynamic movements. 

Bodyweight Oscillations

Bodyweight oscillatory exercises involve rapid body movements without external resistance.

These can include exercises like rapid push-ups, rapid squat jumps, or rapid bodyweight lunges.

Joint Mobilizations

Some forms of oscillatory training involve gentle and controlled joint mobilizations performed within a pain-free range of motion.

Whilst this movements are very small, they can help to enhance joint health, mobility, and proprioception.

Rehabilitation Oscillations

Oscillatory training can be used in rehabilitation settings to address joint stability, neuromuscular control, and movement patterns.

These can help you improve strength, mobility and overall function after injuries.  

Scientific Studies on Oscillatory Exercises

Previous studies have explored the effects of oscillatory exercises on different aspects of physical fitness. 

One clinical trial looked into the effects of double oscillation exercises combined with elastic band exercise on the strength and thickness ratio of the scapular stabilizing muscles in healthy young adults.  

The results showed significant differences in muscle strength and thickness ratio after completion of the exercises. 

Another study explored the effects of oscillatory training on peaking performance.

The study found that oscillatory training, Antagonistically Facilitated Shock Method (AFSM) method, and Reflexive Trimetric Method (RTM) can be effective peaking methods for athletes.  

This means that athletes can achieve their optimal performance level just prior to a specific sports event.  

Overall, previous studies suggest that oscillatory exercises can have positive effects on various aspects of physical fitness and performance.

That being said, further research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits and limitations of oscillatory training.

​To Sum Up

Whilst oscillatory exercises tend to be overlooked in favor of more traditional strength training methods, this unique training program really shouldn’t be as it offers so many benefits and adds some versatility into your workouts.   

Whether you’re looking to boost your explosive power, improve your coordination, or simply infuse some fun into your workouts, oscillatory exercises are certainly worth considering. 

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