Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Constant Tension Training - MuscleMag

Constant Tension Training - MuscleMag

Constant Tension Training

Throw out the top and bottom ends of the range
of motion to maintain constant tension in this partial-reps driven
six-week routine to build maximum muscle.

 By Nick Tumminello, CPT

There’s a good chance you’ve noticed a shift in your gym lately. The
sole power rack in the corner of your free-weight area, once
dust-covered and neglected, is in high demand. The few squat racks are
being used for actual ass-to-grass squats rather than curls and shrugs.
And the cushy seated machines with selectorized plate stacks are slowly
being pushed to the periphery. It seems basic barbell training and
compound lifts are all the rage these days — and for good reason, since
no other training methods can pack on mass with the same efficiency as
the tried-and-true staples like the bench, squat and deadlift.
Machine-based movements, on the other hand, have come under fire because
they tend to push trainers into unnatural movement patterns and
strength imbalances. 

The big lifts are all well and good for anyone whose goals are
strength and size, but the trend toward compound movements negates the
essential role that machines play in hypertrophy. What the classic
bodybuilders knew — and what today’s upstarts need to learn — is that
pushing major weight while activating multiple muscle groups is only
part of the equation, and machines still play an essential role in
bodybuilding by allowing a lifter to apply consistent tension to a
working muscle through a complete range of motion. At the bottom of a
barbell curl, there’s not much tension on the muscle.Enter contrast
training, which takes its inspiration from the time under tension
produced by machines and tweaks basic compound movements to make them
just as ideal for hypertrophy. In other words, you get the best of both
worlds without sacrificing your new found love for squats.

Partial Approach

When most lifters talk about performing partials, they’re referring
to the last portion of a rep. Typical examples include the quarter squat
and the rack deadlift or “rack pull,” where you perform only the top
third of the movement to lift heavier without working through an
exercise’s common sticking points. These types of partial-rep exercises
are great if you’re a powerlifter looking to build strength and
“lockout” ability in the major lifts, and they’re also useful if you
need the ego boost of moving weight you could never handle through the
full range. But if your goal is to maximize hypertrophy, you’ll need to
focus on a different partial range.

To make significant gains in size, you need to emphasize the mid-range
portion of every rep, as that’s where you’ll be recruiting the highest
number of motor units while you’re moving weight. Simply put, more
motor-unit recruitment means more productive workouts, which means
increased gains in size and strength.

Work the Middle

There’s a fundamental concept in the science of muscle physiology
called the “length tension relationship,” which refers to how much force
a muscle can generate relative to its length. As numerous studies have
shown, muscles exhibit the highest force output when working from
somewhere between fully elongated (stretched) and fully shortened
(contracted). Simply put, for every exercise you use to get bigger,
stronger or faster, your muscles exert maximum force in the middle range
of a rep. Additionally, the more force you generate within this “mid
range,” the more motor units you recruit, which means you’ll be bringing
more muscle into the game.

The practical application of all this increased muscle activity is
the “mid-range partial,” which takes the increased strength potential of
the standard partial rep and moves it to the middle, shifting the
partial’s purpose to an emphasis on hypertrophy. Performing a mid-range
partial rep is as simple as it sounds. Throughout your entire set you’ll
stay in the middle of the range. While the mid-range specifics will
vary for each exercise, the basic principle remains constant: You’ll
never fully lock out the weight, nor will you ever go all the way to the
bottom of a lift. Essentially, you’re eliminating both ends of the
range of motion and concentrating just on the middle.

In addition to activating more motor units, mid-range partials offer
another major benefit for big-time muscle building: They force you to
keep constant tension on your working muscles, as the lack of locking
out or full extension prevents them from resting at any point during
your entire set. This constant-tension method ensures that active
muscles receive more time under tension, which, like increased
motor-unit recruitment, is a battle-tested and scientifically proven way
to gain muscle mass.

Keep in mind, however, that the mid-range partials used in
constant-tension training aren’t something you should be doing for every
set. If you never force your muscles to work through a full range of
motion, you can expect losses in mobility, which is why the accompanying
workout calls for a few mid-range partial sets and a few full-range
sets for many of the lifts.

Rage with the Machine

The beauty of the constant tension method is that it can be applied
to virtually any exercise. That said, you’ll find it’s most useful when
applied to free-weight movements. Because of the nature of machine-based
exercises, there’s no need to augment them to achieve constant tension.
To understand free-weight vs. machine biomechanics, let’s use a biceps
curl for example. During any style of biceps curl, the point at which
your biceps are maximally loaded is the point in the range of motion in
which your forearm is at a 90-degree angle with the load vector. If
you’re using free weights, gravity is your load vector. So the point of
maximal loading would be when your elbow reaches 90 degrees of flexion
or when your forearm is parallel to the floor.

If you’re doing biceps curls using a cable column, the cable itself
is the load vector, and the point of maximal loading is when your
forearm forms a 90-degree angle with the cable (which is coming from an
angle). The farther your elbow flexes (or extends) beyond that 90-degree
angle, the less stress you’ll place on your biceps. In other words,
during a free-weight biceps curl, as the dumbbell approaches either your
shoulder in the top of the motion or your thighs in the bottom, your
biceps are receiving significantly less stimulation.

Machines for the most part, unlike free weights and cables, are
neither gravity dependant nor load-vector dependant. Because of their
cam-based design, they provide constant tension to the working muscle
throughout the entire range of motion. So when you perform biceps curls
on a machine, you’re working just as hard at the bottom position (elbows
extended) as during the mid-range and at the top position (elbows fully

The take-home message here is simple: If used properly, machines can
be a powerful weapon in your muscle-building arsenal. And despite the
importance of compound free-weight movements for increasing size and
strength, anyone whose main goal is muscle hypertrophy should absolutely
include machines in his program.

Timing Is Everything

Another component of the constant tension method is timing. With this
protocol, you’ll find that performing each set for a given amount of
time is more effective than counting reps. Each of the mid-range partial
sets in the accompanying workout calls for lifting the load for a
prescribed number of seconds, for a focus on time under tension rather
than total reps performed. Science shows that this method, when done
correctly, is actually as scientifically sound as counting reps.

When performing mid-range partials as timed sets, don’t worry about
your total number of reps or rep speed — these factors won’t matter. All
that counts with constant-tension training is that each rep within a
set remains within the middle range of the movement. Make this your
priority and maintain strict form on each exercise, and you can rest
assured that your working muscles will receive some serious stress
regardless of how many actual reps you perform. Keep in mind, however,
that you’ll be performing prescribed rep counts (not seconds) for
machine-based moves in this workout, as machines already offer constant
tension for reasons described above.

Constant Tension Workout

Use this program for the next six weeks to combine the
time-under-tension benefits of machine-based moves with the anabolic
boost of compound barbell lifts. For all moves shown in bold, check out
the corresponding exercise description before performing them.

Constant tension exercises can build size and strength despite using relatively light weights| Stimulate More Muscle Growth

T NATION | Stimulate More Muscle Growth

However, they also found that performing sets without blocking
blood flow, but using a 303 tempo and never allowing the muscles to
relax during the set (always flexing as hard as possible during every
inch of every rep) with 50-60% of the maximum performed to failure,
led to oxygen levels of 23-24%. Lactate, hGH, and IGF-1 levels were
also the same as with kaatsu training.

The moral of the story is
that constant tension exercises can build size and strength despite
using relatively light weights and even if muscle damage is fairly
low. However, if the muscle is allowed to relax during the set,
oxygen and blood will flow into the muscle and you won't reach
optimal benefits.

So, we could say that muscle growth can be stimulated by:

You could take advantage of all three methods by designing your program according to this template:

A chest workout might look something like this:

A. Decline bench press
4-5 x 4-6 reps
90-120 seconds of rest

B. Incline dumbbell press
3 x 8-10 reps
75 seconds of rest

C. Cable crossover or lying crossover
3 x 12-15 reps
60 seconds of rest

D. Squeeze press (pressing the dumbbells together as you simultaneously lift them)
3 x 8-12 using a 303 tempo
45 seconds of rest

Intensity & Training to Failure [Muscle Gain] • Myosynthesis

Intensity & Training to Failure [Muscle Gain] • Myosynthesis

The good news is that damn near anything can work. 

Train heavy, train light, and rotate through them.

In Conclusion

  • There’s a volume component to hypertrophy. Mechanical work, as
    determined by volume load (load * reps), is the trigger for growth.
    Intensity is only a permissive factor; you need your weights to be
    ‘heavy enough’ but you also need to do enough reps with those weights.
  • The fatigue element is important, perhaps more than the actual
    weight used (as long as the weight is above a minimum threshold). Using
    various rep ranges is likely useful to avoid staleness, and can be
    productive as long as effort is high and you train to a high percentage
    of your maximum ability. If you’re using RPE scores, train to a point
    where you only have 1-2 reps left, and occasionally go all-out for
    maximum reps.
  • Higher reps make it easier to rack up volume. Lower reps are better
    at building strength. Using a combination of low and high reps can
    attack the problem from different directions, and rotating between the
    two helps avoid staleness.
  • You don’t have to limit yourself to dynamic contractions. This
    method of constant-tension, peak-contraction training appears to work
    with isometrics and partial movements as well as anything.
NA, West DW, Staples AW, Atherton PJ, Baker JM, Moore DR, Holwerda AM,
Parise G, Rennie MJ, Baker SK, & Phillips SM (2010). Low-load high
volume resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than
high-load low volume resistance exercise in young men. PloS one, 5 (8) PMID: 20711498

G, & Howells KF (1974). Work-induced hypertrophy in exercised
normal muscles of different ages and the reversibility of hypertrophy
after cessation of exercise. The Journal of physiology, 239 (1), 179-93 PMID: 4855427

Goldberg AL, Etlinger JD, Goldspink DF, & Jablecki C (1975). Mechanism of work-induced hypertrophy of skeletal muscle. Medicine and science in sports, 7 (3), 185-98 PMID: 128681

Face the Wall Squat - YouTube

Uploaded on 2 Sep 2008
The Face the Wall
Squat is a great tool to add to your toolbox of techniques. It teaches
you how to Squat and clean. Put the weight on the heels and arch your
back. Do not let your head or knees touch the wall.

5 Muscle Myths Holding You Back: Do 8 to 12 Repetitions

5 Muscle Myths Holding You Back: Do 8 to 12 Repetitions

Do 8 to 12 Repetitions ?

The claim: It's the optimal repetition range for building muscle.

The origin: In 1954, Ian
MacQueen, M.D., an English surgeon and competitive bodybuilder,
published a scientific paper in which he recommended a moderately high
number of repetitions for muscle growth.


The truth: This approach places
the muscles under a medium amount of tension for a medium amount of
time, making it both effective for and detrimental to maximum muscle

A quick science lesson: Higher tension—a.k.a. heavier weights—induces
the type of muscle growth in which the muscle fibers grow larger,
leading to the best gains in strength; longer tension time, on the other
hand, boosts muscle size by increasing the energy-producing structures
around the fibers, improving muscular endurance. The classic
prescription of eight to 12 repetitions strikes a balance between the
two. But by using that scheme all the time, you miss out on the greater
tension levels that come with heavier weights and fewer repetitions, and
the longer tension time achieved with lighter weights and higher

The new standard: Vary your
repetition range—adjusting the weights accordingly—so that you stimulate
every type of muscle growth. Try this method for a month, performing
three full-body sessions a week: Do five repetitions per set in your
first workout, 10 reps per set in your second workout, and 15 per set in
your third workout.