We’ll delve into a number of things you can do to OPTIMIZE and DOMINATE EVERY REP that you perform to take your muscle-growth through the freakin’ roof!
If you’ve missed parts one and two, I’d suggest you also give these a read to understand a little more about the importance of tension (here) along with a number of tips to help you set yourself up for muscle-building success when beginning every set (here).
So, we of course all know intellectually that form is a MASSIVE factor with regard to our physique enhancement efforts, but pay SERIOUS attention to it! What you do during your workout is ESSENTIAL for hypertrophy. Gym time is when you MUST provide your muscles with the stimulus necessary to have them say, “boys we gotta GROW!!”.
The majority of the training world are not super-responders to resistance training. Most will never be that beast we’ve all seen in the gym making massive gains in musculature despite doing pretty much everything wrong.
Do not assume that you are the exception. If you do, then like a flat-earther attempting to travel to the edge of the globe, don’t be surprised if you find yourself eventually spinning your wheels going round and round in circles with little-no progress to show for your efforts.
As implied in earlier articles in this series, there is a lot more to think about other than simply moving a weight from point A to point B… this is an outdated and inefficient approach, and yet remains the prevalent ideology seen in gyms around the world. Even more widespread though are a lack of notably impressive physiques (despite some people putting in respectable effort). I would go so far as to argue that inadequate form plays no small part in this occurrence.
In the previous article of the series we touched on some of the hows and whys of locking your body down during an exercise… let’s now talk about some TOP LEVEL training techniques that you should be implementing during EVERY single rep you perform for better gains STARTING NOW!
My goal is to help you to minimize your wasted time, and of course, to MAXIMIZE your MUSCLE-GROWTH!! Some of these guidelines you will have heard me talk about before, and some will be new to you.
But don’t just read them… LEARN them!
And experience a HUGE jump in progress!!
8 Intra-Set Execution Principles for Maximum Muscle-Growth
Always initiate the movement from the muscle you intend to work.
The target muscle should near-always be the prime mover from start to finish; I recommend attempting to create and build tension within it prior to even executing the movement (this will likely require practice for most of you but will become easier in time).
Aim to fully lengthen and fully shorten the muscle (full flexion and full extension).
Question: “given that we are strongest in the mid-range of a movement, plus considering that important aims for achieving a maximum hypertrophic-response include creating and maintaining maximum tension, why not simply forget the extremes of the range in which we are forced to use less weight leading to less tension?” Well (for starters), to reach our MAXIMUM muscular potential we must also strive to achieve maximum muscle-fiber recruitment! Working only in the mid-range would deprive us of achieving this… learn to get strong at the extremes of the range and you’ll further enhance your muscle-building efforts!
To ensure that you fully lengthen a muscle in order to complete the eccentric portion of a rep, it helps to focus on trying to engage the antagonist (opposite) muscle in the path of movement. To illustrate this point, your bicep is fully lengthened when your tricep is fully contracted, therefore when performing bicep curls for example, aim to contract your triceps at the bottom of the rep. When performing a pressing movement for the chest, try to contract your back at the bottom etc.
Contract through the entire duration, and entire range, of available motion.
Just moving the weight through a full range of motion should not be the goal, squeezing / contracting the working muscle as HARD as possible throughout should be the aim… remember, squeeze it like it owes you money! 😉
Keep in mind that when the goal is to maximize hypertrophy, constant tension appears to be beneficial! The contrast in growth between sets of continuous movement compared to sets where tension to allowed to momentarily dissipate (at the top and / or bottom of a rep) appears to be significant! If / when strength increases are your predominant goal, rest / pause to your heart’s content, otherwise
keep that weight moving / muscle contracting!
Perform 40 to 70 second sets.
While there’s not a massive amount of applicable research on the topic, experience in the field suggests to me that keeping a muscle under tension for between 40 to 70 seconds appears to be optimal for the majority of muscle-groups… so make this your default! For many of you, this will force you to reduce the weight you can use, however when your muscles are a’popping you’ll soon thank me ;). I would typically recommend placing a little more emphasis on hitting failure (or close to failure) around the 40 second mark given that heavier weights can be used, though work through various points of the 40 to 70 second spectrum on a regular basis. One approach might be to perform 40 second sets with heavier weights during the first exercise for each muscle-group, finishing off with 70 second sets and lighter weights during the final exercise.
Perform slower negatives to positives.
It’s widely believed that the eccentric / negative phase of a movement causes the majority of micro-trauma to muscle myofibrils, hence it appears to stimulate greater hypertrophy. I recommend most people to spend 4 seconds in this phase with just 1 second allotted to the concentric / positive portion of the rep (a 4-0-1-0 tempo), for non-advanced lifters in particular. This should ensure COMPLETE control on the way down, therefore more tension throughout the movement.
No extraneous movement / body English.
It’s perhaps somewhat redundant to re-state this after yesterday’s article, however ramming the point home should do more good than harm. As a general rule, always aim to move ONLY the muscle you intend to work! As explained yesterday… LOCK IT DOWN people!
With the entirety of this post (as well the previous 2 articles in this series in mind), ask yourself, “is how I’m training currently likely to be maximizing my results?”… if not, you’ve unearthed GOLD here so be sure to scoop it all up and apply what you’ve learnt!
“When the goal is to maximize hypertrophy, always execute an exercise in a manner which allows for maximum continuous tension in the target muscle(s), through a full range of motion, for a total of 40 to 70 seconds, pushing to achieve frequent progressive tension overload!”
A huge proportion of what you need to know to maximize your training is in that quote…
Read it, write it down, re-read it, memorize it, reflect on it when you arrive at the gym and crush your next workout!
Check out the MI40 Foundation for hours of personal instruction from me and a revolutionary training system that will change the way you train forever. GET GROWING!