Lift Slow for Fast Gains

Time Under Tension for Maximum Muscle Growth

Lift Slow for Fast Gains - Time Under Tension for Maximum Muscle Growth
A recent survey showed that most young and middle-aged men felt self-conscious about poor muscle mass in their chest, shoulders and abs. They wanted to look muscular and fit but really didn’t know how to achieve it. FitnessRx for Men has the answer. Time under tension is the key to building muscle and promoting muscle protein synthesis. Do 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions to failure at 50 to 80 percent of maximum strength (1-RM) two times a week if you want to build muscle mass and strength. This method is safe, effective and fast.

This advice flies in the face of recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine and my own weight-training text, Basic Weight Training for Men and Women (McGraw Hill, 2013, 8th edition). Conventional wisdom is that high resistance and low reps build strength best and that multiple sets of moderately heavy weights (i.e., 80% of max) promote muscle hypertrophy. New scientific research suggests that pushing the muscles to the max using lighter weights might be the key to greater muscle growth— at least in recreational strength athletes. This might not be the best way to build strength for power athletes, but it provides a safe, effective, and fast way to build muscle mass and decrease body fat for most guys.

Metabolic stress is the key to building muscle mass and cutting fat. Sophisticated new studies that measured rates of protein synthesis and gene activation showed that high volume training using moderately heavy weights triggered muscle protein synthesis better than programs using heavy weights and low reps. High volume creates metabolic stress that promotes muscle growth, activates genes controlling protein synthesis, and stimulates hormones that help release and break down fat.

Scientists, coaches and most guys in the gym have been barking up the wrong tree for more than 50 years when it comes to designing training programs that build muscle. Conventional wisdom has been that lifting heavy weights is the best way to promote muscle hypertrophy. Power athletes, such as weightlifters, powerlifters, throwers and football players, typically push massive weights to build maximum strength and power. These programs train the nervous system to coordinate and turn on muscle fibers that help athletes run faster, throw farther, punch harder and jump higher. Lifting heavy weights develops strength and explosive power, but it is not the best way to build muscle and burn fat. Most guys don’t want to win an Olympic gold medal in the shot put or long jump; they want to look good on the beach or in bed.

Time under tension— the total time it takes to do a series of muscle contractions— is critical for building mass. Lifting heavy weights for a few repetitions develops plenty of tension but the stress doesn’t last long. Training with moderately heavy weights for higher volumes and minimizing rest periods between sets maximizes metabolic stress, increases growth hormone levels, and activates biochemical pathways that build muscle size.

Scientific breakthroughs in medical technology have given scientists the ability to look deep into the body to learn how muscles grow and how the body manages fat. New findings challenge long-held beliefs about methods for building a lean, sleek body. FitnessRx for Men has taken this knowledge and produced a program called the Dynamic Tension Workout. This exercise program uses a high-rep superset weight-training program, aerobics, and a sensible diet that will stress your metabolism, build muscle and decrease body fat.