and Physiology Information
Justin Opal, RPT
under tension is a critical element in every exercise program. It ensures
that you are giving your body the correct instructions in the form of
muscular contractions to receive the results you desire. The human body
is similar to a computer in the way they both interpret instructions.
When you are giving a computer a command you have to be exactly right,
if you are off even by a little bit in your command you can hit enter
all day long and still not get the results you want.
bodies make specific adaptations to imposed demands. If for example
you are the average 19 year old male who wants to increase muscle mass
to get buff for the beach you have to put the correct demands on your
musculature to receive the adaptation of increased muscle mass (hypertrophy).
Scientific studies have shown that the most effective way to gain muscle
is to progressively overload the muscles using contractions to momentary
failure between 30 and 60 seconds per set.
most young males who want to put on muscle lift heavy for 10 fast reps
per set which usually correlates to 20 seconds of muscular tension or
less. This form of training is telling your body to increase power with
limited hypertrophy. Which is fine if your goal is to improve power,
but in the example above the males wanted to increase muscle mass. This
reinforces the importance of goal setting. You have to know where you
are going to get there, and to make sure you are not misplacing your
time and energy you have to know how to get there. Good intentions will
only take you so far. The males in this example would achieve their
goals faster if they used an appropriate weight to fatigue their musculature
within the correct program framework.
common mistake is to go for the largest weights you can handle and throw
momentum into your reps. Manipulation of momentum does have a vital
role in sport. But, if you want to educate your muscles to promote the
correct changes in your body you have to challenge them with the appropriate
time under tension, not just heaving big weights around. Every moment
that momentum is bringing the weight up is taking away from the muscle
stimulus of the contraction making the exercise less effective. Instead
of using a weight that is too heavy for you to control try a more appropriate
weight which allows you to squeeze as much tension as possible out of
every repetition in the targeted muscles maximizing your precious work
under tension really is a simple concept to grasp when you take a second
to think about it. That is one of the reasons why it is often overlooked
in many exercise programs. No one can escape the passage of time, even
if you are not paying attention to it. Remember if you cannot contract
your muscles at the end of every movements range of motion you
have used momentum not muscular contractions to get there. A set is
constant tension, if the tension is relieved at any point the set is
actually over. So if you follow the pattern of doing a rep then taking
a break you are performing a lot of single rep sets. With a lack of
muscular contractions comes a lack of instructions to your body, which
translates, to a lack of desired results. Time under tension is the
key to clear communication with our bodies. This technique is an integral
part of the foundation of the OPAL ATHLETICS training method.
reading this brief summary of time under tension you might say
you already use good form with slow and controlled contractions.
If this concept interests you there is a self-check to test how
much tension you are giving your musculature with your current
exercise program. All you need to do is watch the clock during
your next work out to time how long it takes you to perform your
work sets. A good baseline tempo for a slow and controlled repetition
is 4 seconds (2sec eccentric & 2sec concentric). If your current
program calls for 23 sets of 1015 reps it should take
you 4060sec to complete those reps (does it?). This 4-second
tempo is also a minimum for quality muscular contractions. Once
you get started with this time under tension concept there is
a great deal of variety in the tempo of the repetitions, which
can maximize the effectiveness of each exercise.