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The process of building muscle is fascinating It's both extremely simple, yet infinitely complex. Saying it takes a heck of a lot of work is no surprise. But what exactly allows for the
adaptation of stress to result in bigger muscles? The standard answer: The muscles adjust to heavy weights and as a consequence enlarge and increase in strength. You may think the scientific
explanation of the musclebuilding process is more elaborate and complex, but in actuality it's even simpler-no one knows for sure.
This ambiguity regarding muscle hypertrophy has led to the dozens of available training programs, all promising the "best" results. The irony - no particular exercise routine can possibly be the best because the body will adapt to any form of stimulus sooner or later. Mother Nature is a lot smarter than any scientist or exercise guru. She s always one step ahead.
Whenever you hear someone praise a new technique or tell you he found a personal trainer who jump-started his gains, all that really happened was he did something different. The newness of the stimulus produced results. Eventually, the body will adapt to the new method of working out and progress will stall again.
To establish change most bodybuilders use what is known as periodization, which is basically the concept of alternating between periods of heavy weight, low-rep training and lighter weight, high-rep training. Exercises are also varied in an effort to keep your routine fresh.
Regardless of how many changes you make, what may be the biggest factor in the process of muscle growth is often ignored. The important ingredient is the amount of time the muscles are placed under tension. Some believe the time-under-tension theory is the only factor which matters. They could very well be right.
Follow me for a moment. When lifting a weight the muscle goes through a range of motion. Within each nano-inch of movement hundreds of fibers come into play. After completing a set of, let's say, 10 reps each of those fibers has been stressed for a specific amount of time.
Now, let's suppose that set took 30 seconds to complete. What difference would it make if only 5 reps were completed in that total time? Wouldn't all the muscle fibers have received the same amount of stress? Even though the muscle contracted half as many times, the period when the fibers were stressed was twice as long. Will this change produce as much muscle growth? Less? More? Is 3 sets of 10 repetitions much different than 6 sets of 5 reps? It's hard to say for certain. There are too many variables to accurately gauge motor recruitment, but the theory does pose some intriguing speculations, doesn't it?
One argument against the time-under-tension method is how isometric exercise (when tension is developed but you have no change in the length of the muscle) places strain on a muscle for a designated amount of time, yet the results gained from this type of workout have been proven to be sub-par to that of weight training. The comparison, however, is unfair. Since isometrics work a muscle in a static position all the fibers don't come into play. You need to perform this type of activity in every range of a muscle's movement and, to my knowledge, not too many people have attempted such a program. (Although I would be interested to hear about the results.)
Another angle to the time-under-tension principle has to do with powerlifting. If a powerlifter executes only 2 or 3 reps the length of the set is only a couple of seconds. How can that lead to any strength and muscle gains? The answer: The lift is performed many times throughout the workout. If he does 20 sets of five-second lifts that's 100 seconds that the muscles have been under tension, which is approximately 3 "normal" sets. This amount is a bit on the low-volume side, but as you know powerlifting is supposed to develop strength, not muscularity.
Realize also those 100 seconds are at ultimate intensity. Incidentally, although similarities exist between bodybuilding and strength training, for optimum development in one or the other, you need to concentrate on that form of training.
By following the theory that growth results from the duration a muscle is under stress, why not incorporate this facet of training in-to both your heavy and light training periods? Try a few sets in the following manner and you may be surprised to find how deeply this technique hits the muscle.
How to Incorporate time under tension into your routine