“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save & preserve it.”
Plato 427-347 BC
Manipulating 'Muscular Tension' and 'Time Under Tension' to Build Lean Muscle
Building lean muscle is largely a product of 'muscular tension' and 'time under tension' The greater these two values the more lean muscle you will likely gain. Muscular tension refers to the level of force produced by a muscle in order to achieve a certain goal i.e. the force required to perform a push up. The greater the force required, the greater the muscular tension will likely be. Muscular tension can be manipulated by:
Performing the eccentric portion of an exercise at a slower tempo
Rather than letting gravity take over, work to actively control your body and/or weight during the eccentric portion of a strength training exercise. This requires greater levels of force than simply letting your body and/or weight free-fall.
Performing the concentric portion of an exercise at a faster tempo
Moving faster in the concentric phase of an exercise requires more force be produced in a shorter space of time. This equals greater muscular tension.
Increasing the intensity of an exercise
Increased intensity = increased muscular tension. When using bodyweight calisthenics this would translate to performing a harder variation of a similar movement (e.g. performing a one-arm push up requires more muscular tension than a regular push up). If you are using a kettlebell or other form of external resistance try performing the movement with a heavier weight to increase muscular tension!!
Time Under Tension (TUT) is a phrase used to describe how long your muscles are working for during;
- a single rep
- a single set
- an entire workout
TUT can therefore be manipulated by;
Slowing down the tempo of an exercise (particularly the eccentric phase)
For example you could use a 5-2-X-1 Tempo for a Regular Push Up. This sequence of numbers means you would take 5 seconds to lower yourself to the bottom of a push up, pause for two seconds, then accelerate back to the top of the movement and pause for one second before repeating.
Perform more reps of an exercise
This one needs little explanation. Obviously the more reps you perform the longer your muscles are going to be working.
Perform more sets of an exercise
Performing more sets of an exercise within a single workout will increase the overall TUT. This is perhaps the most effective variable to adjust as it will allow you to combine high levels of muscular tension with a high overall TUT.
Employing a number of different TUT strategies over a training cycle is a good idea to keep your training fresh and prevent stagnation setting in.
Hope this brief post gives you some tips on how to make your strength workouts more conducive to building lean muscle!