Nearly all of us work in numbers when we train. Many of us stay safe in our rep range through fear of failure. This is a common problem when trying to gain strength and muscle.
Numbers are great as a guideline, but training with tempo and intensity are key components when trying to get those gains.
Adding a slower tempo (time under tension) to your weights training can be a psychological issue for many of us because sometimes we have to lower the weight to keep good form. It’s a bit of a mind f**k, but it works.
When training there are different types of muscle actions. It’s wise to understand this so you can get the best from your workouts.
* concentric – muscles shortening (positive)
* eccentric – muscles lengthening (negative)
* isometric – muscles staying the same length (static)
* isokinetic – muscles moving at a constant speed (same speed)
When lifting weights our muscles shorten (concentric/positive) and when lowering weights our muscles lengthen (eccentric/negative). Performing a pause in the middle of a lift has the muscle stay the same length (isometric/static). Even though the muscle isn’t moving, it is still working.
I’ll use push ups as the example of how all of these muscle actions can benefit you for becoming stronger and gaining quality muscle.
Objective – FAILURE:
* lower (eccentric) for 3 seconds
* pause (isometric) at ninety degrees for 2 seconds
* power up (concentric) for 1 second
That’s 6 seconds per rep which is 10 reps in a minute.
Try 3/4 sets to failure and rest for a maximum of 45 seconds.
If you are finding that you can only get a few reps out because recovery is challenging, feel free to drop to your knees when pushing up and then go back on to your toes when lowering. This is called ‘eccentric overloading’ and when you can do no more, this is what I call “true failure”.
We are strongest eccentrically, so learning how to perform ‘cheat reps’ will come in handy, especially if there is no spotter working with you.
Bodyweight exercises are always a great place to start when new to training for eccentric failure.
You may have noticed that I have mentioned the word ‘failure’ quite often. Learning to push ourselves until failure can be a real art and help us to get superior strength and muscle gains.
It’s not easy though as the burn normally causes us to quit. DON’T QUIT!!! Stay in the burn for as long as you can. It’ll be worth it.
Nutrition is extremely important when trying to accomplish any goal, not just improving strength and building muscle.
Your body requires nutrient dense foods to recover from training and replenish our energy stores.
When most people start eating ‘clean’ they are eating healthier, but not consuming near enough calories to gain adequate muscle. This will more than likely cause us to quit and leave us feeling downhearted.
Consuming more nutrient dense foods consistently is the key, not necessarily ‘clean eating’.
Sleep is more important than most people realise. This is where the magic of training and nutrition come together and results begin to show.
It is wise to eat or have supplementation pre-nap as we have sleep cycles that normally last around 90 minutes or so. When our first sleep cycle is at its peak we release the most growth hormone. It’s important to have the right nutrition in place to hit the growth hormone if you want to build muscle or gain size.
Here’s a quick recap when looking to fast track your way to gaining strength and muscle:
* tempo (t.u.t. – time under tension)
* training to failure
Once all of these points are in place you will start to feel and see a difference within a matter a weeks.
3… 2… 1… GO!!!