Bodybuilding is all about increasing the amount of muscle mass on our bodies, and we do so by lifting weights in progressively heavier amounts, which tells our bodies we need to grow to survive. It’s basically a survival and adaptation thing.
There are techniques, programs, supplements and pieces of equipment galore, all aimed at helping us to achieve this very goal: maximum size, in minimum time.
But, speaking of time brings me to the most important – and overlooked aspect – of any successful training program, and that is the amount of time your muscles spend under tension.
Let’s say, for instance, you lift a very heavy dumbbell for one single rep. The amount of time your muscles spent under tension was barely any, and as such, not enough to affect change by convincing the body to adapt by growing.
But, if you lifted a lesser amount – but still challenging – for more reps, the time your muscles spend under tension is enough to make it clear to the body it needs to adapt by growing, or you won’t survive. And, lo and behold, it does.
How many times have you heard it said: slowly, slowly, and slowly?
Reps should be performed in this way for the majority of the time (there’s that word again) for this very reason – to increase time under tension.
Time under tension equally applies to the volume of weight you are lifting throughout your workout, and this can be increased or decreased with reps and set numbers. Too little, and the results won’t be up to much, and too much, likewise. It’s finding the right balance. The sweet spot… and it’s different for everyone, and forever changing as our bodies adapt and demand we do something new and fresh for continued growth.