Ever see guys in the gym curling weights like it’s a race?
Well that’s what I wanna talk with you about today. The little known “secret” to enhance the muscle-building power of your workouts:
Firstly, let’s get into slowing down the tempo on eccentric movements.
An eccentric movement involves lengthening the muscle under tension.
For example, lowering the dumbbell in a bicep curl.
Btw – know what happens when you do that?
This lengthening under tension causes the micro tears in the muscle. And THIS is what your body repairs and grows back stronger when you rest and recover.
But it’s so under-looked in the fitness community!
And yet it’s damn important when it comes to building muscle effectively.
Because those guys curling dumbbells who let the weight come crashing down without control… they’re literally robbing their biceps of an increase in protein synthesis and growth potential!
Sure. You can (and should be) be explosive on the concentric movement (think raising the dumbbell in your bicep curl).
The eccentric is where you should slow things down.
This study published in January 2012 tested between two groups of men utilizing 6s Eccentric and Concentric movements. The other group followed a tempo involving 1s per.
It found that the slow tempo group had greater rates of muscle protein synthesis. And in concluding,
These results suggest that the time the muscle is under tension during exercise may be important in optimizing muscle growth; this understanding enables us to better prescribe exercise to those wishing to build bigger muscles and/or to prevent muscle loss…
But It’s Not Just About Moving The Load…
A lot of guys out there usually need to slow it down between working sets, as well.
I’m talking about the rest time between sets.
Nobody tracks this.
And there are often misconceptions around this.
The common belief (mostly among bodybuilders), is that ‘metabolic stress’ from short periods of rest are most effective for muscle growth.
Even this meta-analysis published in 2010 by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld made a case for metabolic stress being a large factor in hypertrophy. The conclusion from his findings was that the application of a hypertrophy program should include rest periods of 60-90 seconds tops between sets.
However, Dr. Schoenfeld would later debunk his own research when he released this study in 2016.
The evidence concluding that:
“longer rest periods promote greater increases in muscle strength and hypertrophy…”
Which makes sense…
The body provides energy through three main systems – Phosphagen, Anaerobic, and the Aerobic.
All you need to know is that these energy systems produce a molecule called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), which is required for any muscular contraction.
All three energy sources are dictated by the requirements of certain activities.
You can think of it as a continuum:
<—– Phosphagen —– Anaerobic —– Aerobic —–>
This is a very basic look at energy, but essentially ATP-PC maxes out at about 12 seconds tops, shifting into the anaerobic system, until about 50-seconds(ish), where it will shift again into the aerobic system.
Again don’t worry so much about this.
However, pay attention to this next part.
For short, maximal bouts of energy (like lifting heavy weights) – you’ll require most ATP from ATP-PC.
And did you know that this energy source can take up to 3-5 minutes to fully restore!?
The approximate physiological rate is:
- 30 seconds – 50%
- 60 seconds – 75%
- 90 seconds – 88%
- 120 seconds – 95%
- 180 seconds – 99%
So. What this means is that the recommendation for 60-90 seconds only puts you at 75-88%.
AKA you’re not fully charged for your next working set!
There’s this guy I met at a gym who was a pretty big dude.
I’d guess he was somewhere around 260 or so…
But he wasn’t very strong.
And I knew that it was (in part) because he rushed his time between sets.
He would only give himself a minute or so before diving into the next set. Then he’d burn out at less reps, and reduce the weight. Repeating the process.
I know a lot of guys who work out a lot but are unfortunately pretty weak… and a lot of it has to do with insufficient rest between sets.
But why does that matter?
You can move more weight when you’re fully charged.
And being able to lift heavier or perform more reps will have a considerable effect on muscle size and strength.
The ‘metabolic stress’ argument gets thrown out the window when you consider this.
If you’re doing isolation exercises or higher rep ranges, by all means you can reduce your rest time.
But if you’re training at a low rep max, then you’ll definitely want to give yourself up to 3-minutes or so to recharge before the next set.
Get it. Got it. Good.
Good luck out there!