Here’s a Great training tip that will absolutely help you build muscle faster!
I call it the “Sense, Tense & Lift” protocol. Let’s first look at an example of the “Sense” portion – If you are about to train your biceps, using a biceps barbell curl. Rather than just jump into your set of exercise, you can stimulate the biceps muscles much more by first thinking strongly about your biceps – I refer to this with my clients as “putting your mind into the muscle”.
This might sound hokey to some, but the simple act of using laser focus during exercise, concentrated on the muscle you intend to train, will help to enhance the stimulation of that muscle during exercise. The mind is VERY powerful and can help you achieve extraordinary results from your training.
Now let’s move to the “Tense” portion, again using the biceps as an example. Before you even pick up the barbell, I want you to bend (AKA flex) at both elbows and lock them into that position during this portion – Do not allow the elbows to move from that bent elbow (arm) position. Now, isometrically (contract the muscle as hard as you can) contract the biceps without moving your arms and hold for approximately 10 seconds – Make sure to breath while contracting.
(Just so you have a full understanding here, contracting a muscle is also know as squeezing or flexing, although you cannot not technically flex a muscle, only joints – But you get the point).
By contracting the biceps isometrically, you will begin to feel what it should feel like when you successfully get these muscles stimulated/engaged. You might than wonder, if isometrics help enhance muscle stimulation, why not just perform isometrics instead of traditional (isotonic) movements?
The answer is, in order to optimally train a muscle using isometrics, you would have to contract at each and every degree (from 1 to 100) over the full range of motion to fully stimulate the muscle and optimally recruit muscle fibers – This is simply not realistic.
The “Tense” isometric portion is used as a training tool which will help you get a better idea for what localized muscle stimulation should feel like.
Now comes the “Lift” portion: Finally, you’ll quickly (why waste time) pick up the weight that you’re going to lift -Again, we’ll use our example of the Biceps Barbell Curl. Begin the barbell curl and keep your mind (concentration/focus) in/on that muscle during the entire set of exercise.
Now here’s a real Gem! Rather than just curling the weight up and lowering it back down, I want you to simultaneously perform an isometric contraction while you’re curling and lowering the weight over the full range of exercise motion.
Yes, this contradicts the non-movement pattern often associated with isometrics, but by moving and squeezing at the same time, you will be ensuring that the muscles you intend on training are the ones actually working and taking the brunt of the work. It’s easy to get caught up in just “going through the motions”, when it comes to lifting (and lowering) weights.
Try the “Sense, Tense & Lift” protocol and I guarantee you that your muscle building pursuits will be taken to completely new level of success!
James Villepigue CSCS