Continuous tension (CT) is a simple training technique that I have used consistently over the years both in my own training, and in that of my trainees.
This advanced bodybuilding technique that can help you:
1) Increase the intensity of your workouts and therefore speed up your results;
2) Save your joints from excessive wear and tear;
3) Keep you from possibly injuring yourself.
As the name implies, continuous tension involves maintaining tension on the muscle throughout the entire range of motion of an exercise, for the complete duration of a set. Let’s take the bench press to illustrate this technique.
Normally, most trainees perform a set of bench presses in a “stop and start” fashion, that is, they pause at the top of the movement (arms extended) for a moment, before beginning their next repetition. During this pause, tension is taken off the muscle, the muscle gets a brief rest, and therefore, intensity is compromised.
More importantly, since tension is taken off the muscles, additional stress is transferred to the joints, which must momentarily bear the load while the muscles rest. It is at this point in an exercise that you are most prone to injury. The back and forth transferring of the load in a series of “starts and stops” puts you at risk for injury.
(Note: That’s not to say that you should not pause momentarily during a set if you feel that you are out of control; on the contrary, sometimes this is necessary to regain our bearings, particularly when utilizing large poundages.)
Coming back to our bench press; a trainee using a “fluid style” would appear to an observer as performing his/her set with continuous motion; reps would be performed in succession without any apparent pause at either the start or finish of any given rep. It would appear that the trainee is “pumping” the weight.
The key for the constant tension technique to work is to utilize full range of motion, and not pause before beginning each rep. You stop each rep just a hair shy of lockout, which keeps the tension on the muscles, and off the joints.
The result: more intensity in the muscle, better results with lighter weights, less stress on the joints and less risk of injury.
Caveat: this is an advanced technique and one that is not to be used by beginners who have not mastered complete coordination and proper exercise technique.
OK, this is where “Time under Tension” comes into play. TUT is simply a training method that involves counting exercise time, not reps. For example, instead of counting reps on a set of bench presses, you perform bench presses for 60 seconds. To do this, you slow down your reps, taking two-three seconds to perform the positive/lifting (concentric) contraction, and up to six seconds for the negative/lowering (eccentric) contraction. You SLOW the exercise way down, and utilize continuous tension. Use a digital kitchen timer with an alarm to let you know when your sixty seconds are up.
This form of training requires great exercise form and control, so it is not for beginners. And it hurts, so it is not for the weak of mind and spirit. (Note: Sorenzymes can help you with the post workout soreness and our BA Endurance product can help you to have more muscle endurance, and thus, handle longer contracted times).
Try it. It will give your training a nice change. Remember that it’s all about keeping your body guessing so that it won’t adapt to your training routine too quickly. Change is needed to nudge a muscle group out of a plateau. Try this program with various time periods… 90 or 120 seconds, if you’re brave! Let me know what you think.
Yours for a Lean Body,
Your Lean Body Coach™
About the Author
One of the world’s most well-known and celebrated bodybuilding legends, Lee Labrada holds 22 professional bodybuilding titles, including the IFBB Mr. Universe. He is one of few pro bodybuilders in history to consistently place in the top four at the Mr. Olympia competition (the “Super Bowl” of bodybuilding) for seven consecutive years—a feat he shares with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He has appeared on the covers of more than 100 bodybuilding and fitness magazines and has been featured on CNBC, FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and ESPN as a fitness and nutrition expert.
Lee was also inducted into the Bodybuilding Hall of Fame, is an Internationally known best selling fitness authos and holds a Bachelors of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. For more about Lee please visit his page here: Lee Labrada’s page.