10 Basic Rules for Gaining Muscle – #4 – Take Your Time

Building large amounts of muscle is actually a very complex phenomenon. It is the result of placing intense demands on your body and attempting to illicit certain desirable responses, specifically to increase size, strength, endurance, and appearance. In order to do so, you have to maximize the effects of your training, the nutrients you ingest, your body’s  ability to repair and heal itself, and the natural daily responses by your hormones and chemical functions.

Luckily for you, the basics of gaining muscle is not nearly as tough as you might think. All it really takes is  implementing a series of short changes to your diet and workout habits and a little dedication. The following set of rules will demonstrate the most important things you must know to make your workouts and diet more effective and start gaining size and strength.


Rule # 4 – Take Your Time

While patience may be a virtue, it is one that has been long forgotten in modern society as the need for speed and efficiency often outweighs the results themselves. Well, unfortunately for you, this is going to be something  you will need to rediscover in the pursuit of muscle development.

In addition to the necessity of  proper form for each exercise, an equally integral part of lifting weights is the speed with which you perform the reps. Not only does swinging the weights rapidly negate the force that your muscles exert (and therefore how well they are trained and their ability to grow), but it also lends itself to other bad habits, ultimately sacrificing the movement itself and potentially leading to injury.

By slowing down the motion of each exercise you can ensure that you are actually lifting the weight yourself, and not relying on momentum for assistance. The two main forces you must work against when lifting weights are those of momentum and gravity- try to lift the weights with ONLY your muscle contractions, do not let anything assist you.

For the concentric portion (initial muscle contraction) of the lift you must perform it in a controlled manner – there are very few people who would not benefit more from slowing down. Though many people do not realize this, the eccentric (lowering contraction) portion of the exercise is equally as important – you should try as hard as you can to fight the process of gravity and slowly lower the weight to the resting position in a steady fashion. And let’s not forget the transition period- in between the concentric and eccentric portions you should keep the weight in place for a brief pause and squeeze the targeted muscle to direct the blood flow towards it, assisting with strength and recovery (and boosting your pump).

A good way to keep your form is to count the seconds of each rep – ideally 2-3 seconds for the concentric portion, a one second pause at the top, and another 3-4 seconds for the eccentric. If you are unable to do this for more than a few reps, then chances are, the weight is too heavy. (Though an occasional overload using heavy weights is a good way to shock your muscles into additional growth – make sure you have a spotter handy and keep your form rigid.)

The benefits of a slow and focused motion are widely known, but they are taken even further by a relatively innovative theory of lifting referred to as Time Under Tension training. According to these principles, it was proposed that the most important aspect of resistance training was the overall time that the muscle was placed under the stress of the weight- more so than the exercise type or the weight itself.  It required counting the seconds of each portion of the rep and adding them to achieve a total number – a number which was to be gradually increased each week by slowing the motions even further. While the fundamentals of this theory are by no means proven, the majority of people who followed this style achieved very noticeable results. If nothing else, the TUT training forced people to focus on the speed of their reps and take their time, thereby eliminating momentum and forcing the muscles to work harder.

If you take only one thing out of this, remember – SLOW DOWN. The overall number of repetitions you are capable of is far less significant than the form and speed of each rep. It is much better to perform 6 sets of 5 reps than the traditionally prescribed 3 sets of 10. Whats more, you will find yourself lifting more weight with better posture and gaining far more out of each workout than you would with the conventional “don’t-stop-until-you-reach-this-number” approach. Listen to your muscles and try to feel them with each rep.

Miss anything in Basic Rules series?

Rule #1

Rule #2

Rule #3

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