If you're looking to build muscle, you've probably heard of the term "time under tension" or TUT. It refers to the amount of time your muscles are under stress during a given moment of exercise, which is one key factor when it comes to muscle growth. However, TUT alone isn't enough to maximize your gains because you will also need to focus on compound multi-joint movements, volume, frequency, and intensity.
Compound movements are exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once, such as the bench press, squats, pull-ups, military press, deadlifts, and many others. A typical workout, you should hit at least 3 of these per session! These exercises are more effective than isolation exercises, which typically only target one muscle group at a time. Big compound movements stimulate more muscle fibers and require more energy / effort to do them. They also have a greater carryover to real-life activities and sports, as they involve multiple joints and planes of motion.
When it comes to TUT, compound movements allow you to achieve more time under tension per rep and set, as you have to control the weight throughout a longer range of motion and stabilize your body. For example, a squat requires you to lower the weight under control, pause at the bottom, and then stand back up while the load (plus gravity) are working against you, which takes more time and effort than a leg extension. This increased TUT leads to more muscle damage and metabolic stress, which are two of the primary mechanisms that are necessary for muscle growth.
Moving beyond just multi-joint compound lifts, you also need to vary your volume and rep ranges to optimize muscle growth.
Research has shown that doing sets of 10-12 reps is best for hypertrophy, or muscle growth, as it stimulates both the fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. This rep range also allows you to use heavier weights than higher reps, which is important for building strength. However, doing only 10-12 reps can lead to a plateau in your gains, as your body adapts to the same stimulus over time. In order to train around this plateau, you should dabble in the lower rep ranges that require higher lift percentages to be worked in!
This range (1-5), which I just mentioned, is best for building strength, as it focuses on the fast-twitch muscle fibers that are responsible for explosive movements. By doing heavy singles, doubles, or triples, you can also improve your neuromuscular coordination and technique, which will carry over to your higher-rep sets. However, doing only 1-5 reps can lead to a lack of metabolic stress and muscle damage, which are important for hypertrophy. The key to training successfully is to utilize a combination of rep ranges and volume to optimize both strength and hypertrophy.
Week 1-2… 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps for your main compound exercises
Week 3… 3-5 sets of 3-8 reps for your main compound exercises
This is just an example but highlights fluctuating your intensity and volume thus allowing you to target both muscle fibers and energy systems.
In addition to varying your volume and rep ranges, you also need to focus on frequency and intensity.
Research has shown that hitting each muscle group at least twice per week is best for muscle growth, as it allows for more frequent protein synthesis and recovery. This doesn't mean you have to do the same exercises every time, but rather you should rotate between different variations and angles to target different muscle fibers and avoid overuse injuries. Additionally, and this is where it can get confusing, you should not over vary all the movements that you are doing and instead pick from a select few as your main stables of training. This will ensure you are mastering movements and able to track your progress more effectively.
Intensity is another crucial factor in building muscle. It refers to the level of effort and challenge you put into your workouts (working to failure or near failure), and is often measured by how close you get to failure or your threshold. When you train with intensity, you force your muscles to adapt and grow by creating a stimulus that exceeds their current capacity. This can be achieved by increasing the weight, reps, or sets over time, or by reducing the rest periods between sets. Intensity when referring to program refers to percentages reaching 85-90% and higher of your 1 rep max!
The one thing about Intensity that can’t be overlooked is that it requires proper form and technique, as well as adequate rest and recovery. If you push yourself too hard or too often, you risk injury or burnout. It is important to adjust your training volumes accordingly, so you do not always sit in high intensity percentages. Additionally, train smart, by listening to your body! If you're feeling tired or sore, do some active recovery and adjust your training to a more isolation based to push through that day while remaining consistent! On the flip side, if you're feeling strong and energized, push yourself to your limit and see how far you can go.
Time under tension is an important factor in building muscle, but it's not enough on its own. To maximize your gains, you need to focus on compound movements, volume, frequency, and intensity... and NUTRITION!! But I digress and will leave that topic for another day. By doing a variety of rep ranges and sets, hitting each muscle group twice per week, and training with intensity, you can create a stimulus that challenges your muscles and forces them to adapt and grow. So next time you hit the gym, remember to vary it up, push yourself, and enjoy the journey of building muscle by pushing yourself to Failure and Beyond!
Some BONUS Content… Supplements & Hormones… how to play the game!
Cholesterol is required to build lean muscle mass! Yes, that is right. If you do not or try to lower your cholesterol then you will NOT build much muscle mass! There is more and more evidence, contrary to popular mainstream medicine, that shows cholesterol has no effect on heart disease.
Zinc deficiency will stunt growth and human development. It significantly lowers testosterone and low zinc has been shown to decrease muscle mass. If you keep training hard, and do everything right, but are low in Zinc, well then you will not be making GAINZ!!
- Liver (beef)
Vitamin D3 is produced by the skin from UVB (sunlight)… it is required for immune function, neuromuscular function, mineral metabolism, and testosterone synthesis. You should have about 50-100 nanomoles per liter, according to new research. Maybe supplement with Vitamin D3, depending on your area and/or season, to increase your amount to those numbers. The best way to be accurate is to get a blood test.
Magnesium… you should contain about 24g of this mineral. Side effects of low Magnesium are:
- Insulin Resistance
- Low T
- Bone Loss
- Anxiety / Stress / Depression
- Hyper Sensitivity
If you get enough Magnesium you can boost Test levels, improve your sleep patterns, and more!! Athletes need about 20% more magnesium than normal people because of the amount of muscle breakdown and stress on the body. When you are training with intensity you sweat out magnesium. Take about 200-400g of Magnesium Citrate following Post-Workout, because it will suppress the sympathetic nervous system, which causes stress and cortisol production.
Creatine is produced in the liver (mainly), but also in the pancreas and kidneys. It enhances phosphocreatine storage in the body. It produces more energy for the body. It can improve muscle growth, most likely as a result of increased energy and pushing out those extra reps!! Creatine can be found in Red Meat, Salmon, and more… Take 5g of Creatine Monohydrate per day to saturate your muscles in around a month’s time!
Additionally, it assists with recovery and should be taken post-workout. Researchers have found that it is far more effective when taken following a workout. If you want to go through a load phase research shows about 15-20g per day for 5-7 days will fully saturate your muscles. Once through the load you can scale back down to 5g per day, sometimes even as low as 3g.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid… can reduce inflammation, enhance the cardiovascular system and improve muscle building by:
- Lowers chronic inflammation
- Protects against too much muscle breakdown
- Increase Testosterone while Decreasing Cortisol
- Increase Fat Oxidation Rate and Metabolism
If you eat a lot of fatty fish, healthy fish, such as salmon, then you should be good to go! If you do not eat much fish then you should take about 2-3g of Fish Oil per day! It is great to consume following a workout and with another food item that has healthy fat!
*Krill Oil has a higher absorption rate with then Omega-3
Iron… has a primary role of increasing red blood cells and carrying oxygen throughout the body! Iron deficiency is more common for females, not males. About 17% of premenopausal women are said to be deficient. Eat red meat, fish, and organ meat like liver to improve your IRON levels.
L-Carnitine… reduces exercise muscle damage… it can reduce markers of cellular damage, reduce DOMS and free radical formation. L-Carnitine enhances blood flow and oxygen to the muscle tissue. You want to stick to about 2 grams post-workout.
Ashwaganda… with your sympathetic nervous system up following your workout, which hinders recovery. Taking Ashwaganda can reduce your cortisol. The parasympathetic system should be elevated, which can be helped out by Ashwaganda.
Protein… to BUILD muscle you must have a positive protein turnover rate. There is a lot of information out there regarding how much protein someone must eat in order to have more protein in than what you are getting rid of. However, from mainstream to new-stream I think they both have it wrong. A lot of information coming out points to .8g/lb of bodyweight as the go to ration for protein consumption; this number, although much better than the RDA’s lies, does not take in to account the types of protein, the activity level of the individual, and more… For example, if someone were to eat beans they would not be able to use all the protein. On the flip side, if someone were to eat eggs than they would get 100% of the protein. The body breaks down foods differently so if you are eating poor choices of protein, then you will not be getting all the macros. I think it is wiser to stick to a 1:1 ration of 1 gram to 1 pound of bodyweight.
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