Time under tension is one of the most important principles for muscle growth. This principle applies to weight lifting and body weight exercises equally. If you are not increasing the amount of time that the muscle is undergoing tension than you really are not undergoing any type of real change.
For the past few months I have been going through Gold Medal Bodies’ Parallettes Two program. I have been really excited with the changes that have occurred. I am on the 3rd phase of the program and beginning to be able to put moves together in a sequence. I am by no means a master but am seeing significant improvement.
Here are a couple videos to check out my progress. The first is me doing a lever spin. The second is me doing a front lever to V Sit to handstand. So far I have been very happy with P2. It has dramatically improved my strength and balance.
My only complaint is that my muscle mass has gone down. The program is more geared toward body weight strength not hypertrophy (muscle growth).
So as a result, two weeks ago I decided to embark on another 6 weeks of Bodyweight Overload in combination with P2. I had some hesitations because it is really intense and P2 already takes up about an hour a day but decided to move forward anyway.
I worked on creating a hybrid which I am now working through. Its essentially combining the best of muscle hypertrophy (Bodyweight Overload) and strength/balance (P2).
However, this article is not meant to be an update on my progress. This article is meant to share a technique I learned from the free ebook I download from professional bodybuilder Ben Pakulski called “Double Your Gains“.
He is a top ranked bodybuilder and researcher. I often like to download bodybuilder ebooks and see how I can apply their principles to body weight exercises. Sometimes they don’t work but most of the time they do… and the effects can be astounding.
In the book he talks about Time Under Tension. As explained above, this is an important principle for getting bigger muscles. Yet Ben takes it one step further. He says that Time Under Tension is not what you should be shooting for. You should be trying to achieve MAXIMAL Time Under Tension.
Maximal Time Under Tension brings even more intensity and tension to the exercise.
Ben uses the example of a barbell. You hold the barbell in front of you and squeeze your hands together and it engages more of your chest muscle. Do this while doing bench press and you have recruited more muscle fibers and made the exercise MUCH, MUCH harder.
Here’s a video of him explaining more.
It’s pretty cool stuff huh?
How Do You Apply This To Body Weight Exercises?
You can use this Maximal Time Under Tension principle in almost any body weight exercise to make it harder.
Let’s take the push up as an example.
While doing the push up you can use the ground to push against in a horizontal manner to make your chest muscles tighten up even more. The force shouldn’t be just up and down (like the normal push up) but also be horizontal as you push against the earth.
Take a look at the picture below.
You’ll notice that I am squeezing my hands together as hard as I can against the ground to engage the chest muscles even further.
Keep the horizontal tension throughout every repetition (the up portion and down portion).
Its important to note that you will not be able to do as many push ups when using this technique. That’s ok. You will be tearing more muscle tissue which is the purpose of doing the push ups in the first place.
This is why its called MAXIMAL Time Under Tension. You are controlling where the tension lies and increasing it the fullest.
You will also need to go slower during each exercise because you will be focusing on not just how many reps you can do but also increasing the tension of the muscle.
What Other Exercises Can I Apply This Technique?
You can apply this technique to a ton of different exercises. Here are just a few…
Maximal Tension Chest Dips
The maximal tension chest dip is one of the best exercises for building chest hypertrophy. If you don’t know how to do a chest dip, here is a great tutorial.
Maximal Tension Falling Tower
If you don’t know how to do falling tower here’s a video I made a few years ago. Remember to implement Maximal Time Under Tension by squeezing your thighs together the entire time.
Maximal Tension Hip Dips
Hips Dips are great to strengthen your core, lats and get rid of love handles. Here’s a tutorial if you don’t know how to do them. Though remember to go slowly and really squeeze the arm and legs together like how the arrows suggest.
Maximal Tension Stretch Push Up
This is the Stretch Push Up. Here’s a tutorial if you don’t know how to do it.
Maximal Tension Tricep Dips
When applying this technique to Tricep Dips its a little harder. You want to squeeze outward but also keep your elbows tight to your body. Its not an easy exercise to apply Maximal Time Under Tension but try your best. If you don’t know how to do this exercise here’s a tutorial.
Maximal Tension Squats
Here’s the normal squat but with Maximal Time Under Tension applied to it. When you squeeze inward you are engaging the adductor muscles of the leg. You can also squeeze outward and engage the abductor muscles. It really is a sweet technique, isn’t it? 🙂
Maximal Tension Lunges
This is one of my favorite Maximal Time Under Tension exercises. It really forces the hamstrings of the front leg and the hip flexors/quads of the back leg to engage. A lot of people say that you can’t work your hamstrings with just body weight exercises but this is a perfect example of how you can.
Maximal Tension Pull Ups
Maximal Tension Pull Ups are super challenging and will force your lats to contract even further. Really try to rip the bar apart throughout every second of the set.
Maximal Tension Chin Ups
The Maximal Tension Chin Up will make your biceps scream faster than any other exercise. However, you must try to pull the bar apart as hard as you can while doing every rep of the chin up. You’ll find that you won’t be able to do your normal amount of reps. That’s totally fine. Focus on creating TENSION. That’s where real change occurs.
From now on try to incorporate this principle of Maximal Time Under Tension to each exercise in your workout routine. You’ll be astounded at how quickly you fatigue and how quickly your muscle grows.
Remember, Time Under Tension does not cause the greatest growth but Maximal Time Under Tension does. You don’t want to just tense the muscle by doing the standard type of exercises. You want to force it to tense even further than it would have normally done.
That’s the real key.
Maximize your Time Under Tension and you’ll be astounded with the results.