This series of articles (March – April 2015) covers the science of muscle development for physique transformation, and the coupling of technology with new training techniques for faster gains. Each article slowly builds upon the information from the previous)
Last time we spoke all about the muscle system and it’s how you work out that generates results. It all depends on your genetic makeup – the “type” of muscle system combination that you have, and how they all work together to create the muscle output (work).
What we need is a system that measures the “output” of the muscle and the effects of varying the different operating parameters.
When 10 reps are not 10 reps
We know that lifting more weight is good – and that more reps with any given weight is also good – but when we factor in the “how you lift” criteria we realise something else.
You ask Jane or Jim about a certain exercise and they say that they can do 10 reps with a certain weight, let’s say 50kg. But what is missing is how they perform the 10 reps.
Do they cheat them up in fast style?
Do they lift very slowly in strict style?
It’s a world of difference and says a lot about their muscle system capabilities.
Since muscle size is related to the ability to perform work at a high rate, your options are greater. The other important factor is how quickly you complete all your working sets – as this is the work rate, also known as work intensity.
Let’s run through some calculations for a moment.
If you currently do 10 repetitions with 50kg and each rep takes 2 seconds to complete, and with a 60 second rest, you are able to repeat the 10 reps:
- What would happen if you increase the duration of the repetitions to 3 seconds? You might drop one or two reps, but is this now a better or worse load than before?
o The 3-second reps will create more muscle stress. 10 reps at 2 seconds each will take 20 seconds to complete, whereas 9 reps at 3 seconds takes 27 seconds, 8 reps is 24 seconds, 7 reps is 21 seconds
o However, the other consideration is that 10 reps is 300 kg-reps of Work, 9 reps is 270, 8 reps is 240 etc.
o So there is a trade-off between the stress (from the time under tension) and the work completed and the time to complete the work (the work rate)
- What would happen if you cut the rest period down from 60 seconds to 50 secs?
o You may drop some reps on the last set or two
o But if you are doing 4 sets, you are now saving 10 seconds over 3 rest periods, so overall, the total exercise is 30 seconds less, with a similar work volume, and hence the work rate is now higher.
- Then of course, there are the combinations of all these variables to consider:
o More weight vs. lower reps and lower total work, unless sets are increased to compensate for the lower work per set
o More TUT vs. lower reps or increased rest periods, hence lower work rate, but increase in total stress
o More intensity (shorter rests) vs. less reps, hence lower total work, but potentially greater work intensity
Since muscle size is related to the ability to perform work at a high rate, the options at your disposal are now considerable.
Instead of simply trying to add more weight on the bar, say 2.5 kg (5.5 Lb), how about increasing the TUT per rep and keep rest periods the same? Or reduce rest periods and try to maintain the reps and Time Under Tension (TUT) per rep similar?
The significance and implications of these options can be massive for your physique goals.
- What if your muscles actually work best with longer TUT rather than increased weight? This may be because of your ratio of slow-twitch fibers and your energy system (glycogen, oxygen delivery, ATP-PC cycle) You may find that increasing the weights in the past has been holding you back as reps dropped and you never got a chance to properly load the systems in your muscle that make up the majority of the bulk and the performance!
- What if you work best with short rest periods? i.e. you have a great capacity for working at a high rate? You may find that your energy recovery is superior and your reps do not decrease as much as others, so even without increasing your weights, your intensity goes up incredibly, creating quicker gains
- What if you work really well with a combination of high TUT and high reps? – i.e. your endurance capacity is high. This type of muscle system may find that heavy weights cause failure very quickly before the major muscle components even feel any stress. In the past you may have been busy training that part of your muscle system that is rather small and not responsive – at the expense of that part of your muscle that would excel in growth and performance?
AMP Your Workout Smart Tips
In the mean time, the take-away tips from this article are:
- Weights and reps are just half the picture. Time Under Tension adds to the stress on a muscle and reducing rest periods increases the work rate, or work intensity.
- There are many elements within a muscle system that contribute to its size, shape and performance.
- We don’t need to know all the individual elements of what is inside a muscle system to know how best to train (overload) it. We can, with the right technology and methods, measure the performance (output) of a muscle system and try to maximize the output in order to maximize the overload on the entire system to create a response.
- We need a systematic approach that assesses the proper inputs and outputs that relate to performance and growth, and then optimize the combinations of those factors in order to create the optimal stimulation for growth. Technology now provides the means of performing these measurements.
- AMP Your Workout goes a step further, not only measuring all factors important for your progress and growth, but analysing and automatically guiding you to more productive workouts
- This guidance is required at the individual exercise level – AMP Your Workout maintains records (database) for you for every exercise that you perform, and optimises each exercise individually each time you attempt it. AMP Your Workout keeps learning about your performance and driving it to the peak according to your genetic abilities.
For more information, visit AMP Your Workout.com. AMP Your Workout provides the latest technology to optimise training and match it to our genetic strengths – for faster results.