There are a few concepts around ‘continuous tension’ that I should first explain. That you can use the various ‘strength bands’ for a more consistent tension on the muscle group/s throughout the range of movement you’re working in. Or that you can use cables in your training to promote this same effect. And the third way is that you don’t fully extend to the full range of movement and stop just short of full extension in your movements. But in this Post I want to go beyond methods.
But before I do this I want to explain two other methods to promote tension on the muscles that have this type of effect. One is acceleration training where the negative part of the movement is at the same speed as usual but the positive part is as fast as you can go. The second type is when you complete every repetition as if you were doing a maximum effort…in other words one repetition maximum (1RM).
Each one of these ways has its merits and negatives and they can be used depending upon what you want to achieve in your training. The most important concept I want to put across is that you should always look to changing things around in your program if you want continuous improvement. Most people get stuck with one particular type of training and wonder why they are not improving (I have known resistance trainers that have not changed their program for years!)
But I would like to advocate a sixth way of promoting continuous tension that will help you make the progress you are looking for…and you can use all these methods amongst the other ways with it. This method is similar to the last of these methods in that you should complete each repetition as if it was your 1RM – but here you should always generate whole body tension throughout each lift you do, not just in the muscles you need to use. Of course you must do this when you are using the big compound exercises such as the Deadlift, Squat and Bench Press of the Strength Set – or when you do any of the Olympic movements such as the Snatch and Clean and Jerk…and their variations. But I believe you must do this in any resistance exercise you do.
So even if you are mainly exercising the Upper Body in Chin Ups (or Pull Ups as I like to call them), you should create whole body tension (by creating tension in your legs) to make the best gains and not injuring yourself. You also need to have the best technique possible. Right off the bat I would like to point out that this way of lifting takes a lot of concentration…so a lot of ‘mind power’ and to get the best results you must go beyond thinking about what you are doing in every repetition and every exercise you do. It takes practice, but it is more a mental practice than anything else.
Your workouts need to be short (no more than 25 – 30 minutes) because you have to put all of your mental effort you can into your workouts – so they are strenuous. But you only need to do your resistance workouts 2 – 3 times per week to achieve the results you are after.
There are different phases within the program.
The first phase is to understand and practice perfect technique in every exercise you perform. With my clients it is where I spend most time helping to perfect how they do things and to work on any weaknesses they have. The length of this phase depends upon factors such as whether they are quick learners and whether they have some bad habits that need to be overcome as a priority . At this time I ensure that they understand as to why they are doing the things they are doing. This is essential if they desire to progress to the next phase.
In the second phase I work mostly on their way of thinking…or not thinking and to practice always looking at what they are doing in the ‘third person’…so looking at what they are doing from the outside as this is the key to learning to ‘be in the moment’. I know that anything you want to do properly that you must learn this skill of looking at what you are doing from the outside and just do it automatically…without thinking. This is a concept that is hard to explain if you have not experienced it as yet. It is the same for a musician or an artist of any description. When they learn to get away from thinking and just doing is when they reach the state of creating exactly what they desire to create.
The third phase is being able to manifest this state of mind any time they desire to. And it takes practice but it is worth the effort if they think they are worth the effort? (This is always a mute point.)
So in a nutshell you create whole body tension by tightening your Core muscles and working outwards to your hands and feet. (I have explained this in greater detail in earlier posts). But briefly you tighten your Core, then your glútes and chest, then your legs and arms and finally your grip on the apparatus you are using to your grip on the floor (this is why I like my clients to have bare feet as I have stated before). Learn to exercise at different speeds and in different ways. Nothing will work as effectively as it could if you don’t reach this state of mind I described above.
Desire is not enough, belief is also not enough…knowledge is!