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Static King

One of the best ways to improve your strength is by moving nothing at all.

If your goal is strength, putting a zero-movement strategy into your repertoire could be exactly what you need.

By way a review, a static contraction, also known as an isometric, is one which the muscular force equals the external resistance, producing no movement whatsoever. For example, you loaded up the barbell on the bench press with much more than your 1RM (one rep max) and began pressing against it with all your might, you would have a static contraction. Even if the bar didn’t budge, despite the lack of movement a ton of muscular activity would be going on inside the muscle.

Research confirms you can produce more force and strength statically than you can during positive contractions. How can this benefit you in terms of strength? You need to look no further than your nearest sticking point. A static-training plan can help you blast past those sticking points that usually act as roadblocks. The good news is that you can apply the technique to just about any exercise from the squats to overhead press even to bicep curls. Be warned, though: it is more difficult than it looks. Applying continual maximal effort without movement is brutal and effective.

Be Specific
One key factor to keep in mind is that, although strength increases are associated with static training, they are angle specific. When you train statically at a particular angle, you gain strength and size only at that angle. Take for instance the overhead press. If you worked statically at one particular point along the path of the ROM, you would gain strength there and nowhere else. The gain in strength is not necessarily distributed along the entire range of motion. For this reason, you need to apply static training at various places.

The Weak Link
So where do you start? Go straight to the weakest point of your range of motion, which is near the bottom of most exercises. If you are working on the bench press, set the safety bars to the sticking point and load up the bar. Forget about it being your “weakest point” and be sure to load more weight than you could normally move so that you are certain to have absolutely no movement. If you are working out at peak gym hours or you do not feel comfortable putting that much weight on the bar, you can work with and empty bar, but from underneath the safeties. Simply press the bar up into the safeties as hard as possible.

A couple of items to note: On your pressing movements be very careful not al allow your hands to slip. Using chalk during static training is a good idea, because if your hands slip, your wrists can sustain severe injury, second, for the pulling movements throw on some pulling straps to make sure your pulls are not hindered by your grip strength. If you do not wear straps, use chalk instead.

Adding a static day a couple of times a month into your routine across all bodyparts will help trigger serious strength gains. The better able you are to blast through sticking points, the more weight you will ultimately move during standard weight training sessions.

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Four Weeks Of TUT Style Benching

While there are countless combinations to choose from, here is a sample of how you could account for both optimal rep range and TUT for the bench press in one month. The key is to expose the strength-based rep count to the entire spectrum of optimal TUT.

Week One
Bench Press – 5 sets, 2 reps, TUT – 12 seconds , Rest 3 minutes
That is 5 sets of 2 reps, with each rep taking 6 seconds to complete.

Week 2
Bench Press – 4 sets, 3 reps, TUT – 15 seconds, Rest 3 minutes
That is 4 sets of 3 reps, with each rep taking 5 seconds to complete.

Week 3
Bench Press – 3 sets, 4 reps, TUT – 20 seconds, Rest 3 minutes
That is 3 sets of 4 reps, with each rep taking 5 seconds to complete.

Week 4
Bench Press – 5 sets, 6 reps, TUT – 18 seconds, Rest 3 minutes
That is 5 sets of 6 reps, with each rep taking 3 seconds to complete.

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Time Under Tension (TUT)

In the simplest terms time under tension, or TUT for short, is the length of time a muscle is under tension during a set, or rather the amount of time it actually takes to finish a set. As it turns out, how long your force yourself to complete a rep has heavy implications.

Strength In Numbers
Experts tend to agree that in the area of strength gains, the optimal time for a given set lies somewhere between 4-2- seconds from time of liftoff to the tick you rack the bar. Basically, TUT equals the sum of the amount of time (in seconds) for the descent and the ascent of the bar. So taking the squat as an example, it if takes 3 seconds to descend towards the floor and 2 seconds to explode back up to the start, that is obviously 5 seconds worth of rep time. A three-rep set at that pace would obviously be 15 seconds worth of TUT.

With this in mind, some experts argue that this TUT factor is equally as important as the rep range itself, which for strength, is between 1-6 reps. As a rule it is always important to remember that a rep is only as good as the corresponding weight. In other words, to enhance strength, you need to make sure that the weight is relatively heavy to fulfil that rep range. You can not select a light weight and simply stop at say, 5 reps, when indeed you could have done 12 reps. That would indicate that you have selected an inappropriate weight.

Though you know the relationship between rep ranges, training goals and muscle failure, you may be short-changing the role of TUT. It is fair to say that when it comes to numbers, we typically factor in sets reps per set and the rest time between those sets. But there is a deeper way to view all that work, and that is where TUT comes into play. It breaks down the category of “reps” into its own spectrum – seconds. A given rep range should be spread over time if possible. The goal is to o=hold a muscle under tension at a given weight for various periods of time. If you can do so, using the bet range of 1-6 reps, over the best time to enhance strength, 4-20 seconds, then big gains in strength are inevitable.

The idea here is to configure a strength scheme that optimises both elements, which would seemingly give you the nest of both worlds. You would be working within a rep range that recruits the fast-twitch muscle fibres most responsible for strength while also submerging that target muscle under tension within the optimal spectrum of seconds. When it comes to fast-twitch fibres, the heavier weight and low-moderate rep schemes call them into play with greater success than the high-rep sets do.

Time To Get Strong
One way you might want to begin using TUT is to consider that as your rep range increases, the total time it takes to complete a rep decreases and vice versa. In other words, if your reps are low, then you might want to increase the time of both the eccentric and concentric portions of the repetition. This is not the only way to incorporate TUT, but it is a good place to begin.

So if you were doing 6 reps, your seconds per rep would be much less (around 2-3 seconds) than say a set of 2 reps of 6 seconds per rep, for example. You basically multiply the number of reps by the total time it takes you to complete a rep, with the goal to remain anywhere between 4-20 seconds total, regardless.

Increasing the amount of time it takes to move a very heavy weight is a phenomenon that few athletes ever attempt. Since the weight is relatively constant, 1-6RM, you can adjust the time per rep from one set to the next or from week to week. The end goal, again, is to spread out the reps in time between 4-20 seconds per set, which means you can perform any number of reps and time elements.

Because of the freedom from which to choose TUT schemes, it is advisable to keep a journal to follow your progression. Doing so will ensure you expose different loads to various rep speeds and total set times and will help you decide which combinations work the best.

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Increasing Weight Lifted and Stuggling With Chest Growth?

My chest growth has stalled. I’m puzzled because I always add weight from workout to workout. Isn’t consistently adding weight the key to new size?

Gains in size usually accompany gains in strength, but not always. You have to consider the amount of stress placed on the muscle. Powerlifters are incredibly strong, but they do not have the muscle size of a bodybuilder. This is because a powerlifter’s goal is to move weight from point A to B, while a bodybuilder’s goal should be to place a significant amount of stress on the muscle to make it grow in size. Perhaps the problem is not how much weight your lift, but how you lift it. Are you really connecting your mind to the muscle and feeling it through a range of motion? The difficulty could also be a matter of volume or stagnation in your current exercise selection. Sometime changing the tempo of the reps, the angle of the exercises, or the overall volume of the workout can aid growth better than simply moving more weight.