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Why Don’t Bodybuilders Practice Full Range of Motion?


I’ll let you be the one to tell Lou that he is only doing half reps, but someone should tell him, right? That’s not good form, right? Wrong.


Lou and many other bodybuilders are doing exactly what they need for their sport. Bodybuilding isn’t interested in how much you can lift, but is purely aesthetic, examining the size and shape of the muscles. And here’s the important part: big muscles come from time under tension.


We just started summer shred here at Tri-Cities, a hypertrophy (muscular growth) program. Our members are always encouraged to practice full range of motion because we have different goals than Lou and Arnold (the man to whom Lou is referring when his voice cracks). But we can learn from this practice of time under tension in how we approach lifting for hypertrophy.


Time under Tension


The longer a muscle is engaged or tense the more it breaks down and the more growth occurs, and continuous tension is the most effective. But the muscle loses tension when the body locks out the joints and the muscles are no longer supporting the weight but rather the skeletal system. While the joints are locked out the muscle gets a short reprieve and a momentary recovery.


Think of it this way: have you ever had to do multiple squats in one set and you got so tired that you started resting in between reps with the weight still on your shoulders? The weight was being distributed across your bone structure so your muscles were not as active, allowing them to recover for the remainder of the demanding reps.


But this is not maximal for hypertrophy. Bodybuilders prefer to not rely on their skeletal systems to bear load but leave the tension in the muscles. So by not locking out and completing the rep, they are working under constant muscle tension.


How Can We Implement This for Muscle Growth?


I will always coach my clients to complete the full range of motion on reps, but if your goal is muscle growth then I recommend not resting in full lock out. Immediately upon lock out you should begin the next rep, resting neither at the top or bottom of the lift.


In Summer Shred we are following a tempo of 4-0-2-0, four count eccentric motion, zero count pause at the bottom, two count concentric motion, zero count pause at the top. The slow concentric and eccentric portions increase our time under tension and can make each set of ten to take even forty seconds of tension, increasing hypertrophy. But those zero count pauses at the top and bottom are just as important to maintaining continuous time under tension.


So if you are lifting for growth or in Summer Shred right now, don’t stop moving, whether up or down with the weight. The moment you hit the top or bottom of the lift immediately begin motion in the opposite direction, no matter how much you want to stop. Keep those muscles engaged as long as possible.


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