Are you ready for maximum muscle growth? Extend Your Exercise Time and Reap a Rich Muscle-Building Crop! Here’s how to do it.
Due to a series of minor injuries, for some time I could not train with the heavy weights that I was used to, and in order to maintain muscle growth, I began to lift a little less, while increasing the time under load (TPN). If you think you have to constantly bench and pull prohibitive weights, you will be surprised to know that this strategy did not lead to muscle loss. I will say more, I got incredible results!
However, you don’t have to take my word for it. If you have been training on a specific program for a long period of time, I suggest adding a little variety to it and trying to work on increasing the time under load to test the strategy for yourself! I’ll cover everything there is to know about time under load: how to use it, and how to increase your VPN in your workouts for maximum results. Read the article and then go straight to the gym!
Time Under Load: The Basics
Time under stress is the time your muscles spend under tension. It consists of the time spent in the concentric (shortening) phase, the peak contraction, and the eccentric portion of the repetition. It turns out that if you do a set of 10 reps, and it takes you 3 seconds to complete each repetition, the muscles will end up with 30 seconds of time under load.
If you do a similar set, taking 2 seconds to lift the projectile (concentric phase), peak contraction 1 second, and then lower the weight for another 3 seconds (eccentric phase), the same 10 reps gives you approximately 60 seconds of time under load.
Although the number of repetitions did not change, the muscles spent significantly more time under tension, and this additional time ultimately leads to a dramatic increase in the amount of work done!
Remember, your muscles can’t count. They do not know when you lift a 15 kg dumbbell 10 times, and when you are 15. They just feel the load created by the working weight and the mechanical stress that occurs when muscle fibers contract under load. Therefore, in order to increase the amount of work done by the muscles, you need to either take more weight, or increase the time during which the muscles lift this weight.
Best rep range and RPR for hypertrophy
We already know that progressive overload forces muscles to adapt and therefore grow. Plus, experiments have proven time and again that the optimal rep range for muscle growth, or hypertrophy, is between 8 and 12 reps. But what is not completely clear is the optimal time under load from the point of view of hypertrophy.
Legendary trainer Charles Poliquin was the first to focus on manipulating time under stress. Through his experience and experimentation, he was able to find the optimal range of time under load for specific training goals.
He concluded that the optimal time under load for muscle hypertrophy is 30-70 seconds. In training for strength and volume, or functional hypertrophy, Poliquin advised staying in the lower end of the range and working somewhere for 30-50 seconds. If you’re aiming for maximum hypertrophy without a power accent, stick to the upper half of the range and work around 50-70 seconds.
With this knowledge, you just have to carry out the simplest mathematical calculations and determine how many sets, reps and VPNs open up new horizons for muscle hypertrophy. Need a hint? Do 8-12 reps for 4 to 6 seconds each.
VPN: evidence base
By increasing the VPN, I got amazing results. I achieved weight gain and strength gains, and it was definitely not an accident. The fact is that there is undeniable scientific evidence of the direct influence of VPN on muscle volume.
In 2012, a team of scientists conducted an experiment in which they examined the effect of increasing time under load on protein synthesis, a major indicator of muscle growth. In this experiment, eight men who trained their legs twice a week for at least two years performed 3 sets of one-leg extensions using 30% of their one-rep maximum. With one leg, the subjects did sets to failure with six-second concentric and six-second eccentric phases. With the second leg, they also performed approaches to failure, but with a 1-second concentric and 1-second eccentric phase.
Then the scientists performed a puncture biopsy of muscle tissue from both legs 6, 24 and 30 hours after the exercise. The difference in performance between the two strategies was staggering. After 6 hours, exercise-induced mitochondrial and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis was increased by 114 percent in the slow contraction leg and only 77 percent in the rapid contraction leg. After 24-30 hours, mitochondrial protein synthesis was increased by 175 percent and 126 percent, respectively.
These studies suggest that increased time under exercise can lead to increased muscle protein synthesis and a more rapid onset of the increased synthesis effect.
Training Techniques to Increase URP
Now that you understand how increasing your time under stress can increase muscle protein synthesis and help you build muscle, it’s time to integrate this strategy into your training program.
You can cause the greatest microtrauma in your muscles during the eccentric phase (lowering of the projectile) of the exercise. From my own experience I can say that I achieved maximum results by spending about 3 seconds on the eccentric phase of the bench press or deadlift.
At the bottom of the repetition point, pause for 1-2 seconds. This stop will remove all inertia and stored energy from the working muscles, which means that you will not receive additional help when you start lifting weights. In addition, a pause will give you the opportunity to really pull yourself together to turn on the working muscles in the concentric phase of the bench press or deadlift. Ultimate concentration, or mind-muscle connection, will help you recruit the right muscle fibers and boost your results.
As you begin the concentric portion of the exercise, try to work in a powerful and explosive manner, keeping in mind the technique. This part of the bench or deadlift should take less than a second, although as fatigue builds up, it can stretch a little. At the top repetition point, create maximum tension by lingering one full second in the peak contraction. Putting it all together, you get about 5-6 seconds for each rep – the perfect combination for doing 8-12 reps and keeping the muscle under load for 30-70 seconds in each set.
To drop set , lift the selected weight until you reach the point of muscle failure. Then decrease the weight and continue the set until you hit your pre-set number of reps or hit failure again. You can continue the drop set this way for as long as you want to increase the load on the muscles, but keep in mind Poliquin’s recommendations regarding VPN.
When using this technique, I recommend choosing a working weight with which the first failure occurs at 4-6 repetitions. After that, leave a weight that you can lift 10-12 times before you get to failure again.
In drop sets, your body is subjected to the ultimate weight required to maximize the micro-tears of muscle tissue, while the muscles remain energized for the optimal time frame.
Partial and forced reps
The essence of partial reps is reflected in their name: they are reps that you do with partial amplitude. This means that in the bench press you do not fully extend the joints, and in the deadlifts, you do not get to the peak contraction. These incomplete reps keep the muscles under constant stress and allow you to work at higher working weight.
In forced reps, a spotter helps you get past the point of failure. This technique increases the time spent under load, allowing you to lift heavier weights. Forced reps are very hard and costly for the muscles, tendons, and nervous system, so use them sporadically and with caution.