Lifting Smarter, Not Harder: A New Study Reveals 2 Training Strategies for Increasing Muscle Growth


Muscles may be stretched and tightened. That may sound like an oversimplification, but who hasn’t seen gyms full of people attempting to become big by tossing dumbbells around without properly loading their muscles? While those folks may not know good lifting techniques, is there a universally accepted version of proper technique?

The quick answer is no, but the scientific community has brought us close. The Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology released a narrative research titled “Optimizing Resistance Training Technique to Maximize Hypertrophy: a Narrative Review” only days before the start of 2024. The research, co-authored by coach and content producer Jeff Nippard, aimed to establish a consensus on effective resistance training techniques.

What The Research Investigation Says

This study arose from the ambiguity of appropriate lifting technique prescriptions, in which lifters are frequently taught that form is important yet no precise definition of “proper technique” exists.

In terms of hypertrophy (the technical term for muscle growth), the research defined good lifting technique as “the controlled execution of bodily movements to ensure an exercise effectively targets specific muscle groups while minimizing the risk of injury.”

The study looked at repetition tempo, range of motion, and exercise-specific kinematics (motion mechanics). However, there is a paucity of published data on the latter, therefore it is unclear if rigorous reps or non-strict repetitions are better for muscle building.

Here’s what the study helped with:

Repetition Tempo

In general, each rep of any exercise contains both a concentric and eccentric phase. The concentric part is when your muscle shortens to raise the weight. Consider the up part of a pull-up. The eccentric phase occurs when your muscle lengthens, resists, and reduces the strain. This would be the downward phase of a pull-up.

Without a clear consensus on whether concentric, eccentric, or a mix of the two is optimum for muscle growth, the narrative review discovered that substantial muscular increases occur when repetitions take two to eight seconds to complete. During biceps training, there appeared to be a tendency for quicker concentric combined with slower eccentrics, but leg training produced mixed findings.

The Takeaway: Concentrics can be explosive and appear to be useful for hypertrophy; eccentrics should be performed slowly to ensure that the target muscle lowers the weight rather than gravity off-setting it.

InYourWorkout: Try a 4-1-1-0 tempo for your lifts, which translates to a four-second descent, a one-second pause, a one-second lift, and no pause before diving into your next rep.

4: The first number indicates the eccentric phase of the lift. In this example, you’ll take four seconds to lower the weight.

1: The second number is for the moment at the bottom of the rep. In this case, one second.
1: This is for the concentric (or lifting) phase: take a second to lift the weight back up.
0: Don’t pause at the top of the rep before starting again. (Note: Once your muscle get tired, you can pause briefly to push through your set, but try to avoid pausing at the top to maintain tension on your muscles.

This tempo training strategy may be used immediately for exercises like as the back squat and bench press. However, not every lift begins in the eccentric period. For example, chin-ups begin with a concentric pull. In those circumstances, begin with a two-second draw, a one-second pause, and then descend into your four-second eccentric.

According to this study, the additional time under strain that your muscles experience may assist create maximal muscle when tested between two and eight seconds each exercise, with greater time in the eccentric.

Range of Motion

Muscle length and range of motion are frequently confused, and this narrative review aims to clarify the distinction when it comes to muscle growth. The term range of motion (ROM) refers to a muscle’s ability to move as far as possible during an exercise.

(Consider executing a dumbbell bench press from the moment your arms are fully locked out until the dumbbells contact your chest.) Achieving complete ROM does not always account for muscle length throughout (although they are sometimes confused).

According to a review of the existing literature, strengthening muscles in extended postures is likely more effective for hypertrophy than training them in shorter positions with complete ranges of motion. For example, your biceps are fully stretched at the bottom of a Bayesian curl, but not at the peak.

Takeaway: If your aim is hypertrophy, you should allow your muscle to spend more time in the longer range of motion rather than the reduced range. However, additional study is needed on the matter.

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