This is Your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.
Strength training should never be easy, but even when you’re lifting heavy, some parts of a move will naturally feel easier than others. You’ll notice this when you’re approaching full arm extension in the bench press, or nearing the starting position in the squat. The top of these movements is when the tension eases during most exercises, when the target muscle is reaching full contraction. But if you can eliminate that reprieve—and keep constant tension on the muscle throughout each rep—you can double down on your gains.
Variable resistance training (VRT) is one way to do that. If you’ve ever seen someone add resistance bands or chains to a barbell in the gym, you’ve witnessed VRT. At the bottom of the move—the toughest part for most guys—the bands or chains offer little resistance, but as you push past that “sticking point,” the bands will stretch and chain links will lift off the floor, offering progressively greater resistance.
VRT might seem a bit masochistic while you’re doing it, but by increasing your target muscle’s time under tension, you’ll maximize a key growth stimulus. What’s more, the progressive resistance offered by the bands or chains will force you to push hard all of the way through each rep, leading to enhanced power development.
A small study showed that you can reap the rewards of VRT by incorporating it into your program just once per week—as long as you go about it correctly. If you’re attaching bands to a bar, make sure that you anchor them securely to the bottom of a squat or bench rack, and always err on the side of using too little resistance rather than too much.
Also, use a spotter, as you should whenever you’re lifting heavy or attempting a new loaded exercise. And give it some time—VRT will feel awkward at first, but once you start “greasing the groove,” the strength and power gains will come quickly.
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