T Nation

Muscle Tension, A Myth?

I’ve heard many opposing stories about whether you can indeed, “Define” a muscle, on one end of the spectrum there are the guys such as Jim Cordova (WNBF Pro Bodybuilder) who says that manipulating a specific rep range and tempo you can increase muscle tension in a particular muscle and therefore make it look more “cut”. I.e Higher rep range

On the other end, people say that there is muscle growth and growth alone, and how “ripped” your muscle looks is purely based upon body fat and genetics. So my question is, whats the latest info? which one is considered a superior theory? Sorry if there was already some type of article//discussion on this, i must of missed it.

The first theory sounds like a Joe Weider marketing ploy. His articles on training were nauseating at times.

I go with the second one. Muscles are not cosmetic they get bigger AND harder at the same time.

Bigger yes but surely not harder except when tensed? I do not think that you can change the level of tension in a relaxed muscle (although without fat it may look harder) and indeed it would be a serious disadvantge
to efficient movement if muscles could not alternate between relaxation and tension.

yeah, thanks for the feedback guys, i was leaning towards the 2nd option as well, just recently read an article that confused the shit outta me

Iv’e heard CT talk about Myogenic Muscle Tonus before, refering to the firmness of a muscle at rest.

As to whether it makes a difference you training high rep or not it would seem to be hypertrophy in and of itself is what causes this “tonus” to increase.

Diesel, What really irked me once was Joe Weider’s criticism of Mike Mentzer’s style of training. I feel Mentzer did go off the deep end later on as his personal training career took off, but during his Olympia days his style of training was not THAT radical and was certainly very intense.

Weider discussed the supposed drawbacks of HIT training (which I admit I no longer follow). He claimed that while Mentzer did come into contest shape very big, he lacked the “cuts” and “definition” that Arnold and Zane had. He then went on to mention that “both men had beat Mentzer in the past”.

I feel that was pretty tasteless and self serving, not just because he wanted to sell his bullshit theory of “shaping muscle with reps” but because Arnold’s 1980 Olympia win was probably the least popular ever, and certainly the most controversial.

Comparison photos showed Mentzer as equally ripped and certainly bigger considering he was 5 inches shorter and weighed the same as Arnold (who gave himself a whole three weeks to get ready).

He may have talked about it but I am not sure that it is proven concept and he did not reply when I asked him on what basis he made his assertion.

The tone or residual amount of tension in a relaxed muscle may vary from person to person to some degree but
it makes no sense to me that you can make a resting muscle harder. The logical conclusion of this process would be a totally stiff muscle unable to contract. This would obviously be completely dysfunctional.

Well just think of a really soft, skinny fat person. When pushing your finger in on say their bicep, is there any point where there is a firm sensation from that persons bicep muscle? Contrast that with someone who has been lifting hard. There is going to be quite a difference.

[quote]Shadowzz4 wrote:
Well just think of a really soft, skinny fat person. When pushing your finger in on say their bicep, is there any point where there is a firm sensation from that persons bicep muscle? Contrast that with someone who has been lifting hard. There is going to be quite a difference.[/quote]

Huh?

[quote]Shadowzz4 wrote:
Well just think of a really soft, skinny fat person. When pushing your finger in on say their bicep, is there any point where there is a firm sensation from that persons bicep muscle? Contrast that with someone who has been lifting hard. There is going to be quite a difference.[/quote]

There is. My old roommate was skinny, not skinny fat, and poking a finger into his biceps was like poking a bowl of pudding. After a couple weeks of working out, the “tone” of his biceps increased immensely. It was like the difference between relaxing and flexing. It didn’t look any different, but there was an obvious difference.

Resting tension, its real. When your trained that resting tension will be stronger, and you will appear firmer.

[quote]DieselAllDay wrote:
I’ve heard many opposing stories about whether you can indeed, “Define” a muscle, on one end of the spectrum there are the guys such as Jim Cordova (WNBF Pro Bodybuilder) who says that manipulating a specific rep range and tempo you can increase muscle tension in a particular muscle and therefore make it look more “cut”. I.e Higher rep range

On the other end, people say that there is muscle growth and growth alone, and how “ripped” your muscle looks is purely based upon body fat and genetics. So my question is, whats the latest info? which one is considered a superior theory? Sorry if there was already some type of article//discussion on this, i must of missed it.[/quote]

the first thing you mention is an increase in muscle tonus. It’s simply the involuntary contraction of muscle ie: people with good posture tend to have more back tonus than people with bad posture

[quote]peterm533 wrote:I do not think that you can change the level of tension in a relaxed muscle (although without fat it may look harder) and indeed it would be a serious disadvantge
to efficient movement if muscles could not alternate between relaxation and tension. [/quote]

When muscles are relaxed, they aren’t in a state of complete relaxation. Spinal injuries can cause muscles innervated by damaged nerves to become atonic…that is to say without any tension. If muscles didn’t have a somewhat tense relaxed state, then there wouldn’t be a difference between relaxed, healthily innervated muscles and “relaxed,” unhealthily innervated ones.

You are quite right. I mentioned the level of tension in a relaxed muscle. I did not say or imply that there was no tension. Clearly without some tension you would be in a state of collapse. The question is whether the residual tension in a relaxed muscle can be increased to give a “harder” look. I say no.

If it were otherwise you will need to explain the mechanism by which muscles become more tense or “harder” at rest and why that process does not continue with weight training to create a perpetually stiff muscle. This would make movement impossible.

As you itimated in a way I think that the level of residual tension is a neurological phenomenon not a property of the muscle amenable to training.

[quote]DieselAllDay wrote:
I’ve heard many opposing stories about whether you can indeed, “Define” a muscle, on one end of the spectrum there are the guys such as Jim Cordova (WNBF Pro Bodybuilder) who says that manipulating a specific rep range and tempo you can increase muscle tension in a particular muscle and therefore make it look more “cut”. I.e Higher rep range

On the other end, people say that there is muscle growth and growth alone, and how “ripped” your muscle looks is purely based upon body fat and genetics. So my question is, whats the latest info? which one is considered a superior theory? Sorry if there was already some type of article//discussion on this, i must of missed it.[/quote]

Its funny you mention this…my gym owner who has been a superb javelin trower and bodybuilder belives working higher repetitions will give you defenition aswell…i think that it just provides more muscle hyperthropy than low reps thats some people asume its given them defenition when only growth occured.

I believe that from an untrained state, a muscle’s residual tension can be increased to a certain point, but any visual changes would be marginal at best.

[quote]peterm533 wrote:
Bigger yes but surely not harder except when tensed? I do not think that you can change the level of tension in a relaxed muscle (although without fat it may look harder) and indeed it would be a serious disadvantge
to efficient movement if muscles could not alternate between relaxation and tension. [/quote]

Actually, Dr. Fred Hatfield discusses this in some of his texts. He says that muscle “tone” is basically the increased tension a muscle holds at all times (i.e. relaxed). As alluded to in another post, this comes from training for size/strength.

[quote]peterm533 wrote:
Bigger yes but surely not harder except when tensed? I do not think that you can change the level of tension in a relaxed muscle (although without fat it may look harder) and indeed it would be a serious disadvantge
to efficient movement if muscles could not alternate between relaxation and tension. [/quote]

You’re muscles can become more dense over time. For instance, now I’m about the same weight at 21 as I was being a senior in HS, although my muscles are much more dense and I’m capable of lifting a lot more.

“I believe that from an untrained state, a muscle’s residual tension can be increased to a certain point, but any visual changes would be marginal at best”.

What is the process by which that happens and if it occurs up to a certain point what limits it?

“Actually, Dr. Fred Hatfield discusses this in some of his texts. He says that muscle “tone” is basically the increased tension a muscle holds at all times (i.e. relaxed). As alluded to in another post, this comes from training for size/strength”.

Muscle tone is the residual tension in relaxed muscle. It is not increased tension. It obviously does not
come from training for size and strength as all healthy untrained individuals have it. You may be asserting that increased tone comes from such training which is a different matter.

“You’re muscles can become more dense over time. For instance, now I’m about the same weight at 21 as I was being a senior in HS, although my muscles are much more dense and I’m capable of lifting a lot more”.

Define dense if this does not mean that you have gained muscle and lost fat. What are you saying about muscle tone?

I have read nothing which suggests that muscle tone is other than an involuntary neurological phenomenon and nothing that suggests that it is amenable to change through weight training.

The idea of weight training increasing muscle hardness belongs in the same category as high reps increasing muscle definition -which I see from above is still believed by some.

No idea on both counts.

I don’t think anybody is suggesting otherwise.

Except that untrained individuals will increase their muscle tone in a very observable way after taking up some form of exercise…unless there is some other explanation for a relatively flaccid-feeling muscle becoming more taught.