T Nation

Strict Form and TuT - Hogwash?

So in my 25 years of lifting (yup, you read that right - I’m now what I would call an old timer), I’ve always tried to be strict with my form (ever since a heavy DB row screwed my back) and have tried to maintain a better than average TuT (Time under Tension).

Then last night, I was downloading some new tunes to the iPod for my workouts this week and thought about the pro’s and what they do when exercising (not entirely sure how this came into my head when the wife was nagging me about cleaning up the laundry).

Back in the day I saw Lee Labrada and when he hit the gym, it was more like throwing the weight around. Whatever it took to get it up (no pun intended). Same with Paul Dillett - this guy was a beast in every way and he too, was focused on getting it up, rather than having super strict form and performing an exercise slowly to maximize TuT.

Then I thought I’d google Branch Warren (I’m a fan of pro’s that are my height) and see if there’s any videos on their workouts. Again, Branch is like the others - push it up no matter what…

Anyways, it just got me thinking - I think there’s something to be said for form, but not to go overkill on it and TuT just might be some hogwash that some “Fitness Trainer” brainwashed the monkeys with.

I don’t believe its hogwash. Things took a drastic turn for me physique-wise when I stopped logging my numbers and instead focused on feel.

Plus, there’s a big difference between an expert throwing around heavy weights who knows how to optimally recruit the target muscle and just needs that extra edge of progressive overload, and someone who never learns to connect with the target muscle throwing weight around.

[quote]jskrabac wrote:
Things took a drastic turn for me physique-wise when I stopped logging my numbers. [/quote]

Me as well. Labrada may have done whatever was needed to get the weight up, but he was a pretty bright guy, very into low volume, and getting the most out of every set. I think it’s fairly safe to say that he milked the negatives a bit. Maybe not as ridiculously as some gym personal trainers might have you perform, but at least similar to Yates (explosive concentrics, controlled eccentrics). A guy of that level of experience has certainly thought through what he’s doing, and what may look to onlookers as sloppy, or unfocused may indeed be a lot more complex than you might think.

S

IMO the importance is lifting explosively as possible. I like to go strict with back movements as it’s much safer for my spine, but I still get an explosive contraction each rep.

so bad row form with a heavy DB “screwed up your back”

and now you want to use bad form on all other lifts?

am i reading this right?

No dude, not reading it right.

Just making an observation is all.

I do think form is important, but do a point and not to the point that I see many people going, with curling a 25lb dumbbell ultra-slow as opposed to a 50lb one with less focus on form and far less TuT.

Stu - yes, I fully agree that Yates was hard core on this as he seemed to follow (early years for sure) the Mike Mentzer philosophy. I’m also a fan of negatives, but there does come a point when you’ve overloaded the muscle group and that weight is just coming down no matter what.

:slight_smile:

Browndisaster - Jezus, that’s one fuk’d up Avatar. I think if I was that dude I’d just shot myself and give the government cash for the bullet.

I too lift explosively, but over the years my shoulders are paying the price it seems. I think there’s a lot more to be said for proper feel and contraction of the muscle.

[quote]Smallfry69 wrote:
So in my 25 years of lifting (yup, you read that right - I’m now what I would call an old timer), I’ve always tried to be strict with my form (ever since a heavy DB row screwed my back) and have tried to maintain a better than average TuT (Time under Tension).

Then last night, I was downloading some new tunes to the iPod for my workouts this week and thought about the pro’s and what they do when exercising (not entirely sure how this came into my head when the wife was nagging me about cleaning up the laundry).

Back in the day I saw Lee Labrada and when he hit the gym, it was more like throwing the weight around. Whatever it took to get it up (no pun intended). Same with Paul Dillett - this guy was a beast in every way and he too, was focused on getting it up, rather than having super strict form and performing an exercise slowly to maximize TuT.

Then I thought I’d google Branch Warren (I’m a fan of pro’s that are my height) and see if there’s any videos on their workouts. Again, Branch is like the others - push it up no matter what…

Anyways, it just got me thinking - I think there’s something to be said for form, but not to go overkill on it and TuT just might be some hogwash that some “Fitness Trainer” brainwashed the monkeys with.[/quote]

Since you’ve been lifting so long, this ain’t your first rodeo. Nevertheless, there are numerous reasons why I’m not on board with your theory. I won’t list all here.

For every superstar that just throws weights around, there are others who lift in a more controlled manner. And even those in the former category are predisposed for hypertrophy regardless of technique. Is it fair? No. Is life fair? Of course, not.

Furthermore, guys like Branch Warren has had some significant injuries. Is there a correlation with his lifting style? I think so.

The eccentric portion of a lift is where we are at our strongest. You can exploit this by slowing that portion and get more out of less weight. This usually translates to longevity in the gym. This is a bodybuilding forum after all; the amount of weight lifted, although somewhat important, is secondary to how they make the muscles grow.

And if you’re still not sold, another interesting upside to slow eccentric is the positive effects on connective tissue integrity. What good are strong and impressive-looking muscles if their attachments to the bone are questionable…?

The downside of the slow eccentric, as most know, is that it can prolong recovery time. So know there is a cost to everything.

Is there a time for an explosive tempo? Absolutely. Plyos and Oly lifts come to mind.

Is there a time for slow to moderate tempo? Absolutely. Warming up, trying to establish optimal mmc, rehab/prehab, certain maximum pump protocols come to mind. And there are certain movements which DEMAND a controlled tempo (I’ll come back to this later in the post).

Is there a time to combine the two? Absolutely. A slow eccentric to strengthen the connective tissue, get more out of less weight. An explosive (yet precise) concentric to better recruit the fast twitch fibers. Fred Hatfield wrote about this back in the 80s. He called it Compensatory Acceleration Training.

And let’s not forget a common reason why many cannot escape the dreaded plateau is that they do the same type of training over and over again.

Someone who has been training with a slow tempo just may respond favorably to a fast tempo. These folks will need to make sure technique and load selection is on point to prevent injury.

Someone who has been training explosively may respond favorably to a slower tempo - especially the eccentric. In-season athletes and those who have the luxury to train frequently may need to be careful how this effects their recovery.

And you can and should manipulate tempo to suit your goals. To give an example of mixing and matching tempo, the following is a post activation potentiation workout I did Sunday.

Movement 1: One-arm roll outs (holding 12# db in non-working hand) using trx and feet on the floor (no knee contact) 3 second eccentric; 2 seconds pause at “extended position”; 3 seconds concentric; 2 seconds pause in the “inverted v” position; 3-5 reps. 2-3 minutes rest. Movement 2: Med ball slams emphasizing the arm that was used prior in movement 1: 1 second to raise the ball above my head; as soon as the ball is in place, slam the ball as quickly and forcefully as possible; repeat for 3 reps. 2 minute rest and repeat cycle on other side.

Movement 1 DEMANDS control at all times. There is so much volatility in that movement, I would be insane to attempt this using a fast pace. Movement 2 requires that I exploit the stretch-shortening cycle as much as possible. And, yes, for the historians out there, this is inspired after Verkhoshansky’s principles.

I do agree with you in that I’ve seen more than a few Mickey-mouse and Minnie-mouse trainers out there write tempos with zero clue on the ramifications. However, it’s a mistake to use these idiots as an excuse to dismiss tempo as irrelevant.

Ultimately, the mastery of tempo is no different than mastery of exercise selection, technique, and programming. It does have relevance to the task at hand. And like any other tool, it’s only as good as the person using it.

I really hope Zraw chimes in soon…

well, I don’t think explosive necessarily means dangerous or showy

i.e. do a decline press in the smith machine…let it down slowly, then when it’s near your chest contract your chest as hard as possible and get that weight up as fast as possible. I guess it’s very obvious but not everyone does that. They had a perfect rep feature on this site a while back

[quote]56x11 wrote:
And let’s not forget a common reason why many cannot escape the dreaded plateau is that they do the same type of training over and over again.
[/quote]

Thanks for you post, I found it very interesting and informative. I think the correlation to this type of lifting with injury is pretty valid.

I just wanted to pull this snipit out though, for one other reason for little to no gains (pulling aside adequate nutrition (#1), sleep, and rest/recovery), is that I see the same people doing the same weights day in and day out and never progressing and wonder why they’re not getting bigger.

[quote]browndisaster wrote:
well, I don’t think explosive necessarily means dangerous or showy

i.e. do a decline press in the smith machine…let it down slowly, then when it’s near your chest contract your chest as hard as possible and get that weight up as fast as possible. I guess it’s very obvious but not everyone does that. They had a perfect rep feature on this site a while back[/quote]

I fully agree with you, as you need to have control over the weight and feel the muscle through the exercise.

Case in point, I saw this young guy at the gym doing BB presses where he was literally dropping the weight into his chest (and yes I initially thought he was in trouble till I watched him repeat this performance). So granted this guy could do with some slower eccentric phases.

I’m just not fully sold on the 30 second eccentric that I’ve heard/seen some talk about over the past few years.

It seems this topic has made the rounds in a number of variations recently. I want to state up front that under no circumstance do I advocate sloppy form. I concede that my situation is ‘odd’ compared to the norm, but if it is the case with me it may be for others as well. My introduction to training was by competitive bodybuilders in the mid to late eighties. These guys worshiped at the alter of MMC/instinctual training and their objective at every stage of the workout was ‘the pump’. I trained with this group for over two years and although I learned a great deal about training and nutrition, the whole ‘pump’ thing just wasn’t me. This is my 27th year of training and I have never gotten a pump on purpose, ever, not once. It has happened by coincidence, but never by design. I have used every method of execution and rep range, I am familiar and use many of the common ‘intensification techniques’.IMO…time under tension is an important consideration. I advocate ‘visualization’ and believe in ‘being present’ at all times during training, but I made much better progress by paying less attention to how the work felt and more attention to gradually increasing the weight I was working.

[quote]Smallfry69 wrote:

[quote]56x11 wrote:
And let’s not forget a common reason why many cannot escape the dreaded plateau is that they do the same type of training over and over again.
[/quote]

Thanks for you post, I found it very interesting and informative. I just wanted to pull this snipit out though, for one other reason for little to no gains (pulling aside adequate nutrition (#1), sleep, and rest/recovery), is that I see the same people doing the same weights day in and day out and never progressing and wonder why they’re not getting bigger.[/quote]

Yes, I agree. Poor habits with nutrition, sleep, lifestyle choices play a significant role.

This is why I stated “a common reason why many…plateau.” It certainly isn’t the only reason.

I’ve seen time and time again people training with very little to no variety. And it’s no shocker that these are the same people that look and perform (or under perform) the same month after month.

There are a select few who can continue to progress doing the same half dozen movements their entire lives. For most others, I believe some type of change will be beneficial.

For example, I have dozen or so go-to movements that best suit my history, body-type, and goals. I never abandon these movements; however, I will, from time to time, do something similar yet different not only for the sake of variety but also in the name of discovery. This is what keeps it fun for me; and, not coincidentally, I continue to progress.

In my first post, I mentioned the one-arm roll out. When my brother and I were kids, we saw a guy do a perfect ab-wheel roll out (feet less than shoulder-width, no frightening lower back arch or shoulder dislocation, etc.). We were impressed to no end.

And I think of the journey I took for me do that movement, one arm at a time, without blowing out my elbows or ripping my core. In other words, performing that movement for me is not a circus trick; rather, something I had to grow strong and balanced enough to actually benefit from. That journey would not have been nearly as rewarding had I been less creative in my approach.

I’ve got to disagree with you here.

I think TUT is really the most important thing if you’re talking about building muscle and hypertrophy. Most of the BBers you listed in the OP were extremely genetically gifted and also very much assisted, which certainly helped them gain muscle regardless of what they did.

I believe that learning how to actually feel the target muscles working is key to taking that next step in building muscle for a trainee. It certainly helped to take my physique to the next level.

Meh, just lift in whatever way you enjoy the most without getting injured. Sometimes I focus more on the contraction, feel, etc… but just because that’s what I feel like doing that day, while some days I’ll go crazy with the weights and use shortened ROM.

[quote]ebomb5522 wrote:
I’ve got to disagree with you here.

I think TUT is really the most important thing if you’re talking about building muscle and hypertrophy. Most of the BBers you listed in the OP were extremely genetically gifted and also very much assisted, which certainly helped them gain muscle regardless of what they did.

I believe that learning how to actually feel the target muscles working is key to taking that next step in building muscle for a trainee. It certainly helped to take my physique to the next level. [/quote]

and they are masters of mind muscle connection so they can flop the weights around and still get a perfect contraction because theyve been training for decades

[quote]Mr. Walkway wrote:

[quote]ebomb5522 wrote:
I’ve got to disagree with you here.

I think TUT is really the most important thing if you’re talking about building muscle and hypertrophy. Most of the BBers you listed in the OP were extremely genetically gifted and also very much assisted, which certainly helped them gain muscle regardless of what they did.

I believe that learning how to actually feel the target muscles working is key to taking that next step in building muscle for a trainee. It certainly helped to take my physique to the next level. [/quote]

and they are masters of mind muscle connection so they can flop the weights around and still get a perfect contraction because theyve been training for decades[/quote]

Certainly, but I think it’s also safe and clear to say there’s a general tendency towards injuries when “throwing the weight around” regardless of experience levels.

[quote]hungry4more wrote:

[quote]Mr. Walkway wrote:

[quote]ebomb5522 wrote:
I’ve got to disagree with you here.

I think TUT is really the most important thing if you’re talking about building muscle and hypertrophy. Most of the BBers you listed in the OP were extremely genetically gifted and also very much assisted, which certainly helped them gain muscle regardless of what they did.

I believe that learning how to actually feel the target muscles working is key to taking that next step in building muscle for a trainee. It certainly helped to take my physique to the next level. [/quote]

and they are masters of mind muscle connection so they can flop the weights around and still get a perfect contraction because theyve been training for decades[/quote]

Certainly, but I think it’s also safe and clear to say there’s a general tendency towards injuries when “throwing the weight around” regardless of experience levels. [/quote]

oh absolutely

to the OP

you listed but a few great pros who were able to find success with looser form and heavier weights—this doesnt prove much there are probably a much larger number of pros who use stricter form