Maximum Contraction

The best way to truly build up your body.

            Do you ever notice how certain people have excellent body parts? It could be their biceps, chest, back, shoulders, butt. Let’s be honest, 2014 was the year of the butt. There’s even a new term “belfie” due to the phenomenon of people posting pictures of their firm butts on social media. Maybe you have a body part you’re really proud of. Maybe there are a few you don’t want to talk about. Today, we’ll talk about the best way to truly sculpt the body parts you want to improve.

The secret to building up stubborn body parts is one word: Contraction. While many lift weights and perform exercise they think will help sculpt their body, the likelihood is they are not contracting the target muscle for a long enough time to build it up. The other problem is likely the muscle is not fully shortened during the exercise. What’s fully shortened mean? Let me explain.
Fully shortening a muscle, like the triceps for example, would be pulling your elbows back behind your body and fully extending your arm. You see most people do triceps pushdowns with the cable in front of them and then extend down. They may feel their triceps, but they haven’t fully shortened or contracted the muscle. This process forces your nervous system to recruit more muscle fibers because the muscle is very weak when fully shortened. So let’s start by laying out what you need to do to get maximum contraction.
Learn the Muscle’s Range of Motion:
A key to this process of properly contracting a muscle is to learn the true range of motion of the muscle itself. As with the example of the triceps, the full range of motion is when the bicep is contracted (the triceps are fully stretched) and when the elbow is pulled all the way back and the arm is extended. With the chest, maximum contraction comes when your hands are pulled in towards each other. With the calves, point your toes up towards your knees as far as possible, then extend your toes down as far as possible (like a ballerina). Getting the idea? Take the time to figure out your body’s full range of motion!

Start by Contracting:

With any exercise, begin by contracting the muscle you intend to engage first. So, when doing a seated row for example, pull your hands away from each other first, thereby engaging the lats immediately. Then, follow throw with the movement by focusing on driving your elbows back and down. This will shorten the muscle and take it through its full range of motion, ensuring constant tension and stimulating your body to repair it bigger and stronger.
Slow the Negative:
Super important! Slow down the negative part of the exercise. For example, after you do a bicep curl, control the weight slowly on the way down. Keep tension for as long as possible during a set of an exercise. Muscles only grow because of the tension placed on them. The weight you use should only be a tool to increase tension, but the truth is you can increase the tension just by activating the muscle, fully shortening it, and keeping it under tension through the duration of an exercise. In other words, leave your ego and attitude at home when weight training. You don’t need lots of weight to get amazing results.

Have a Vision:
Yes, the mind-muscle connection is very real. It’s your brain that send signals to muscle fibers to contract and extend. Therefore, it’s imperative that you focus on the target muscle and squeeeeeeeeeze it to maximize the connection between your mind and the muscle. It’s true—you must get your head in the game when bringing up lagging body parts. So, have a vision for the body you want and then train wisely and efficiently to go and get it!

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