Struggling to target the right muscle group? Here, Ingrid Barclay explores why it's important to use and engage the right muscles.
Q: How important is feeling the muscle while exercising for increasing muscle size? I ask because I have trouble feeling some body parts, like shoulders and chest.
A: It is extremely important to feel the target muscle working. If you don’t, you may be using other muscle groups to move the weight or simply not innervating enough muscle fibres to stimulate a big anabolic response.
Getting enough time under tension (TUT) is a big factor in feeling the muscle. If your sets don’t last long enough, you won’t feel the muscle working and you’ll be cheating yourself out of significant size increases.
Strength and muscle-building expert Jim Stoppani, Ph.D. (whose book The Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength is available through the Iron Man store), explains: “The best TUT range for strength is about four to 20 seconds per set and about 40 to 60 seconds per set for muscle growth.”
One method to increase TUT and therefore feel your muscles working is the 4X system. For 4X you pick a weight with which you can get 15 reps but only do 10; rest 35 seconds, then do it again. Go to failure on the last set — if you get to 10, add weight at your next workout. Going by Stoppani’s advice, you want every set in your 4X sequence to last at least 40 seconds, meaning each rep needs to last four seconds (four times 10 reps is 40 seconds). One way to do it is a one-second positive and a three-second negative for each rep, to activate more muscle fibres.
You’ll probably have to reduce your weights, but your ego can handle it: just think of all the new muscle growth you’re inspiring.