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Get the Most Out of Each Rep

Results. Start any type of workout program and the first thing on your mind is going to be how long you have to wait before you see 'em. Could be two weeks, could be two months. If you're dedicated, they'll come. The longer it takes, however, the more disenchanted-and less committed-you can become. If that happens, your physique invariably pays the price. That's why efficiency is so important: Efficiency in the gym translates to faster results, which keeps you in the game mentally and emotionally over the long haul.

How to ensure you'll be able to reach the required level of proficiency? Among many factors, one of the most critical is the training principle called continuous tension. In a nutshell, this means putting tension on the muscle group you are working by incorporating a slow, controlled range of motion for each rep throughout the entire movement. Putting this principle to work not only assures you of a higher-quality and more thorough workout, it also puts you firmly in the fast lane toward better results.

Step 1: Ignore your numbers
It's not all your fault. You get hammered over the head with so much advice about sets and reps that shooting for a specific number becomes second nature. Problem is, if you're overly focused on completing a set number of reps, you're not paying as much attention to the muscle you're working. Now, ignoring your reps does not mean staring into space and daydreaming about Halle Berry in the middle of your first set of bench presses. It simply means focusing on the feel during each rep; this will prevent you from using improper form and speeding through to reach a precise number.

"The point is to slow down and not worry about sets and reps," says exercise physiologist Jim Wright, Ph.D. "It's one of the first steps in learning muscle control, which is the single most important factor in developing each muscle to its maximum potential."

We recommend using a three-count on both the positive and negative components of every movement. Concentrate on flexing the working muscle on the positive portion; then, at the top, pause and flex the working muscle hard to achieve what's called a peak contraction. Then, while maintaining the contraction, slowly lower the weight, but instead of simply returning to the starting position, act as if you're pulling the weight down (or up on the negative).


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