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STOP Using Tension As An Excuse To CHEAT!

Improve Sticking Points For MUSCLE & STRENGTH Gains!

Posted by Scott_Herman - November 5th, 2014

We see it at the gym every day. It’s a horrible sight to see. Our fellow gym members are under the impression that they don’t need to train in the FULL Range Of Motion (ROM) of an exercise because stopping halfway keeps more tension on the muscle. Who came up with this belief why and why does it still exist today?

There are many professional bodybuilders like Jay Cutler who believe that you shouldn’t train in the FULL ROM because the “tension” excuse is real and will help you with your gains. Then there are others like Kai Greene who believe that you should ALWAYS train in the FULL ROM to maximize your gains! Who should you believe? They are both huge and compete at the Mr. Olympia level, but at the end of the day you are going to have to make a choice. As for me, I train in the FULL ROM and believe this “tension” is just a myth to boost the ego of your average joe trying to justify that he can bench more than he really can and here is why.

In my experience "tension" is used to help you perform more reps. So you might be lifting more weight, but the load you are putting on your muscles is much less than if you were to stop at the bottom of a movement and then reengage.

Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.

Just in case you are still wondering what “keeping the tension in the muscle” is referring to, it is when you do not fully extend your arms / legs during an exercise. For example, when performing a bicep curl you may notice the some people don’t bring the bar all the way down to their thighs and fully extend their arms.

In fact, most people are already transferring energy into anticipating bringing the bar back up to their chest halfway through the movement. This allows you to use a bit of momentum to make it easier to curl the weight as objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Now, if you were to fully extend your arms and let the weight touch your thighs, you would see that it is much harder to re-engage the curl. This is because it takes more force, or in this case you need to recruit more muscle fibers to re-engage and curl the bar back up to your neck.

Think about it like this. Have you ever had your car stuck in a ditch and had to rock it back and forth to be able to push it out? You may have noticed that the initial push is always the hardest. But once you get the car moving backward and forward the pushing becomes much easier due to the momentum you are creating. When applied to body building, that “momentum” is the “tension” you are keeping in your muscles by not training in the FULL ROM. Or what I like to call, “The Slingshot”.

What is “The Slingshot” and how it destroying your gains?

The slingshot is the method I refer to when bodybuilders utilize the “tension” in their muscles to do more reps. By keeping a slight bend in the elbows you are preloading your biceps and preparing for the next rep as you descend.

There is a reason why it’s much harder to fully disengage your biceps at the bottom of a curl with a full extension and then have to re-engage when compared to keeping the tension in the muscle.

My argument is, when trying to maximize both strength and muscle gains, why would you turn to the method that requires you to utilize LESS muscle fiber by avoiding the sticking point?

What is the “Sticking Point”?

The sticking point is the hardest point in any lift or the point where you tend to fail.  Once again, I am going to use the bicep curl as the example exercise. The sticking point here is just after you fully extend your arms and then have to re-engage to perform another repetition.

Sound familiar?

This is the part of the movement you skip if you decide to keep the “tension” in the muscle. By avoiding this part of the exercise you are able to utilize the slingshot method and curl more weight. But in order to maximize your muscle and strength gains you need to train and improve your weakest points and the “sticking point” is exactly that!

Final thoughts on the “Tension Excuse”.

In conclusion, any range of motion that you DO NOT train in you will always be the weakest. Now that you know this, why would you ever want to train in such a way that leaves so many weak points in your body?

Therefore, the next time you hear someone say,

“My friend got huge by keeping tension in the muscles and not doing FULL ROM on their exercises.”

Your response should be,

“Just think how much bigger and stronger they would have been if they trained through their sticking points with FULL ROM!!” #HTH #SHFAthlete

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This answers a question I asked yesterday regarding touching the chest. I had been going full range until I hired a trainer to help me drill in on my form.  He had me stop the bar about an inch above the chest.  So I was wanting to figure out what the differences were.  Granted he is a bit old school and he has made some tweaks to my other lifting forms that has helped.  This though is not one that I was sold on ... I like the stretch with a short pause as to not use the momentum and elasticity to propel the weight back up. Great article!

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

yeah exactly.  stoping 1 inch is old good.. but he has good intentions.  Go to chest... pause.. then go back up :-D


In the words of Kai Green "primarily what is important to me is being able to contract my muscles efficiently. I'm going to get a stretch and a contraction; I'm going to be in control of it for the entire range of motion." 


The only thing that makes me nervous about going all the way down on dips is the fear of faceplanting at the dip station :) . When I lost the weight I became spaghetti arms. Trying to work my way back. Though when I do work with dumbbells I'd been doing pause reps without knowing what they were called.

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

Thats pretty awesome man and don't worry.. just go as low as you can and as you get stronger you will get that full ROM in no time.. just make sure you definitely lock out at the top of each rep!

jcgadfly  Edit  Delete  Close

I did go back to doing dips this morning. I'mnot sure how good they were as I can't see my form where the station is located but there was movement for two sets of 10 and one set of 9 and I tried very hard not to bounce up fast. It wasn't that long ago that I couldn't hold myself up at a dip station so I take any victory I can get.

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

yeah I hear that.  I feel the same way when I go super heavy on my dips!


I belive than keeping tension will still work the muscle. but going rull range engages more of the muscle, and helps with flexability. i always go FULL ROM when possible and thats normally always lol

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

nice that works! control those negatives!

FearlessRobb  Edit  Delete  Close

Only time I really stop is last rep of last set I go really slow back to the end. Like a 8 second cojnt lol

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

As long as you are holding the weight... there is tension.. and if you think there isnt.. do more reps as you will eventually get to a point where you can't do anymore! right? haha


Hermanites ALWAYS go FULL ROM!!!! #HTH


I agree 100%. I look at it this way: Look at how your joints work. How far your elbow or knee or shoulder moves. Your muscles are designed to provide force thru the entire range of the joint. If your knee stops at 90 degrees, then no need to do squats deeper than that. Who's knees stop at 90 degrees? If your elbow stops at 90 degrees, no need to do curls deeper than that. Who's elbows stop at 90 degrees. To maximize total muscle growth and full strength of contraction of the joint thru its entire range as well as protect the integrity of the joint, you have to do full range of motion exercises. Period.

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

yeah I agree 100%, why else would you have that range of motion? I am sure if it was bad... you wouldn't be able to move that much!


FULL ROM all the way! Great article @scott_herman!