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Former CrossFit Games competitor Marcus Filly has recently shifted his focus from quick, temporary goals to smarter, safer workouts he calls “functional bodybuilding,” and he regularly produces video content on how he continues to build strength and build muscle in a sustainable way while avoiding injury.
In a short video that aired recently on YouTube, Filly shows how he increases the amount of time his chest muscles are under tension in a series of exercises to maximize their potential growth. Time under tension doesn’t refer to the duration of the workout, and you can’t simply add reps to your set to increase it: instead, it’s all about slowing down each rep individually. This is called tempo training.
“Rhythm training helps you feel every movement through your full range of motion,” explains fitness author Michael East. “It also allows you to put more stress on the muscles without adding weight.”
The first is the one-arm bench press. Filly incorporates slower weighted movements in the second half of each rep to increase time under tension and achieve higher-quality eccentric contractions in the descending portion of the lift. Try our Alternating Incline Press exercise to start with an explosive tempo before building a freak.
Second, Filly recommends adding pauses at the bottom of reps when doing ring pushups to prolong the stretch in the muscles. Finally, he demonstrates a slowed-down tempo in the downward and upward motion of the dumbbell flye.
While speed training is very useful, that’s not to say it should be used across the board. If you’re performing highly technical or heavy lifts, or explosive movements designed for speed, slowing down at some point in your movements could lead to injury.
Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and reporter from the UK covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared on GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV.