Heavy weights can build size. Light weights can build size. Your own bodyweight can build size. The one thing they have to have in common to do so? Subjecting your muscles to serious tension. Sets, reps and weight – they all matter, but without sufficient ‘time under tension’, you’ll find yourself in a ‘no-grow’ zone.
If you’re looking for an express session to put some beef in your sleeves or your arm gains have plateaued, now could be a good time to shift your focus from weight, sets and reps to a sole focus on ‘time under tension’, and no protocol does this better than the ’40/20’ technique.
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For this quick-fire finisher, set a countdown timer for ten minutes. For the first five minutes you’re going to focus on the triceps, performing maximum reps with good, controlled form for forty seconds, dropping the weights for twenty seconds, before repeating four more times. For the next five minutes, repeat this protocol for the biceps – repping out and squeezing every ounce of tension from your dumbbells for forty seconds, then resting for twenty and repeating.
The goal here is maximise tension, so pick weights that you’re not going to be swinging around or struggling with from rep one, and remember it’s okay to use a little ‘body English’ towards the end of each set, in fact it probably means you’re working hard enough, but keep the ‘lowering’ portion of each rep under strict control.
Tricep Extensions x 40 sec work/ 20 sec rest x 5 minutes
Lay flat on a bench or the floor with a pair of dumbbells locked out overhead (A). Bend at the elbows, slowly lowering the bells towards your head, while keeping your upper arms locked in place. Stop just short of the bells touching the bench (B) before pressing back up explosively. Repeat.
Bicep Curl x 40 sec work/ 20 sec rest x 5 minutes
Stand tall with your dumbbells at your sides, your palms facing towards you (A). With minimal momentum, curl both of your dumbbells upwards, turning your palms in, until your little fingers are near your shoulders (B). Squeeze here and lower the weights under control taking a 3 count to bring them down, fighting them all the way and repeat.