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To explain the question, I must talk about two periods. I will be as brief as possible so that you will be happy to read my question. Then, at the end of this post, you will find the details.

First period: The highest work-out volume (per week)

I was training with a uper-lower work-out, using supersets for the poly and the mono exercises. I was training the back/pecs 2 or 3 times a week, and legs 2 times a week. Each set was in the shape of:

approx. 40secs under tension, with tempos allowing approx. 7reps ; then 15s of rest-pause ; then 20secs under tension (same weight), with tempos allowing approx. 4reps.

Exception: for the poly exercises, the last 3 sets were in the shape of:

approx. 20secs under tension, with tempos allowing approx. 5reps ; then 15s of rest-pause ; then 20secs under tension (same weight), with tempos allowing approx. 5reps ; then 15s of rest-pause ; then 20s under tension (decreased weight), with tempos allowing approx. 4 reps.

My back was trained with 6 sets of vertical pull, the pecs with 5 sets of bench, then 5 sets of inclined bench, the back was traing with 6 sets of horizontal pull, the pecs with 3 sets of butterfly.

I don't want to detail my training for the legs and the little muscles.

Results:

  • Most of the time, I couldn't respect the above times under tension
  • Several times, I had to decrease my weights. I never could progress in term of weights, hypertrophy, endurance.
  • When I tried to increase weights, I had to decrease the times under tension and/or the number of contractions/stretches
  • This work-out could be described as:
    • High frequency training
    • High work-out volume: use of rest-pauses, use of [7 ; 9] reps sets, use of [4 ; 5] reps sets, use of supersets

Why work this way? Some justification is required....

  • Time under tension: the hypertrophy is maximal for 1min of time under tension for a given set: less and more are not good practices
  • Rest-pauses spaced by only 15s: they allow me to increase the time under tension
  • Doing the 40s at approx. 7 or 8reps and the 20s: I think it's the best format for hypertrophy (heavy weights + good sum of times under tension + correct number of contractions/stretches)
  • Doing the 20s 20s 20s at 4 or 5reps: I think it's the best format for strength (nervous system) AND hypertrophy (since the sum of times under tension is 1min + very heavy weights).
  • Supersets: useful to train cardio + on some exercises, it's censed to give more power (e.g.: legs press and legs curl: doing a set of legs press normally helps to do the next set of legs curl more easily, with heavier weights)

Now: The lowest work-out volume (per week)

As I didn't get any results after 1.5 year of training in term of hypertrophy and weights, I decided to change my work-out. Indeed, I thought I was not recovering, my work-out volume was certainly too high (I'm natural, not using steroids).

  • Now, I do a push/pull/legs work-out
  • I don't use superset anymore
  • I don't train my little muscles
  • I train 2 times a week the pecs and the back, 1 time a week the legs
  • I always begin my work-out with 10min of elliptical bike at high intensity and high speed (to warm up), then at the middle of my work-out I re-do these 10min

I understood that I should increase the weights after having increased the times under tension and the number of reps (keeping the same tempos from a work-out to another).

Each set is in the shape of:

approx. 40secs under tension, with tempos allowing approx. 7reps ; then 30s of rest-pause ; then 20secs under tension (same weight), with tempos allowing approx. 4reps.

When I reach the 40secs under tension, I go to 50secs under tension, with the same tempos than for the 40secs under tension (doing approx 9reps). And when I reach 50secs, I go to 1min similarly. Only after, I increase a little the weights.

This evaluation is done on the 2nd set for a given exercice (because from the 3rd, I'm too tired, and concerning the 1st: my nervous system isn't correctly warmed up).

Exception: the last 2 sets are in the shape of:

approx. 20secs under tension, with tempos allowing approx. 5reps ; then 30s of rest-pause ; then 20secs under tension (same weight), with tempos allowing approx. 5reps ; then 30s of rest-pause ; then 20s under tension (decreased weight), with tempos allowing approx. 4 reps.

I increase the weights for these last 2 sets if I feel I can do it.

I only do 5 sets for back for vertical, 5 sets for horizontal pullings, idem for pecs on next day (5 sets for pecs in bench, then 5 sets for pecs in inclined bench).

Results:

  • 3 months I train like this...
  • I'm still doing 40s max. with the same weights than the 1st month, with approx. the same tempos, the same number of reps (approx. 6 or 7 or 8 reps).
  • No hypertrophy, no weight increase
  • However, my work-out volume has decreased: I don't do supersets upper/lower work-out, just push pull legs work-out, the work-out frequency has a little decreased thus.

My question

Finally, as I wrote in the introduction of this post, I'll conclude the latter by giving details about the question.

  • First: what is my question, precisely? ===> I'm sure that the push pull legs I do, exactly as I've described above, is good for me. BUT I didn't progress in terme of muscle endurance.
    • Indeed, I stay at 40s under tension.
      • Example: at vertical pulling, concerning the 2nd set (the good set to measure my progression), I only do 40s of time under tension at 135lbs (61kg) with 8 reps (the last two reps are very challenging), then I rest-pause for 30s, and I do 20s at 135lbs again (3 reps).
      • Another example: at bench press, concerning the 2nd set (the good set to measure my progression), I only do 40s of time under tension at 121lbs (55kg) with 7 reps (the last two reps are very challenging), then I rest-pause for 30s, and I do 20s at 121lbs again (3 reps).
      • For these both exercises, from 3 months I stay at 40s.... I can't do 50s under tension with same weight, same tempos, and 8 or 9 reps......

So my muscle endurance doesn't progress. Hypertrophy doesn't progress. Also, strength doesn't progress (the weights for the last 2 sets of each exercise can't be increased).

  • I precise my question: given all these details, all these explanations, can you explain me why I can't do more reps (increasing the time under tension)? Is this work-out volume still to high? How do profesionnals, YouTubers, Instagramers, young American athletes work? Perhaps I'm training too intensively! Even if this intensity of work-out has decreased since my first period.

Today, I had to decrease the weights at my vertical pulling (back) to train at 40s with approx. 8 reps: it's a muscle endurance decrease... I'm affraid of this...

Anxiety

I'm getting nervous more and more, day by day... I have some knowledge in musculation... I don't understand why I can't progress, and it makes me anxious more and more. The other practitioners of my Basic Fit do progress, not me. From almost 2 years, I'm still at 121lbs at the bench press, WTF? Even if I changed my work-out (2nd period is lighter than my 1st one), I can't progress...

  • I guess what I'm not understanding is the relationship between reps/sets and "time under tension"? Are you saying that it takes you 40 seconds to do 8 reps, so you're doing 5 second slow reps? – JohnP May 30 at 15:33

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