A New Study Reveals 2 Training Techniques to Maximize Muscle Growth

Muscles can stretch and contract. That might seem like an oversimplification, but who hasn’t seen the gyms with countless members trying to get huge by slinging dumbbells around without loading their muscles meaningfully? While those people might not know proper lifting technique, is there even a unanimously agreed upon version of proper technique?

The short answer is no, but the scientific community has gotten us closer. Days before the start of 2024, a narrative study titled “Optimizing Resistance Training Technique to Maximize Hypertrophy: a Narrative Review” was published in the Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology. (1) Featuring coach and content creator Jeff Nippard as one of its seven authors, the study sought a more “universally agreed-upon definition…as to what constitutes proper technique” for resistance training.

The main findings were two-fold:

It is likely beneficial for gymgoers with the goal of muscle hypertrophy to “emphasize training at long muscle lengths.”

Repetition tempo (i.e., how long each rep takes to complete) is flexible, but each rep should likely take two to eight seconds to complete.

What the Study Says

This study emerged from the ambiguity of proper lifting technique prescriptions, where lifters are often told that form is critical without an explicit definition of what “proper technique” is.

For purposes of hypertrophy (the scientific word for muscle growth), the study defined proper lifting technique as “the controlled execution of bodily movements to ensure an exercise effectively targets specific muscle groups while minimizing the risk of injury.”

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The study analyzed repetition tempo, range of motion, and exercise-specific kinematics (motion mechanics). However, there is a lack of published research on the latter, so the jury is out on whether strict reps or non-strict reps are more beneficial for muscle growth.

Here’s what the study did provide help with:

Repetition Tempo

Generally speaking, every rep of each exercise you do has a concentric and an eccentric phase. The concentric portion is when your muscle is shortening, lifting the weight. Think: the up part of a pull-up. The eccentric phase is when your muscle is lengthening, resisting, and lowering the load. This would be the down portion of a pull-up.

Without universal clarity on whether concentric, eccentric, or a combination of both is the best for muscle growth, the narrative review found that significant muscle gains occur when reps take two to eight seconds to perform. There seemed to be a bias for faster concentrics paired with slower eccentrics during biceps training but mixed results for leg training.

The Takeaway: Concentrics can be explosive and seemingly remain effective for hypertrophy; eccentrics should be performed slower to ensure the target muscle lowers the weight rather than gravity off-setting the load.

In Your Workout: Try a 4-1-1-0 tempo for your lifts, which translates to a four-second descent, a one-second pause, a one-second lift, and no pause before diving into your next rep.

4: The first number indicates the eccentric phase of the lift. In this example, you’ll take four seconds to lower the weight.

1: The second number is for the moment at the bottom of the rep. In this case, one second.

1: This is for the concentric (or lifting) phase: take a second to lift the weight back up.

0: Don’t pause at the top of the rep before starting again. (Note: Once your muscle get tired, you can pause briefly to push through your set, but try to avoid pausing at the top to maintain tension on your muscles.

With moves like the back squat and bench press, you can follow this tempo training scheme directly. However, not all lifts start in the eccentric phase. For example, chin-ups start with a concentric pull. In those cases, start with a two-second pull, one-second pause, then go down into your four-second eccentric.

According to this study, the added time under tension that your muscles endure may help build maximum muscle when tested between two and eight seconds per rep, with more time in the eccentric.

Learn More: If the study is inspiring you to spend more time under tension, check out these BarBend articles:

How Tempo Training Can Progress Your Workouts

Your Guide to Concentric Vs. Eccentric Training — Which Should You Emphasize, and When?

Improve Muscle Mass, Technique, and Mental Toughness With 1 ½ Reps

[Read More: New Study Suggests Overhead Triceps Extensions Build More Muscle Than Pushdowns]

Range of Motion

Muscle length and range of motion are often conflated, and this narrative review set out to specify the difference when it comes to muscle growth. Range of motion (ROM) refers to the muscle moving through an exercise as far as it can go. (Think about performing a dumbbell bench press from when your arms are fully locked out until the dumbbells touch your chest.) Achieving a full ROM does not necessarily account for the muscle length throughout (though they are regularly conflated).

An analysis of the available research suggests that training muscles in their lengthened positions is likely more beneficial for hypertrophy than training them in their shortened positions and full ranges of motion. For example, your biceps are fully stretched at the bottom of a Bayesian curl, not at the top.

Takeaway: If your goal is hypertrophy, you’re probably better off letting your muscle spend more time in the lengthened part of the range of motion than the shortened range. Still, more research is needed into the subject.

In Your Workout: It’s not the worst thing for your workout if you don’t complete all repetitions with a full range of motion. Are you approaching failure in your set? Good. Don’t stop. Instead, perform a partial rep in the range of motion where your muscles are lengthened. Here’s how that might look with barbell curls:

In a typical barbell curl, you would bring the bar from the bottom position (with your arms fully extended) up to the top of your range of motion (with your biceps touching your forearms).

Perform reps with a full range of motion until you reach “momentary failure,” when you can’t do any more reps with proper form.

Keep lifting, but stop your reps halfway through the concentric portion of the lift. Move slowly, especially when you’re lowering the weight. You can do this technique, also known as long-length partial reps, at the end of regular sets when approaching failure, or you can do entire sets dedicated to this technique.

Learn More: Itching to give the lengthened muscle range more love so you can start pushing the limits of your shirt’s seams? Get all the info you need here:

Are Long-Length Partial Reps the Secret to Hypertrophy?

The 10 Best Exercises for Long-Length Partial Reps

Partial Vs Full Range of Motion: Which Is Ideal for Muscle Development?

Key Takeaways

After reviewing the available research, Androulakis et al. recommended the following, albeit simplified, recommendations for those wondering how to build muscle.

This 2024 study was conducted by notable names in the exercise science community, including Jeff Nippard, Milo Wolf, and Brad Schoenfeld. The study set out to standardize proper lifting techniques for building muscle mass.

A single repetition of an exercise should ideally last between two and eight seconds, with more time spent in the eccentric (or lowering phase) of an exercise.

According to the study, spending more time in the lengthened portion of any exercise (think the bottom of a skull crusher) elicits superior hypertrophy gains compared to time spent in the shortened position and, in some cases, even a full-range-of-motion rep.

Although this research is compelling, don’t consider it muscle-building law. Try one or both of these techniques for your next training block and judge the results yourself.

More Training Resources

Try These 8 Intensity Techniques to Turn Your Bodybuilding Workouts Up a Notch

Use These Bodybuilding Technique Tips to Unlock New Gains

How to (Safely) Miss Your Lifts as a Strength Athlete


Androulakis Korakakis P, Wolf M, Coleman M, Burke R, Piñero A, Nippard J, Schoenfeld BJ. Optimizing Resistance Training Technique to Maximize Muscle Hypertrophy: A Narrative Review. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology. 2024; 9(1):9.

Featured image: ALL best fitness is HERE / Shutterstock

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