This form of exercise certainly has its place in the overall strength and conditioning programming continuum. There just must be a rhyme and reason for doing so.
Constant tension exercises allow for a quick and effective way to bring the involved structures (i.e., muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc.) to mechanical fatigue in short order. In some case, the end result may even be mechanical failure, depending on the dosage.
The constant tension technique avoids the typical lockout at the top (or end range) of each rep. Essentially, you perform each rep in an oscillation format by utilizing roughly 75% of the range of motion only. In doing so, this keeps the involved structures in a constant state of work while never reaching full contraction.
For example, in a typical squat you would stand tall and lockout the knees at the top. You would do the same in a typical bench press by straightening the arms and locking out the elbows at the top of each rep. In constant tension exercises, you would deliberately avoid this typical lockout on purpose in order to keep stress on the involved structures.
Effective programming strategies key in on ways for the athlete to undergo stress to the body for an adaptation to take place over time. In this case, a constant tension exercise may be used for the following reasons:
Constant tension exercises are simply another way to impose stress on the body. Consider this technique just another notch on the programming tool belt instead of a standalone product.
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Matthew Ibrahim is the Co-Owner, Director of Strength & Conditioning and Internship Coordinator at TD Athletes Edge in Salem, MA. Throughout his career, Matthew has been an invited guest speaker nationally in over 10 U.S. states, which was highlighted by his presentations at Google Headquarters, Stanford University, Equinox, Lululemon and Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning, in addition to guest speaking internationally in Milan, Italy. He has also been an invited guest speaker by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) at the regional conference level and at the state clinic level. His professional work has been featured in some of the world’s largest publications, such as Men's Health, Men’s Fitness and STACK Media. Currently, he is a PhD student at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in the Human and Sport Performance program. Matthew also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Exercise Science at Endicott College and an Adjunct Professor of Exercise Science at Maryville University.