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This 2-Second Trick Helps You Build Muscle Faster, Says Top Trainer

Here’s how adding one-quarter reps to your favorite training moves can really pay off.

When it comes to building muscle via strength training, there are three main ways to stimulate growth fairly quickly: you can increase your weight, you can perform more reps and sets as you experience gains, and you can decrease your rest period between sets. Or, of course, you can do all of the above.

However, there's yet another way to build muscle faster that you may have not tried before. It's utilizing what we in the fitness business call "time under tension" (TUT), which essentially refers to the amount of time that you activate a muscle during an exercise. Simply put: By activating your muscles for longer and by slowing down the eccentric—or lowering phase—of an exercise, you can reap some great benefits. In fact, according to one study published in 2016, volunteers who doubled the amount of time that they lowered the weight down on a bench press exercise compared to the time they pushed it up experienced a better workout overall. The study found that merely adding two seconds to the lowering phase made the whole movement more effective.

This method is great for exercises where you can't add any more weight, where you find yourself stuck in a dreaded plateau, or you simply want to target certain specific muscles. One of my favorite tricks for using the benefits TUT for faster muscle growth? By throwing in some simple one-quarter reps into an existing strength-training routine. Depending on the exercise, if you weave in an extra one-quarter rep at the top or bottom of the move, you're bound to make the muscle work harder. When programming these into your workouts, you can perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps with the exercise of your choice.

Here are two great exercises where you can put this technique to excellent use. And for some exercise news you can use, make sure you're up to speed on The "Bare Minimum" Amount of Exercise You Need to Do to Be Fit, Says New Study.

Incline Dumbbell Curl with a ¼-rep at the Bottom (Step One)

tim liu doing a dumbbell curl

Position yourself on an incline bench with your palms up.

Incline Dumbbell Curl with a ¼-rep at the Bottom (Step Two)

tim liu dumbbell curl completion

Curl the weight up one-quarter of the way, come all the way back down, and then all the way up. That is one rep.

Related: See Carrie Underwood's Calorie-Burning 5-Minute Workout

Squat with a ¼-rep at the Bottom


With the squat, you can perform the one-quarter rep at the bottom if you want to target the glutes. If you want to hit the quads more, you can perform a one-quarter rep at the top. Remember: Though I'm using the benefit of added weights here with my squat, you can perform this move with only using your bodyweight.

To perform the bottom version of the one-quarter rep, come all the way down, then go up one-quarter of the way, and then go back back down and then all the way up. That is one rep.

Squat with a ¼-rep at the Top

tim liu doing a squat with an extra quarter rep

To perform one-quarter rep at the top, come all the way down and then all the way back up. After you finish a full rep, perform a rep one-quarter of the way back down to hit the quads once more. And for more great workouts you can try now, see why This Total-Body Home Workout Builds Strength and Burns Calories Fast.

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.
Tim Liu, CSCS, is an online fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles Read more about Tim
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