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Undersun Fitness’ Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many reps do I do?

    The TA2 Muscle Building Program was designed using a 20/10/10/15 Rep Structure, popularized by TA2 Co-Creator, James Grage.  

  • What is the reason for the specific rep and set structure?

    The number of sets, repetitions, and speed of the repetitions are all by design. Here is a breakdown of each of the 4 sets:

    Set #1/20 Reps:  The common presumption with a set of 20 repetitions is that it’s just a warm-up set. This is not completely untrue, but there’s more to it than merely warming up the muscle. One of the biggest reasons that individuals have a hard time building muscle is they haven’t figured out mind/muscle connection. In any given movement, or exercise, our brain and body naturally want to recruit as many muscle groups as possible to perform the given task. This is natural, but with resistance training, the trick is learning how to target a particular muscle as much as possible. To do this goes against our instinct so it requires focus to learn to target a specific muscle. Most people have difficulty learning this because they are told that you always have to pick up the heaviest resistance you can find if you want to build muscle. The irony is that the heavier you go, the more likely you are to recruit other muscles. The point of doing the first set with 20 reps is going with a resistance level that you can do with strict form so that you can focus on good quality contractions each and every rep. This is why I call Set #1 an “Activation Set”, where you are forcing your body to activate all of the motor units in the muscle, for a peak muscle contraction, as opposed to recruiting assistor muscles, to complete the movement.  If you’ve selected a resistance that’s still challenging (don’t sandbag it) you will really start to feel that muscle burn after 12-14 reps. Embrace that burn and etch that feeling into your mind. Learning to really feel a muscle is the first critical step in learning Mind/Muscle connection. Now besides warming up the muscle and developing that connection with the muscle, you have the additional benefit of pre-fatiguing the muscle, priming it for your remaining 3 sets.

    Sets 2 & 3: In both Set #2 and Set #3 the focus is on controlled rep speed, both in the concentric, isometric and eccentric contractions. In these two sets you will go with a heavier resistance than you used in Set #1, but make sure that you can still get the same quality contractions that you did in your first set. It’s best to aim for a resistance that feels really difficult at 5-6 reps and then the last 4-5 are extra challenging. If you got to 10-reps and feel like you could do a few more then the weight is too light. 

    Set 4: Just like the first set, your final set serves multiple purposes. The primary focus it to build power. One of the advantages of bands, over free-weights, is that it makes it easy to train more explosively, which activates those fast-twitch muscle fibers. These are the type of muscle fibers that make you run faster, jump higher, and lift heavier. When training with free-weights there’s a significant downside to training with faster rep speeds. Once you get that weight moving fast, momentum carries the weight and robs you of resistance. When using bands you are not able to create momentum, so no matter how explosively you do the movement you get maximum resistance all the way through the range of movement.  In Set #4 we take advantage of this opportunity by doing 15-reps explosively. Use the same resistance that you did in your first set, but now we are going to do them quickly. The one adjustment we want to make is to shorten our Range of Motion (ROM) slightly, to make sure that we have constant tension throughout the movement. In other words, we don’t ever want the band going slack. Even though we are doing 15 reps, our total Time Under Tension (TUT) is shorter.

  • What is a concentric contraction?

    In a concentric contraction, the muscle shortens as it contracts. If you were doing a biceps curl, in this phase you would be curling the weight up. This contraction is about 1-second in time and needs to be powerful, yet controlled.

  • What is an isometric contraction?

    In an isometric contraction, the muscle is contracted, but the length of the muscle does not change. In other words, you are holding the contraction in one spot. For the purpose of the TA2 program, you will want to do a mini-isometric contraction at the peak of the movement. You don’t have to pause at the top, just make sure you give it that extra little squeeze right as you reach the top. This is going to ensure that you get a peak contraction and activate as many muscle fibers as possible.

  • What is an eccentric contraction?

    In an eccentric contraction, the muscle lengthens in a contracted state. This is also called doing a “negative”. Right after lifting a weight (concentric) and squeezing (isometric) the eccentric would be the phase where you slowly control the weight back down to the starting position. Think of your muscle as the brakes that are slowing it down. The eccentric phase is often neglected, which is a big loss, considering that more muscle is broken down (and therefore built back stronger) in the eccentric phase than the concentric. The key to a good eccentric contraction is the speed. Try to aim for a 2-second eccentric contraction.

  • What is Time Under Tension (TUT)?

    In any given rep or set structure, it isn’t just about how many reps you do, that determines how hard a muscle works. What you’re really looking at is Time Under Tension (TUT) which is the total time that your muscle is under tension in the concentric, isometric and eccentric phases. If you have a 1-second concentric contraction, a half-second isometric and a 2-second eccentric, then your TUT per rep would be 3 ½ seconds. If you take the number of reps and multiply it by the TUT, you get the total Time Under Tension for the set. 

    If we look at the TA2 program, in Sets #2 and #3, we have a rep speed of approximately 3 ½ seconds, multiplied by 10 reps, which gives us a TUT for that set of roughly 35 seconds. The ideal TUT for muscle size and strength gains (hypertrophy) the ideal range is 30-70 seconds. In Set #4, although we have 15 reps as opposed to 10, our TUT is very similar. Let’s compare: Using an explosive rep speed of less than 1-second on the eccentric and concentric, and no pause on the isometric, we have a TUT per rep of less than 2-seconds. Multiply that by our 15-reps and we have roughly 30 seconds.  As you can see, although we’re doing more reps, our TUT is less, but still in that ideal range for building muscle.

    One of the peripheral benefits of Set #4 is that we’re also driving more blood into the muscle. Besides the fact that we all like the way a good muscle pump feels, it also serves a muscle building purpose. By driving more blood into the muscle, along with it comes muscle building nutrients like glucose and amino acids.

  • What is the progression through the 12-Week TA2 Muscle Building Program?

    Progression, in a weight training routine, simply means that as you get stronger you need to continue to challenge your muscles in new ways, in order to continue making progress.  There’s no magical “Progression Strategy” that is going to be more effective than you simply pushing yourself out of your comfort zone each and every workout. Changes in muscle strength and size come from adaptations, made by your body when it is forced to do more than it is used to doing. The rule is this: If you always do what you can always do, then you will always remain the same. In other words, your body isn’t going to build muscle if you keep lifting the same amount of weight every time you workout. The lesson here is that much of the progression in a routine comes from your effort and intensity, more than it is from the types of exercises that you are doing. With that being said, introducing new exercises is important and that’s why throughout the TA2 program new exercises are brought in to challenge you, and maximize progress over the entire 12-weeks.

  • How do resistance bands compare to free weights?

    Resistance Bands have most of the same benefits as traditional free weights, and even a few advantages. 

    Let’s first let's look at how they are similar:

    • Both provide progressive resistance, meaning that as you get stronger you can progress to heavier levels of resistance in order to continue making strength gains (progressive overload).
    • Both allow for variable-speed, meaning that you can perform your reps at different speeds (both fast and slow) to create either more or less time under tension for each rep and set.
    • The last major difference is the free-range of motion or movement. Unlike machines where you are locked into a plane of movement, with both bands and free weights you can move freely in any plane.


    Now let’s dive into the advantages of resistance bands:

    • Unlike free weights where the resistance is fixed throughout the range of motion, in an exercise, resistance bands create what is called Linear Variable Resistance. The more you stretch a band, the more resistance it creates. This “variable resistance” more closely matches the natural strength curve of your muscles, where you are typically weaker at the start of a movement and stronger toward the end.
    • Bands also have Resistance in Multiple Planes. Free weights only create resistance in the vertical plane, as they resist the force of gravity. For example, with any chest exercise you have to lay on a bench in order to press the weight up. With bands you can do a chest exercise standing, sitting, laying down or probably even on your head if you really wanted to.
    • When using free weights, there are many exercises where you don’t get Resistance Through the Full Range of Movement. A great example is doing biceps curls. As you near the top of the range of motion, your arms are in a somewhat locked position, which takes tension off your biceps. Like we talked about with variable resistance, you want to get more tension at the peak of a movement, not less. When using bands you get maximum tension even at the peak of contraction.
    • The next benefit is one that it’s easy to dismiss, but in fact it actually may be one of the most important – and that is by training with bands you are far Less Likely to Cheat Your Reps. Let’s go back to our example of doing biceps curls. This is one exercise where we’ve all seen someone swing their body to get those reps. By swinging you are using momentum to help get the weight up, instead of forcing your muscles to take on the full load. With bands you cannot create momentum, so even if you wanted to swing your body it would be pointless. This forces you to use better form and make your biceps do the work not your low back. Another added benefit of this is that with less cheating (which means bad form) it drastically reduces the chance of injury. Remember that progress isn’t just about moving forward – it’s also about not moving backwards, which is exactly what happens when you get injured.

    The last two benefits of bands over free weights are simple. Bands are light-weight and portable,which means that you are no longer confined or limited to just training in the gym. Now you can take your workouts anywhere you want to go (and won’t ever have to wait for someone to get off a bench)and since you don’t have to go to the gym, you can also potentially save a ton of money on gym memberships. You would be blown away at the statistics on what Americans spend on gym memberships each year.

    Here's a quick reference chart of how resistance bands stack up against free weights: