Mastering tension and fat loss

By Max Masood, BS, FRCms

Why does “tension” even matter?

We know by now that strength training and fat loss go hand in hand. But how can “tension” add to this formula?

We often hear a trainer say “create tension” during our workouts, but what the hell does that mean? Creating tension is one of the most important aspects of any effective training program for fat loss, strength, or rehab.


Let me break it down for you:

  • The term “tension” derives from “The Law of Irradiation” which states that neurological activation of musculature surrounding the intended muscular contraction will act to ramp up strength/tension development. The more surrounding musculature utilized, the more profound the effects of the contraction, and subsequent ‘relaxation’ when contraction stops.
  • (NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: I blacked out reading that, so you probably did, too. I’m going to break it down a little more for you.)
  • Simply put, the harder you are able to tense your exercising muscles and surrounding muscles, more force is produced, therefore you become stronger.
  • This is critical during weight training so you are able to move more weight safely and effectively.
  • More weight generally equates to EPOC and more lean muscle. More lean muscle generally equates to a more robust metabolism. A more robust metabolism generally equates to more fat burning.
  • So, tension is good.


In addition, the role of tension goes beyond strength/fat loss and is a very important concept navigating through rehab. Through the principle of Progressive Adaptation, isometric ramping (tension) can induce the production of new, healthy tissue via its influence on cellular processes.

So, again, tension is good.


Watch the video above for a visual demonstration:

An example from “The Law of Irradiation” or “tension” is if ball your hand into a fist and create tension, you will feel tension in your hand and forearm. If you create more tension, you will then feel that tension in your hand, forearm, and upper arm. If you create even more tension from your fist, you will even feel that tension travel to your shoulder, chest, and “lats”.

This is how it’s done.

So, remember…

Tension is good.

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