View Full Version : Siff Validated Again

08-01-2003, 07:33 PM
If any of you remember, Mel Siff got himself into a debate with Charles Poliquin and Ian King over Time Under Tension. Siff basically argued that the time under tension is inconsequential. In fact, here is an excerpt of the argument he had....

The time-under-tension figures are the results of scientific research on substrate utilization curves, motor unit recruitment, and exercise protocol comparisons, to name a few, plus the practical experience of myself and other strength coaches.

Keep in mind that I have also mentioned many times before that empirical and experimental evidence have shown that hypertrophy can occur with sets of time-under-tension that are below 20 seconds. There are plenty of massive powerlifters, e.g., Roger Estep, and weightlifters like Arakelov and Rigert who have developed extraordinary hypertrophy levels using sets of 3 reps or less. That is why I advocated low-rep training in my "Maximal Weights" article. Over the years, I have built my arms up to over 19 inches in girth with sets averaging only 3 reps.

Conversely, training for hypertrophy with sets that are between 40-70 seconds long in duration will also increase maximal strength, as there is a correlation between size increases and strength increases, but not necessarily a correlation between strength and cross-section. In other words, Bob with a 14-inch arm may curl and press more than his training partner Bill, who has a 16 inch-arm. Of course, if you increase Bob's cross-section to the point where he has a 16-inch arm, you can be sure his maximal strength will further increase.

Please don't write me for references, though. I am a strength coach, not a librarian. I used to forward the references for such inquiries but it started to take too much time. Strangely enough, I normally get these questions in March and November, which is about the same time university students in exercise physiology are scrambling to do term papers and are too lazy to do their own research.

I do not mean to give the impression that my training beliefs are accepted by everybody, though. For instance, frequent Internet-poster and alleged exercise physiologist Mel Siff recently had yet another post on the Internet questioning the validity of my TUT figures. Instead of coming up with logical and practical solutions for the reader, he simply—as is customary for him—attempted to "answer" a question by asking a series of questions.

In answer to that particular posting, I recently received a communication from top Australian strength coach Ian King. King wrote:

"On the subject of answering questions with questions, I respect the power of a question. Many leading authors quote 'questions are answers.' However the practitioner needs more than questions to survive—he needs answers, or at least paradigms with which to guide their actions…

"In the interim, Mel perhaps could provide his interpretation of TUT, it's relationship with specific adaptations, and guidelines for the practitioner. For in reality what Charles has presented in his TUT guidelines are nothing more than paradigms. Paradigms that I support and use daily.

"In relation to finding the 'right answer,' I refer to Jacob Bronowski in 'Ascent of Man,' who wrote '...there is no right absolute knowledge, and those who claim it—whether they are scientists or dogmatists—open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility....' On the subject of humility, perhaps Mel could use some...."

Anyway, it looks like a new study has come out that shows Mel Siff was once again, right. Behold....


There’s been a lot of focus on contraction velocity and time under tension with respect to muscle growth. In an attempt to examine this phenomenon with biceps curls, subjects performed eight weeks of fast negatives with one arm and slow negatives with the other arm. Basically, the faster eccentrics produced the greater muscle growth.

This research gets my award for "Study of the Year" as it was both well designed and produced great results. The reason for the faster eccentrics producing greater growth is thought to be related to the amount of damage caused by the two training styles (faster eccentrics = greater damage =greater muscle growth).

The primary investigator of this paper was kind enough to e-mail me his entire poster so I could take a closer look at the results. You may also be interested to note that the faster eccentrics also resulted in greater strength increases compared to the slow tempo. This flies in the face of the traditional slow eccentrics and time under tension principle, but may have some strong scientific evidence to support it.

Because of the impact of this information and the controversy it'll produce, the primary investigator has agreed to co-author a comprehensive article on this very topic in the near future. (14)

14) T.N. Shepstone, S.A. Dallaire, C.E. Correia, J.E. Tang, and S.M. Phillips

08-02-2003, 02:34 AM
Yeah, I read that study awhile back.

It pretty much solidifies the idea of a fast eccentric being better than a slow eccentric for both strength and size purposes....which plays into ideas of Westside's band training and other similar approaches.

I remember being in part of that debate with Mel, and it helped to shape a lot of my current ideas on hypertrophy and strength development. I can dig up a lot of the relevant posts on Supertraining if it becomes a big topic....Mel actually did give a pretty solid critique of the TUT issue, which wasn't knocking it, just addressing a few points that were incomplete.

Of course, leave it to Poliquin to take that as an attack.

08-02-2003, 12:16 PM
Here's more fun with research studies:

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2001 Sep;85(5):466-71.

Adaptation to chronic eccentric exercise in humans: the influence of contraction velocity.

Paddon-Jones D, Leveritt M, Lonergan A, Abernethy P.

Department of Surgery, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston 77550, USA. djpaddon@utmb.edu

We compared changes in muscle fibre composition and muscle strength indices following a 10 week isokinetic resistance training programme consisting of fast (3.14 rad x s(-1)) or slow (0.52 rad x s(-1)) velocity eccentric muscle contractions. A group of 20 non-resistance trained subjects were assigned to a FAST (n = 7), SLOW (n = 6) or non-training CONTROL (n = 7) group. A unilateral training protocol targeted the elbow flexor muscle group and consisted of 24 maximal eccentric isokinetic contractions (four sets of six repetitions) performed three times a week for 10 weeks. Muscle biopsy samples were obtained from the belly of the biceps brachii. Isometric torque and concentric and eccentric torque at 0.52 and 3.14 rad x s(-1) were examined at 0, 5 and 10 weeks. After 10 weeks, the FAST group demonstrated significant [mean (SEM)] increases in eccentric [29.6 (6.4)%] and concentric torque [27.4 (7.3)%] at 3.14 rad x s(-1), isometric torque [21.3 (4.3)%] and eccentric torque [25.2 (7.2)%] at 0.52 rad x s(-1). The percentage of type I fibres in the FAST group decreased from [53.8 (6.6)% to 39.1 (4.4)%] while type IIb fibre percentage increased from [5.8 (1.9)% to 12.9 (3.3)%; P < 0.05]. In contrast, the SLOW group did not experience significant changes in muscle fibre type or muscle torque. We conclude that neuromuscular adaptations to eccentric training stimuli may be influenced by differences in the ability to cope with chronic exposure to relatively fast and slow eccentric contraction velocities. Possible mechanisms include greater cumulative damage to contractile tissues or stress induced by slow eccentric muscle contractions.

Scott S
08-02-2003, 11:20 PM
Wait -- now I'm confused again!! Arghh.... :bang:

08-03-2003, 06:22 PM
Allow Powerman to correct me if I'm wrong, but the conclusion would be to include BOTH fast and slow eccentrics for optimal growth. Matt, for athletes interested in power production, do you advocate always using the fastest concentric tempo possible? This is an interesting tempo discussion.

08-03-2003, 09:00 PM
I actually expounded on it a bit more here (http://forum.avantlabs.com/index.php?act=ST&f=12&t=5009), but for the sake of brevity:

In this case, the faster eccentric contraction yielded increases in both concentric and eccentric torque at the "fast" speed, as well as increases in isometric torque and in eccentric torque at the "slow" speed, whereas there was little change with the slower contraction.

More interestingly, the number of type I fibers decreased and the number of IIb/IIx fibers *increased*...now normally that would tell me there's almost a "detraining" effect in place, but the rather significant increase in torque says that that isn't the case......for more in-depth implications of that, check the link above as I've already gone through it in a good bit of detail.