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A Tense Situation

To flex or not to flex? Some top pros choose to stop their exercises—even leg extensions—short of lockout.

How many times have we talked about the need for emphasizing quality contractions on all our reps? Squeeze the target muscle! Then we can’t help but notice that a lot of huge men don’t do that in their training. The reps of mass monsters like Ronnie Coleman, Branch Warren and Jay Cutler seem to be more pistonlike in tempo. They aren’t stopping at the end of each rep for a full squeeze, yet they have the type of extreme development that the rest of us can only dream of.

Recently I was speaking with new NPC USA Overall champ Jason Huh, who shocked me by admitting that he never locks out on any exercise: “I believe the key to stimulating muscle growth lies in stretching the muscle at the start of each rep and keeping it under constant tension throughout the set.”

It’s hard to argue with his methods, since the 25-year-old turned pro at 5’8” and a massive 257 pounds last July. Though I immediately disagreed with his aversion to locking out, I decided to try it the next day on an exercise I firmly believe is suited to the pause-and-squeeze technique: leg extensions. Sure enough, the pump and burn I experienced as a result of a couple of sets of 20 nonlockout reps was intense. I even played around with doing 10 nonlockout reps and another 10 reps with a pronounced flex of the quads at the top. All I can say is, Ouch!

Should you start doing all your sets under constant tension and skipping that end of the range of motion? I don’t know about that, but I do think there’s very real benefit to doing at least some of your sets or portions of them like that. If nothing else, it will provide a different type of stimulation that could shock your muscles into new gains.


Editor’s note: Ron Harris is the author of Real Bodybuilding—Muscle Truth From 25 Years in the Trenches, available at


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