Mechanical Tension Definition and What You Need to Know

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


Mechanical tension, as the main mechanism of muscle growth is important to grasp. 

The majority of men train at the gym in order to become stronger, more fit and active. The goal is to be healthy and maximize muscle mass. 

Who doesn't desire a set of solid abs, a chest that looks like a barrel and thick, masculine arms? 

It is well known that regular gym visits, heavy lifting and hard training will help you achieve a fantastic physique. 

What you really need to understand is that mechanical tension will take your training up to an entirely new level. 

We are here to help you. 

Mechanical tension - definition and mechanisms

The overloading force on the muscles can be described as mechanical tension. 

This is related to weight lifting. As the tension increases with heavier weights, it creates greater forces pulling against muscles. 

In 2010, Brad Schoenfeld, a muscle researcher and author of 'The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy' published a seminal article on the topic. 

It's now a common term for everyone, from regular gym goers to sports scientists. 

Scheonfeld stated the following in his review about mechanical tension. 

The combination of force and stretching, as well as mechanically induced tension is thought to be essential for muscle growth. 

It's simply the force that you exert on your muscles in response to a resistance.

This forces muscle growth. 

Tension cannot occur without a force. 

You may have felt your muscles bursting at any time when you lift heavy weights. 

This is mechanical tension. 

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What is the importance of mechanical tension for muscle growth?

For a variety of reasons, mechanical tension has been deemed the most important factor for muscular hypertrophy. 

There are numerous ways to create tension: 

  • It is possible to stretch a muscle, but it won't result in a huge increase.
  • Posing is a good example of flexing the muscle.
  • A weight is lowered under tension.
  • Concentric lifting of weights against gravity
  • The total length of time the muscle is under tension increases

Mechanosensors are mechanical sensors that register tension in the muscle when you put it under tension. 

When your mechanosensors detect a certain tension threshold, they start a cascade chemical and mechanical changes. 

A signalling pathway called myogenic pathways kicks into action once the trigger is triggered. The cytokines and hormones (which are cell-to.cell messengers) that result from this process will be sent directly to the area where muscle tension has occurred. 

The mToR path is another cascade part that allows a variety of enzymes to register the signals. 

The program acts as a decider, making decisions about what is next. 

The muscle will continue to synthesize more protein until the breakdown of muscle is greater. 

Satellite cells can also donate their nuclei to help regenerate muscle fibers, prevent future injury, and promote muscle growth. 

What is the result? 

Muscle growth. 

The tension in the muscles is a factor that promotes growth. 

The integrity of muscle structure is disturbed

Mechanosensory change trigger.

It is important to increase the protein synthesis rates - this will speed up muscle cell creation.

Satellite cells, among other factors can be used to activate a cell repair response.

Does mechanical tension increase testosterone?

Testosterone is the main male hormone. 

It's not only responsible for your strong and assertive personality but also increases energy, stamina and muscle mass. 

Men should strive to achieve optimal hormone levels. They become more fit, healthier and confident when they optimize their hormone levels. 

This is an amazing, natural and healthy hormone. 

Low testosterone can affect men who are inactive

As you age, the natural testosterone levels start to decline. 

You will start experiencing many side effects if you do not fix this disorder. You may experience: 

Scientists agree that there is no age limit to staying fit. They recommend lifting weights and eating healthily, and paying attention to nutrients which boost testosterone. 

Weight lifting is a great way to add vigor and energy. 

The tension in the muscles increases testosterone

Numerous research studies have shown that heavy lifting results in a sharp increase in testosterone. 

A study in the Journal of Gerontology, for example, found that combining heavy weight lifting (which included tension training) with explosive repetition training increased both free and total testosterone levels in a volunteer group [2]. 

The muscle strength, maximal power and activation of the muscles were also increased. 

A group of highly-trained, well-matched athletes was split in two by Bill Kraemer (a world renowned coach). 

To maximize mechanical tension, lift heavy weights with 5RM and 3 minutes of rest.

The 10RM was lifted with a shorter Rest

It is not surprising that the group with the highest testosterone levels saw the greatest increase in strength and mass. 

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that athletes who were subjected to three different loading plans, and then performed heavy lifting and high volumes, saw a greater increase in testosterone. 

  • Group #1: 45% of 1RM: 8 reps
  • Group #2 - 75% of 1RM: 10 x 10.
  • Group #3 - 88%1RM : 6 x 4.

It is clear that lifting weights and increasing mechanical tension in the gym will result in a significant increase of testosterone. 

Conclusion: What is mechanical tension?

The mechanical tension plays a major role in the growth of muscle. The tension that is passed through the muscles during weight-training results in increased pulling forces. 

Mechanical tension, as the primary mechanism for hypertrophy is essential to muscular performance. Heavy weight lifting results in increased muscle mass. 

Many gym-goers train hard in order to increase muscle mass and develop leaner, more muscular physiques.

We may also take various supplements that promote growth and recovery; however, one crucial aspect that must be considered for maximum muscle development is mechanical tension.

Mechanical tension is a relatively new concept in weight training, yet its significance cannot be understated; it directly corresponds with hypertrophy - or muscle growth.

Mechanical tension measures the amount of force placed upon muscles as they go through range-of-motion contraction against loads, with higher mechanical tension leading to greater muscle development and growth.

Note that not all exercises are equal; not every rep possesses equal mechanical tension.

A variety of factors, including length-tension relationships, force requirements to complete a rep and number of repetitions performed will influence how much tension your muscles experience during an exercise session.

As a rule, compound movements like squats and deadlifts will generally create more mechanical tension than isolation exercises such as bicep curls due to placing more load across multiple muscles rather than one isolated one.

Rest periods between sets and duration of each set will also have an impactful impact on how much mechanical tension your workout creates.

It is important to lift heavy weights in order to optimize and elevate testosterone levels. Strength training combined with healthy eating and nutrients that boost testosterone is key for male performance and health.

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  1. Schoenfeld, BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010; 24(10): 2857–2872
  2. Häkkinen, K et al. Basal concentrations and acute responses of serum hormones and strength development during heavy resistance training in middle-aged and elderly men and women. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2000; 55(2): B95-105
  3. Kraemer, WJ et al. Endogenous anabolic hormonal and growth factor responses to heavy resistance exercise in males and females. Int J Sports Med. 1991; 12(2): 228-35
  4. Crewther, B et al. The salivary testosterone and cortisol response to three loading schemes. J Strength Cond Res. 2008; 22(1): 250-5
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