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You may have heard about time under tension (TUT) and volume training and if you do then you will know that there is a direct link between time and tension, which increase muscle growth. The idea of training with 21's is to take all that to another level where nearly all the muscle fibers are involved in the lift.
Sports science has proven to us that we are 60% stronger on an eccentric lift and many strength-training coaches agree that eccentric loading is the most effective way to force the muscle to grow. Training 21's is training with partials as you divide the set of 21 reps into three sections.
The first section is the lower range of motion (ROM) where you would lift or lower the weight a third of the way that you would normally lift it doing full ROM. Complete 7 reps without locking out and then move onto the next section which is the upper ROM.
After completing another 7 reps moving within the upper third of the ROM for that movement you would then do the last 7 reps completing full range of movement lifts. That completes one set of 21's so you can see that it is some serious amount of tension on the targeted muscle group.
When starting out you will not be able to use the weight that you do 8 or 12 reps with but the progress in strength is fast if the correct recovery time is adhered to. The advantage is that 21's can be applied to any body-part at any time as long as you are always aware of your general training that you are doing.
Busting through a plateau is only possible when something new to your normal training is added or subtracted. If you are changing your training routine every 6 to 8 weeks and still not getting stronger then the experts agree that you should try training with 21's.
A good example is an effective isolation movement like lying triceps extension or skull-crushers. It can be done with D/B or barbell and your first 7 reps would be the lower ROM. To do the movement with dumbbells you would slowly lower the weights until they stop alongside your head. After a brief pause you then extend your arms 45 degrees and then repeat.
That is the lower ROM and the next is the upper ROM where you would start at the top fully locked out and lower the weights a third or half way through the full ROM. You then extend again but don't lockout and complete another 7 reps. The last 7 reps of the set are done with full ROM with the same weight.
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