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Q. What is the best way to count while lifting weights? Should I count to 2 on the up AND the down?

A. There really is no "best" way to lift weights that suites everyone as long as you have the form correct. However, speed of lifting and lowering CAN BE important depending on the goal you are working toward. The BFL book specified using a 2 count to lift the weight and a 4 count to lower the weight, which attempts to get the best of both the concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) worlds for maximum muscle gain.

What does that all mean, and why do I care?
One of the most important elements in weightlifting--one that has a big effect on how much blood is targeted to your muscles--is exercise speed.

Speed plays a major role in the incidence of injury as well as strength and muscle development. Fast lifting creates momentum - meaning the muscle doesn't work as hard, and consequently doesn't promote blood flow to the muscle. (However, if you are in a strong man competition, the objective is to lift the weight, not to build muscle on TV. *g*)

Slow movement creates less momentum and less internal muscle friction. Not only does slow lifting require a more even application of muscle power throughout the movement range, it actually promotes rapid blood flow into the specific muscle you are training - and this is good for muscle gain, because it means that more work is centralized in the muscle being exercised.

If the objective is to build max muscle fast, it is more important to let the weight come back slowly on the "lowering" phase than on the "lifting" phase. This is why BFL has a 2 count lift and a 4 count lower. Coming back slowly with resistance on every exercise promotes blood flow to your muscles and thus causes microtrauma, building your muscles even stronger during the breaks between weight training work. If you find that the weight is so heavy that you cannot come back slowly in full control of the movement, you should lower the weight until you can.
This is NOT about how big a weight you are lifting - it's about how well you can lift the weight you are holding.

What does the Dancing Blonde do?
I find that in order to avoid boredom and the wrong kind of muscle damage, when I switch my weight lifting routine (every 4 - 6 weeks) I also vary time, just to make sure that I'm not training my body to only respond in a certain measured fashion (after all, who counts to 4 when lowering the grocery bag to the counter?)

So for instance, last week, I was really not up for my normal counting on this routine (which happens to be pure BFL), so I actually used time to make my pyramid lifting. For instance, on my hamstring curls; I loaded up 80 pounds and for the 12 reps, I did a 2 up and 2 down count. For the 10 reps - 4 up and down. For 8 reps - 8 up and down and for the 6 reps I counted painfully to 16 for each up and down. Talk about feel the burn!!!! That way I -KNOW- I'm working that muscle with the right form; but you are still increasing the intensity of each step on the pyramid. :-)

What about pain?
If you find that you are experiencing sharp pain with a certain exercise and weight, step the weight down and go slower; or switch to a different exercise that works the same muscle in a different way. :-) Don't look at the change as a failure, because doing the same thing every day forever will not provide ongoing rewards. By changing the weight or the speed, your body is required to continue adapting and having to learn new things and work hard, which is what builds muscle and ultimately burns fat. :-)

Take away:
The 2 count up and 4 count down is a great way to build muscle fast. However, it isn't for everyone, and some days it might not even be for you. Don't be afraid to explore going slower if you need to change things up or are experiencing a plateau.

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