What Is Mechanical Tension

(Last Updated On: December 11, 2018)

Mechanical Tension : What You Should Know

Mechanical Tension is the primary mechanism for building muscle, and as such its very important to try and understand it as much as possible in order to achieve the best results that you can from your workouts.

In this article I try to explain the facts surrounding Mechanical Tension and hopefully help take your training results to the next level.

What Is Mechanical Tension

mechanical tension

The simple way to define Mechanical Tension is the overloading force placed on muscle fibres. This is largely related to heavy lifting, the action of exercising with heavy weights increasing force or tension against the muscle fibres.

The term was first used in 2010 when a muscle research expert called Brad Schoenfield referred to it in his research paper titled “The Mechanisms Of Muscle Hypertrophy”

From that point its become synonymous with everybody from bodybuilders through to Sports scientists.

The paper written by Schoenfield made a statement about Mechanical Tension :

“Mechanically induced tension produced both by force generation and stretch is considered essential to muscle growth, and the combination of these stimuli appears to have a pronounced additive effect”

In simple terms this means that its the force applied by the muscle against a resistance that triggers muscle growth.

If you have ever had a heavy weights session and felt like your muscles could explode with all the tension and pressure being placed on them – Thats Mechanical tension.

What Makes Mechanical Tension Crucial For Muscle Building?

mechanical tension muscle building

Mechanical tension is believed to be the key factor in the building of muscle mass, Tension can be created in the muscles in several ways – these are as follows:

  • Stretching the muscle without causing any contraction
  • Flexing and holding the muscle hard and solid ( Like when you strike a  pose)
  • Lowering weights under tension (called an eccentric action)
  • Lifting weights under tension (called a concentric action)
  • The increased total time that the muscle is under tension.

As the muscle is placed under tension, it causes certain sensors known as mechanosensors to register the tension within your muscle(s)

When the tension reaches a certain level or threshold they trigger a number of chemical ad mechanical changes.

Once this reaction is triggered, a signalling pathway called the myogenic pathway jumps into life, this sends various hormones and cell to cell communicators called cytokines towards the area under the tension.

After that a number of enzymes then send signals along what is called the mToR pathway. basically making decisions as to what to do next.

From this stage, muscle protein synthesis kicks in with new protein cells being sent to the muscle until more protein is being made than is being used.

The final stage is when satellite cells donate some of their nuclei to the muscle fibres, helping them to regenerate, repair and increase muscle tissue which ultimately leads to increased muscle mass.

At A Glance:

   Muscle Tension Promotes Muscle Growth By:
• Changing the integrity of the muscles internal structure
• Triggering mechanosensory changes
• Increasing protein synthesis – speeding up the creation of new muscle cells
• Activating muscle cell repair processes

 Mechanical Tension And Testosterone

Testosterone is the main male hormone, its responsible for our personality, energy levels, drive, muscle mass, strength and stamina.

It is also key to our fertility and libido

Its crucial that all men optimise their hormone production, that way they can retain their fitness, muscularity and confidence. If levels drop like they they tend to do once we reach 30 and over, we can start to experience the effects of hypogonadism (low T). These can include:

  • Loss of muscle mass, tone and strength
  • Increased belly fat
  • Low Moods, anxiety and irritability
  • Reduced libido
  • Higher risk of metallic diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol and heart problems.

Experts all agree that lifting heavy weights alongside a healthy diet is the best way to not only build and maintain muscle mass, but it also helps with your testosterone levels too.

testosterone and mechanical tension

Mechanical Tension Boosts Testosterone 

There have been numerous studies that confirm just how effective lifting heavy weights is at boosting testosterone production.

Study 1 Discovered that heavy weight training combined with high energy rep training boosted both free and total testosterone levels in the test volunteers.

Study 2 A group of well tried athletes were spilt into two groups. 

The first group lifted heavy with 5RM (taking 3 minutes rest between sets) to maximise mechanical tension

The second group lifted 10RM with a shorter rest between sets

Group one recorded noticeably more increase levels of strength and testosterone production.

Study 3 Published in the Journal of strength and conditioning, this showed that when athletes were given 3 different loading plans the one with the highest volume of heavy lifting produced the greater increase in testosterone levels.

Group 1 – 45% 1RM 8 x 6 reps

Group 2 – 75% 1RM 10 x10 reps

Group 3 – 88% 1RM 6 x 4 reps

What these studies show is that lifting heavy weights and boosting mechanical tension will lead to huge increases in testosterone production.

To Sum Up

Mechanical tension is a key part in the process of building muscles. It is the main mechanism of hypertrophy, being crucial to or muscle performance and ultimately our ability to increase muscle mass.

Heavy weight lifting is also essential for optimising testosterone and other key hormone productions. 

By lifting heavy weights alongside a healthy diet and perhaps a good testosterone boosting supplement too you can ensure that your health, performance and fitness are at their peak.


The information in this website is for advice and guidance only. It is based on my own intensive research and personal experiences, and is not intended in any way to replace professional medical advice, or to diagnose or treat any health conditions. All rights reserved.