You don’t need pain to make gains, but you should at least be feeling something.
“Research shows, if you have trouble feeling a muscle during exercise, you won’t maximise its growth,” says Men’s Health Fitness Director BJ Gaddour.
It could also be a sign that the muscle is underdeveloped.
Performing an exercise at a slower tempo—focusing on time rather than reps—can help you feel your muscles contract and strengthen your mind-muscle connection. And the more communication between your brain and your brawn during a workout, the better your performance and the bigger your gains will be.
You can use this technique for any exercise.
Here’s how it works: Set up for an exercise as you normally would.
Slowly lower the weight—the “eccentric” phase of the rep—over four seconds. Pause for a count at the bottom, then take another four seconds to complete the lifting, or “concentric,” portion of the rep.
Instead of counting reps and sets, just do one timed set (or two if you’re doing a single-side exercise) lasting 90 to 120 seconds.
Really think about the specific muscles you’re working as you’re working them. Imagine all of the muscle fibres engaging, working together, and growing.
“When you go back to exercise at a regular tempo, you’ll feel those muscles working more,” says Gaddour.
There are a few ways to work these slower-paced sets into your workouts:
• Do it as a warm-up before heavier sets to lubricate the joints and activate the targeted muscle groups
• Save it for a “back-off set” following some heavier work to promote muscle growth and endurance
“It’s easy to recover from, so you can pretty much use it every session,” Gaddour says. “But definitely at least once per week.”
This article originally appeared on Menshealth.com.