View Full Version : Dynamic tension

Lung Hu Pai
04-29-2001, 05:03 PM
How does dynamic tension and isometric training compare to weight lifting? Is one better than the other? Can you acheive the same reults through both? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks, Azar

Ford Prefect
04-29-2001, 06:19 PM
They are both proven strength gaining methods. Use elements from both types of training for results. If you can only do one, then I'd say train with weights. They offer more benefits neurologically speaking.

"Who's house?"
"I said RUN's house."

04-29-2001, 08:14 PM
Well, first by "dynamic tension" I'm going to assume you mean "going through movements with opposing muscle groups pitted against each other" and not "tensing the muscles in a stationary position (no movement)".

Hmmm, you've no doubt noticed that many kung fu forms involve some type of dynamic tension. There are even a few that are entirely dynamic tension (Green Dragon's Stone Warrior comes to mind).

Green Dragon claims that their forms not only make you stronger, but also make you stronger through the range of motion that you perform the movements (all the movements in the form directly correlate to fighting applications). Sifu Allen, the head of the company, is also a rather large man. So, perhaps his methods work. In theory, they will make your muscles harder and denser, but not necessarily "bigger" as thought of by weight lifters.

Weights, on the other hand, will make you whatever you do with them. There are two other recent discussions on this forum that cover training with weights for strength vs. training for size, so I'm not oging to go into it here. I would say that weights are the least contraversial of the two, however.

Each system also has it's own drawbacks. Obviously with weights you can pull ligaments, mess up your joints (too much weight or bad form), drop it on your head, and it's even possible to pop blood vessels if you get too much of a pump (don't worry, this won't happen unless you're juicing (that means using performance enhancing drugs), and even then it's very, very rare). Dynamic tension, some people say, can do bad things to you like increaed blood pressure, if you do it too much. I've even heard that it can enlarge your heart and stuff. I don't know how much I'd believe that.

Before I started lifting weights, I had about a year of daily experience with Stone Warrior. I can say that I didn't achieve that much mass with it, but back at that time I didn't realize how vital diet is to making gains, so I feel safe saying that my progress was hindered by simply not eating enough.

I would be interested to hear the thoughts of anyone who has experience with Stone Warrior on this topic.


04-29-2001, 09:54 PM
"They offer more benefits neurologically speaking." - can you elaborate???

I primarily use weights in the context of dynamic training - like holding heavy jars during dynamic stepping, ankle weights during dynamic kicks, hand weights during dynamic strikes/counters.

I also do iron bridge stuff.


"I have been in
sorrow's kitchen and
licked out all the pots.
Then I have stood on
the peaky mountain
wrapped in rainbows,
with a harp and a
sword in my hands." -
Zora Neale Hurston

Lung Hu Pai
04-30-2001, 02:07 AM
ironfist, how does the "tensing the musles in a stationary position" compare? I also meant that form of strengthening too. Thanks again, Azar.

04-30-2001, 04:08 AM
Lung Hu Pai said:

"ironfist, how does the "tensing the musles in a stationary position" compare? I also meant that form of strengthening too. "

Ok, first, "tensing the muscles in a stationary position"

Example: You bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle infront of you and tense your muscles while holding your arm in that position. "Flexing your biceps" is an example of this.

Effect: Dynamic tension done in this manner is effective for strengthening the muscles ONLY WHEN THEY ARE IN THAT POSITION. Bruce Lee would do curls using a stationary bar with his elbows bent 90 degrees. This will make his biceps stronger, yes, but only at the 90 degree position. Training like this has the least practical value.

Now, "Dynamic tension through a range of movement:

Example: Perform an open hand palm strike in front of you, except instead of doing it at normal speed, do it slowly, with your entire arm flexed for the entire strike. It should take 5-10 seconds to complete.

Effect: This is moving dynamic tension, and is greatly more beneficial than the stationary type. This will strengthen the muscles throughout the range of motion that is involved in the palm strike, with the end result being added power through that motion (if the dynamic tension is done enough).

That is what I meant by the two different types. Make sense?


05-02-2001, 09:17 PM
I would recommend the book "The Art of Expressing the Human Body" from teh Bruce Lee library.

This book is an accurrate and detailed account of Bruce's experimentation and education that led to his ability. He discusses his sucsess with dynamic tension and the exercises he specifically performed. He also comments upon its limits.

Although few of us have bodies like Bruce's. I very much admire his dedication and logical and educated thinking about the martial arts. he was not bound by traditinal trappings even where conditioning the body was concerned and found the best of both East and Western training methods.


From reading the reviews, I can see that other people found the book interesting as well.

A strong man controls others. A man who controls himself is truly powerful. -Lao Tzu

05-10-2001, 04:48 PM
Olympic Style Weightlifting is the ultimate way to train for athletes and people involved in dynamic sports or heavy physical activities. You will develop strength, speed, power, balance, cooradination, flexability, competitiveness and toughness. If you are willing, YOU CAN DO IT

05-11-2001, 09:58 AM
Olympic style - as in powerlifting? If so, I disagree.

"A wise man speaks because he has something to say; A fool speaks because he has to say something."

05-12-2001, 03:18 AM
Although Bruce Lee is... um... interesting... I'd think modern exercise physiology and methodology books would probably be a better resources.

Unless you're doing it for rehabilitation, don't do stationary tension exercises on their own. They'll result in a decrease in vascularization of the muscle and utilization of mitrochondria in the muscle's cells. There will also be changes in innervation which will result in a slower muscle contraction when used normally. Resting blood pressure will rise. Your joints and bones will not develop (believe it or not - one of the greatest benefits of basic weight-training). All in all, bad stuff. Basic weight-training exercises address all these concerns when done properly, so stationary tension exercises are sometimes used as a good add-on to a diverse routine (although I still would never do them).

A slightly better argument can be made for moving tension exercises. However, when these discussions come up, I'm left wondering: who punches with their bicep? Latent tension in your musculature WILL slow down your punches, create "interferance" in the propagation of energy from other muscles out to your extremeities (slowing it and decreasing it), inhibit your sensitivity, inhibit your ability to yield and change after "commiting", and increase the structural damage your body has to absorb when you land a strike. Essentially, you don't want to be tense except when and where you have to. Obviously, you need muscle tension to either generate or guide the propagation of force. Hopefully, you guys are generating most of the force of your punches in your legs, waist, and back. I'll even buy a triceps argument. But your biceps!? With all this in mind, why would you ever want to train your body to have tense biceps during punching? Or your forearms? Or the front and top of your shoulders?

05-12-2001, 10:04 PM
I dont' think Iron was advocating training the biceps to increase punching power. He was just shedding some light on one of Bruce's training methods. One which as he also mentioned had the least practical value.

"A wise man speaks because he has something to say; A fool speaks because he has to say something."

05-13-2001, 12:46 AM
Thanks Sevenstar


05-13-2001, 05:00 PM
Olympic lifting and powerlifting are not the same.

Ford Prefect
05-13-2001, 09:19 PM
>>>"They offer more benefits neurologically speaking." - can you elaborate???<<<

Sorry, I just caught this...

What I meant when I said neuralogically speaking is that if you only practice dynamic tension exercises, you may be strong enough to handle a load, but because you're muscles/nervous system are unaccustomed to being taxed in such a way, your mechanoreceptors will tell your nervous to stop in its tracks. If you've ever been shaking under a heavy a bench press, you are familiar with the phenomena.

06-29-2001, 10:05 PM
Bump for the guy asking about dynamic tension

07-01-2001, 03:01 PM
Check up on Chow Gar Southern mantis all of the beginner to intermediate exercises contain dynamic tension from forms like saam bo jin (three step arrow punch/piercing)to partner exercises like doyi chong it is not only to build up strength but also to help build up stamina

07-01-2001, 05:51 PM
I would have to agree that olympic lifting is closer to what i have been looking for to develop explosiveness in a lot of my techniques.It seems to fill the gap between strength gained during powerlifting and technique gained without using weights.The problem to me seems to be in the application of the exercises for what i want to train for.For example,the snatch might allow me to jerk someone from a crouch up over my head if i had good enough form and strength,but how does that help my punching,kicking,combinations,etc.I'm sure some of it bleeds over,but i would like to take the theory behind olympic lifting and cross it over to applications that i would use on a more regular basis.If they had a snatch type movement that would develop my right cross or my lap sau i'd gladly work it in to my training regiment.I guess a lot of the dinosaur training is geared with this in mind.I might end up looking into it after all.Deadlifting,squatting,and benching give me a strong base to work from,but lack fluidity of motion and speed,taking a little bit away from martial arts applications if that makes any sense.I am trying to be a balance of strength,speed and agility and not just give in to my predisposition to get to grappling and pretend i'm the hulk.


07-01-2001, 07:13 PM
Most weight lifting is going to slow you down rather than speed you up and as for "the snatch might allow me to jerk someone from a crouch up over my head" nice style but totally useless.Through dynamic tension practioners of Chow Gar strengthen the tendons and not the muscles concentrating on what develops devistating SHOCK POWER and at an advanced stage combine this with the cultivation of chi and now you have a power that is more than just physical brute force.

07-02-2001, 06:08 AM
That seems a bit harsh.there are a lot of things i don't like,but i wouldn't go so far as calling them totally useless.I'm sure the world's strongest man competitors would disagree with you as well.I was just saying i would like to try and find some movements that were for developing power through a striking range rather than movements more for grappling or lifting.If getting bigger makes you so much slower(which i believe is untrue),how is it most NFL running backs run 4.3 40s at their size?I could see how it might limit some mobility when taken to the extreme,but speed? Ben Johnson might argue with that.I think he's fairly good sized.I think you're chasing old wive's tales their.Do you have any documentation to back those theories up? I'm just using examples of people i know who are big,strong,fast,etc.Martin Muhr would be another example of a power athlete who has not lost any appreciable speed on his way to the world's strongest man competition.I think the slowdown caused by gaining too much weight too quickly can be counter-balanced with agility exercises and giving your body time to get used to the added weight,just an observation of a few people that have done it though.


Ford Prefect
07-02-2001, 03:15 PM
Yeah. That's an old wives' tale. Lifting weights in itself does not slow you down when you know how to lift to achieve your goals. Lifting weights also strengthens ligaments and tendons as does dynamic tension exercises. You should read some scientific material on the subject rather than stating things that kung fu guys say in Inside Kung Fu. :)

07-04-2001, 12:40 PM
As already stated, dynamic tension exercises pit opposing muscle groups against each other. I also 'heard' here that speed and the ability to commit are affected adversely. Then somebody asked why train the bicep for a punch instead of just the tricep.

This got me thinking about my style more. The idea of a punch can be very limited or very free. Plenty of strikes in my repertoire involve the bicep and not the tricep.
One e.g. of millions: a pheonix-eye punch (tricep) to the front of the face results in the fist going along the side and beyond the target's head. That same fist can attack on the way back with a first thumb-knuckle strike (bicep) to the skull behind the ear.
To keep hitting and hitting fast, you have to hit every time you come near a target. Biceps are used a fair proportion of the time.

Doing dynamic tension exercises makes all your muscles (whether apparently useful or not) able to exert force throughout the technique. Assuming you do this for every tech in your arsenal you end up with an amzing thing:- From any stage of any strike you have the power to convert into any other strike without going back to the beginning each time. Reasons for changing tech mid-move are easy to think up.

This, I think, is the fighting application of dynamic tension in Chow Gar. The doi chong mentioned above by mantis-1 is a 2 man exercise where each dynamically resists the other in a set of moves. The moves teach stance, sensitivity, power generation up, down, left, right, forward, backwards in quick succession without retracting the arms. To be able to punch at long range and then with that same extended hand apply a side strike or unbalancing shove is eminently useful. Southern mantis has loads of these sets for a whole load of techs and ranges for arms and legs.

I don't see the speed problem. A muscle not in use at a given moment can't hinder the action of it's opposite. Or is it suggested that after dynamic tension training, both muscles kick in together? Chow Gar gets most of it's speed and power for outgoing strikes from slamming the ribs down shut (you step on a beach ball and it expands sideways) enabling very short strikes to gain more speed than otherwise imaginable. Twisting circular actions create more speed and power to an ostensibly minimalist move.

Oops, not sure if I'm in the right forum anymore...

The powers of Kung Fu never fail!
-- Hong Kong Phooey