Cultivate Balance With CTL Training

CTL Training

Constant-Tension-Load (CTL)

Let’s talk training technique. Today I’m going to discuss ONE specific style of training called CTL Training. This refers to constant tension load training, which is a great technique for building muscle mass. CTL training means keeping the muscle under tension (activated) and turned on while working out. For example, when you do a push-up you don’t fully extend your arms at the top or relax them at the bottom. This keeps the muscles activated and firing which in turn promotes growth through metabolic stress.

An example of an acro CTL training pose. My legs are bent, quads and hamstring are engaged. Hold, rest, repeat.
Flyer @lindsikaycircus

Metabolic stress has been found to increase the recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers. We have small slow-twitch and bigger fast-twice muscle fibers in our body. The slow-twitch fibers are recruited first during muscular activity, then the bigger fast-twitch fibers are recruited as needed. It’s believed that metabolic stress fatigues the slow-twitch fibers, forcing the activation of the fast-twitch fibers. This activation is needed for fibers to grow, because they don’t grow on their own. So increased recruitment of the fibers can enhance the growth potential for muscle as a whole.


Beginners, Take It Slow…

Studies have shown that doing slow movements and less rest time between reps keeps the muscles stimulated during concentric and eccentric movements. So instead of  doing push-ups that are 1 second up and 1 second down, try doing 5 seconds up and 5 seconds down. Simply slowing down the time it takes to do the reps. You may get less reps in, but that’s okay. By allowing the muscles to stay turned on longer and not allowing them to rest at the high and low points, your creating metabolic stress. Again, this strengthens and stimulates muscle mass.

A push-up exercise that captures the idea of CTL training. Arms are all bent in the push-up. Hold, lower, roll, push up half way, hold,repeat.

This type of training can be intense for beginners, so I recommend taking it slow. Listen to your body and recognize that it’s possible to overdo it. CTL training will create fast muscle fatigue. If you try to push yourself too far past muscle fatigue, you can start to damage muscle fibers. Remember sometimes less is more. It’s also important to take some time off in-between CTL training workouts. Allow your muscles time to heal and recover from the stimulation and stress you put them through. With CTL stress stimulation and adequate rest you can build your muscle mass safely.


How To Apply This Method In Your Acro/Slacklining Practice

We want to stay balanced and sometimes that means targeting certain muscle groups. CTL training is great for targeting specific areas and stimulating growth. In acro and slacklining, it’s really important to stay balanced.

@nick_honnold working the figure 4 on a highline. An example of firing up the quads and calves for a little CTL training.

Let’s say  you need to build your upper body muscles for acro…here’s how CTL training can help:

  • Start by taking a few arm balancing poses such as Floating Paschi and hold the pose with slightly bent arms. This is keeping your muscles engaged, instead of resting when there is a bone stack. You can also do presses with arm balancing poses. You would  keep a slight bend in the arm on the up and elbows off the ground on the down.  To focus on the lower body, do holds and presses the same way with the legs.

With slacklining, it’s also important to be balanced. This helps you to make micro adjustments along the way no matter what foot or arm is weighted. Some CTL training examples for slacking are:

  • Squat Walks (see video here), Lunge Walks, Figure-Four, and Chair.  With all of these examples, you can keep the muscles engaged, and stimulate metabolic stress. If you check out the link above,  you will hear me say go all the way up and all the way down with the squat. To activate CTL training, don’t go all the way up and all the way down. Rather stay in the middle range where you don’t fully flex or extend the limb(s), keeping the muscles firing.


What’s The Method To This Madness?

Whether it’s building your muscles for acro or slacklining, the method is the same. You pick a pose and take the weighted limb(s) into tension. Then hold, or do slow presses or squats without full extension or flexion of the limbs until set time expires or you fatigue. Do 2-3 reps, take a short break, and repeat. You only need to do 2-3 sets and then move to the other limb(s) or new target area and repeat. Remember to be safe, listen to your body, and drink lots of water. After a good CTL training session, take time to rest and heal, so you can build and strengthen.

Tandem Ctl Training on the slackline with @yakovstove Hold that Chair pose……

It’s also nice to have a circuit of things to work on in a CTL training session. For example, pick 4 different acro or slackline poses that you wish to train. Number the poses 1-4, and begin in pose 1. Hold or do slow partial presses with pose 1 with until you fatigue, then move to pose 2. Hold or do slow partial presses with pose 2 until you fatigue , then move to pose 3. Keep this up until you have done all the poses once, then take a 30-60 second break, and do them all again. You certainly do not need to hold the pose until full muscle fatigue each time. Go until you are feeling tired and worked in the area being targeted, then stop. You can also do time intervals. Start low with 5-10 sec holds or transitions and slowly increase over time.


Learn More About This Topic

Here’s a list of links that I found interesting and helpful during my CTL Training research. Please check them out if you want to learn more about the safe application of CTL Training.


Thanks for reading!



Buddy Thomas