The Power of Tension

The Oxford English Dictionary has several definitions of  the word tension, but many are along the lines of “a straining, or strained condition, of the mind, feelings, or nerves.

That doesn’t sound too good.

Indeed, the word tension seems to conjure images that are arguably negative. “You could cut the tension with a knife,” or “My shoulders hurt from all the tension.”

Tension, it would seem, is a generally unfavorable condition.

Or is it?

A bow capitalizes on tension to project an arrow great distances. Bridges rely upon a careful balance between compression and tension. Tension can be found in mechanical devices and in all manner of every day objects.

Perhaps this difference in attitude arises simply from difference in usage. The “tension in a room” certainly seems quite different from tension in the physics sense.

But I’m intrigued by the connection in these seeming disparate settings. A word may just be a word, but if nothing else, it’s interesting that our language would evolve to use the same word – from, incidentally, the Latin “to stretch”.

In strength training, tension is critical. To lift especially heavy weights, tension is arguably more important than sheer strength. It’s not enough to just muscle it up there, you need tension, you need to feel it in your entire body and use every muscle to make it happen.

Tension is the baited breath before the long sigh.

It’s a moment of power, of strength. It’s a feeling that difficult and uncomfortable, but tap into that tension correctly and its as if there’s nothing you can’t do.



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