Time Under Tension Training: Get to Know the Basics

time under tension

Building bigger, stronger muscles can take weeks, months, and even years of hardcore training, but did you know that all your efforts and results can boil down to what you do in a matter of seconds?

Every time you complete a repetition (and consequently working toward another set), your muscles contract and strain with each and every second you lift, hold, and lower. Far too many people focus on their total time they spend working out rather than these few crucial seconds involved in their actual workout.

Rather than aiming simply to complete so many repetitions and sets, try using the Time Under Tension principal to add additional intensity and focus to your next workout.

What is Time Under Tension?

Time Under tension (or TUT for Short) is a unique strength training method that requires monitoring the actual time that a muscle is “under tension” during an exercise. It was originally made popular by coach Charles Poliquin in Media 2000 magazine, and since then, many bodybuilders have used this method to push through muscle-building plateaus.

How Do You Use TUT?

As you may have already guessed, Time Under Tension is all about timing how long you lift and lower a weight.

An example of TUT might be lowering a weight for 4 seconds, pausing for 1 second, and then lifting the weight for another 2 seconds. This means your muscles are under tension for a total of 6 seconds per repetition. If you complete 10 reps, then you would have done 60 TUTs.

On the other hand, if you only lower a weight for 2 seconds and then lift for another 2 seconds, you’re only average about 40 TUTs.

Although the weights, the repetitions, and the number of sets completed could be the exact same, the first example would give you greater muscle-building benefits than the second.

You can use a stopwatch to help you keep track, but many bodybuilders recommend using a simple metronome instead. Metronomes can be purchased from almost any music store and some emit clicking sounds to help you know how many seconds to hold without having to watch the clock while you lift.

In order to optimize your progress, experts recommend varying your TUT times about every 3 weeks.

Strength, Growth, and Endurance

Although there is no miracle number to give you amazing results, experts typically recommend aiming for 1-6 reps per set if you’re building strength, 8-12 reps you’re aiming to optimize muscle growth, and 15-30 reps you’re looking to increase endurance.

Since the average TUT time for each of these reps was originally about 4 seconds, it’d be easy to assume that the TUT ranges for building strength, enhancing muscle, and increasing endurance would be 4-24 seconds, 32-48 seconds, and 60-120 seconds (respectively).

However, many strength training coaches and experts tend to tweak these numbers to give better results and consequently, “anecdotal evidence suggests that the best TUT ranges are 4-20 seconds for strength, 40-60 for growth, and 70-100 seconds for endurance.”

Additional Tips

• Try to maintain a steady tempo
• Spend more time lowering than lifting
• Focus on form
• Maintain intensity

What Makes TUT Effective?

One of the biggest reasons why the Time Under Tension rule is so effective for building bigger, stronger muscles is the fact that it requires bodybuilders and weekend warriors alike to slow down, focus on their form, and work harder. It promotes awareness and eliminates the use of momentum to complete a rep.

The next time you hit the gym, start clocking your lifting and lowering times. It might surprise you at how much better your workout will be.

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