Really see gains by adding an extra challenge to your workouts.
When we hit the gym, we all want to see those big gains come to life as quickly as possible. Our workouts are most likely centered around a number of reps inside a number of sets, but little do we think of speed or intensity when it comes to our lifts. Spending time in the gym can be great, some would say cathartic, others necessary. But with busy lives and schedules, most of us can’t afford to set up shop all day in a gym and pump away. Adding extra challenges and various approaches to our workouts are ways to shorten the time in the gym while maximizing our full gains.
Time under tension (TUT) is one such way to do that. Playing a vital role in muscle development, this works to perform a kind of resistance training on your muscles to add increased tension. With so much research on the best ways to train your muscles, there is by no means just one way to do so. Time under tension is simply one of many ways to do so, but the benefits of time under tension will be enough for you to want to include it in your workout regimen.
What Is Time Under Tension?
Time under tension refers to how long a muscle is under a certain amount stress and strain during an exercise, or put in a different way, the amount of time the muscle is under tension (1). By lengthening the phases of the movement, you are enforcing the idea that your muscle will work harder to optimize strength, growth, and endurance.
By slowing down the whole movement, you not only work the muscle under tension longer, but also create opportunities to work on other aspects of your workouts like mind-muscle connection to really get your body in sync with your brain. This will ultimately improve form and allow for bigger lifts and more gains.
Benefits Of Time Under Tension
Time under tension is one way to help break through any training plateau that can hurt your overall gains by flatlining your progress. By contracting your muscles longer, they not only work to break plateaus, but also improve daily functioning and overall athletic performance (2).
Working to enhance muscle size and strength, you will look more toned and feel great while experiencing less muscle soreness and increased confidence. Slowing down movements with time under tension will also help work mind-muscle connection to not only increase growth but also relax your mind and provide for a sense of awareness and concentration.
How To Do TUT
Hold Reps At Both Ends Of The Movement
One very effective way to work time under tension is by pausing at both the top and bottom of your movement. By providing a pause, you really get that good squeeze through the muscle before engaging the lengthening movement really working for muscle pumps. The only caution is to not pause for too long because the overload on your muscles can lead to unwanted pain and injury. Just add enough to get the squeeze and the pump, but not enough time for the muscle to rest.
By changing your tempo, you play around with various points of time under tension. While some of the faster reps may see that time under tension fade slightly quicker, the slower reps will trick your muscles and make them think one way about what you’re doing really enhancing the growth (3). More with this is add a pause at the top and bottom while changing tempo and your muscle may just have enough for the day.
Use More Advanced Techniques
Try and spice up your workouts with advanced training techniques to really work your muscles differently to provide for a big gains. Stretching in between sets, forced reps, or negatives are solid advanced techniques to really try and work towards serious growth. Drop sets are one great way to really finish off a workout with. By working to get muscles deeper than just the surface, you really enhance strength and size for maximum gains (4). When performing more advanced techniques, it is important to practice safe measures so a small mistake doesn’t lead to injury.
Best Exercises To Perform Time Under Tension
Bench Press: By lowering the weight to your chest and with the nature of this movement, it allows for full extension at the top with room to pause at both the top and bottom. You can also experiment with different weight and you don’t have to go too heavy.
Tricep Extension: Feeling control as you pull down, but also as you return to the top. More of a slower tempo with pauses at either end would work wonders for this exercise with time under tension.
Pushups: These are great to begin experimenting with because it is all bodyweight and low risk. Tempo control or increased reps with pushups will really work to enhance your overall benefit.
Hamstring Curl: Great isolation exercise that you can do with maximum control to really work the hamstring. Something like tempo control with this would really work to maximize time under tension.
Time under tension is just one way to really work those muscles and that all around muscle development. As a form of resistance training where you put your muscles through various time under tension, you really work to enhance size, strength, and functionality as well as really making that physique pop. Change up your routine and really work to benefit your gym time by working more efficiently with something like time under tension to make every lift truly count.
*Images courtesy of Envato
- Rathleff, Michael Skovdal; Thorborg, Kristian; Bandholm, Thomas (2013). “Concentric and Eccentric Time-Under-Tension during Strengthening Exercises: Validity and Reliability of Stretch-Sensor Recordings from an Elastic Exercise-Band”. (source)
- Bolanos, Fernando (2016). “Overcome strength-training plateau with accentuated eccentric loading”. (source)
- Headley, Samuel A.; Henry, Kelley; Nindl, Bradley C.; Thompson, Brian A.; Kraemer, William J.; Jones, Margaret T. (2011). “Effects of Lifting Tempo on One Repetition Maximum and Hormonal Responses to a Bench Press Protocol”. (source)
- Kravitz, Len (2007). “Training to Failure”. (source)