Are you maximising Time Under Tension in the Gym?
The amount of weight you move and number of reps you do for every set are important in order to build muscle. Another factor sometimes over looked but equally important for muscle growth is time under tension or TUT.
What does TUT mean?
Time Under Tension (TUT) is simply the length of time a muscle is contracting to resist the force of a weight. For example, if someone were performing a set of bicep curls and it took them 30 seconds to complete the set, the total TUT would be 30 seconds.
Renowned Strength Coach Charles Poliquin stated that different training objectives such as muscular strength, hypertrophy (growth) and endurance are achieved optimally by adhering to different time under tension ranges.
Strength: 1 – 30 seconds per set
Hypertrophy: 30 -70 seconds per set
Muscular endurance: 70 – 100 seconds per set
Is TUT something that you should be overly focusing on or worrying about?
The short answer is no, TUT is important particularly for muscle growth and you need to be mindful of it, but you don’t have to complicate things by timing your sets. If you’re performing your sets with good form, using a weight that’s around 75% of your 1RM in the 8 – 12 rep range, then your muscles are naturally working under sufficient time and tension optimal for muscle growth.Best tempo for muscle growth?
Your TUT is directly related to your lifting tempo or how long it takes to complete 1 rep. There are 4 parts to any rep, the eccentric contraction or lowering the weight, the stretch position or bottom/starting position of the move, the concentric contraction or lifting the weight and finally the contraction position or top position of the move.
A good rule of thumb to ensure your lifting tempo would be to follow a 2 second lowering, 1 second stretch, 2 second lift and 1 second hold.
Always aim to explode on the lifting part of the movement for maximum activation of fast twitch muscle fibres, squeeze and hold the contraction at the top of the movement for one second and control the lowering phase.
As you go through your workout you start to get tired as you progress from set to set, You have a choice. Do you try and keep pushing the same weight for less reps? or choose to slightly reduce the weight and keep in the same rep range?
If you are training for muscle growth its best to choose to reduce the weight slightly and maintain your rep range. The reason for this is simple, if you start lowering reps you will be also reduce your time under tension and start moving away from the optimum range for muscle hypertrophy.
To insure you’re always working in the time under tension zone optimum for muscle growth, aim for 8 – 12 reps per set with a tempo of 2-1-2-1 as shown above, this means it will take you roughly 60 seconds to perform a set and put you in the middle of the recommended hypertrophy TUT range.