What Is Time Under Tension – Is It Important For Muscle Growth?
If you’ve been training for quite some time you have probably heard folks in the gym or social media talking about what is time under tension, TUT for short. Some people swear by it and even structure all their workouts using that principle. In this article I’m going to explain what it is and is it important for muscle growth.
Time Under Tension Made Simple
So when it all comes down to it TUT means measuring time of your repetitions per set, rather than focusing on numbers. Guys who like to use TUT as their training parameter tell that the different strength, hypertrophy and endurance responses are as follows:
- 10-30 seconds for strength
- 30-60 seconds for hypertrophy
- 60-100 seconds for endurance
So let’s say normally you would do 8-10 reps per set but when you start goofing around with TUT you will forget the reps altogether and just take a specific timeframe and aim to do your reps as slow as possible. If you’re training for maximizing hypertrophy you would do something between 30-60 seconds per set and it doesn’t matter if you could perform more reps, you just abandon the set when the time is up.
Should You Start Using Time Under Tension Instead Of Repetitions
While the total time that your muscles stay under tension makes a bit of sense it really shouldn’t be given too much attention. Ultimately all these guidelines for different time frames (10-30 seconds for strength, 30-60 for hypertrophy) are based on personal experiences and anecdote and not on hard evidence.
Basically what this time under tension hype tells us is the same thing we’ve known for years. If you’re training in somewhere between 1-5 reps you will gain strength, if you train between 5-12 reps you’ll usually inducing the biggest amount of hypertrophy.
Why TUT Might Actually Be A Bad Idea
When you structure your sets around with this TUT principle you have to use somekind of timing device such as stopwatch. Think about the hassle you have to go through every time you will perform your sets and how counter-productive it can be. In the worst kind of scenario you push the watch to start counting, you have to constantly look at the watch when the time is up.
The truth is that training this way just diverts you away from all the important stuff you should be focusing on, which are:
- Proper form
- Rep speed
- Progression of reps and weight
As you use TUT as your core principle what will happen is that you will start to slow down your eccentric and concentric parts of the lifts. And the evidence is clear that you should try to explode the weight up as fast as you possibly can to develop the greatest amount of strength and hypertophy. The lowering (eccentric) part of the lift should not be slowed down either, just control the weight while lowering it and you’ll be golden, don’t try to force yourself into some specific time frame.
As you can see when you start to implementing TUT you just start to paying attention to things that doesn’t really matter as well as you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by slowing down your reps which will restrict your maximal potential.
Here is a great video of Jason Blaha giving his take on TUT:
Yes time under tension is important for your muscle growth but training with the time under tension in mind is NOT. I’d suggest to forget the whole concept of time under tension training altogether and stick with the good old repetitions per set.
The reason is that it really just diverts you from all the important things you should be doing to maximize your effectiveness of your workouts. You cannot be goofing around with some specific time frames with stopwatch or counting in your head.
Instead focus on the things that truly matter and have value such as:
- Performing the exercises with proper technique / form.
- Using proper rep speed with explosive concentric and controlled eccentric
- Staying 1-2 reps short of concentric muscular failure
- Focusing on progressive overload, adding more weight to the bar or more reps to the sets
These are the points that you should be focusing on. These principles have been shown to be superior since the early days of weight training and continue to do so today. There is no need to over-analyze and take this TUT out of concept and start applying it down to a T.
That is all folks. I hope you found this article helpful. If you have some questions in mind, feel free to drop me a line down below and I’ll get back at you.
Remember to train hard and train SMART!