In the weightlifting and powerlifting communities, there seems to be a lot of emphasis placed on “time under tension.” Many people believe that putting your muscles under strain for a longer period of time will lead to greater muscle growth in the long-term.
But, is this really true?
Table of Contents
- What Does Time Under Tension Mean?
- Time Under Tension Tempo Recommendations
- Time Under Tension Vs. Explosive Reps
- Time Under Tension for Fat Loss
- Does Time Under Tension Really Work?
What Does Time Under Tension Mean?
“Time under tension” describes the amount of time your muscles are undergoing any kind of stress when lifting weights.
For example, let’s say you were doing 5 reps on the bench press.
If you were using a tempo of 4:0:2, here’s what that would mean.
- Eccentric Phase: 4 seconds lowering the bar to your chest
- Isometric Phase: 0 seconds of pause once the bar reaches your chest
- Concentric Phase: 2 seconds of power to extend the bar back to your starting position
In total, you’d be getting 6 seconds of time under tension per rep. So, a set of 5 reps would give you 30 seconds of time under tension.
But, what about the fourth number?
You might notice that some tempos have a fourth number listed at the end. This number describes the pause you take between one rep and the next.
If this fourth number is zero, you’d just move on to the next rep without any pause between.
Time Under Tension Tempo Recommendations
So, now that we know what time under tension is, it’s time to figure out how to use it to your advantage.
But, don’t just assume that maxing out your TUT will automatically lead to muscle growth!
In a way, time under tension recommendations are somewhat similar to choosing a rep range. Here’s a general guideline.
- If you’re looking to boost strength, around 20 seconds of TUT per set is ideal.
- For muscle growth (aka, hypertrophy), you’ll want somewhere between 20 and 70 seconds of TUT per set.
- Endurance calls for more than 70 seconds of TUT per set.
Now, what does that mean in terms of the actual tempo?
It really depends on how experienced you are with lifting. As a newbie, you might find it difficult to control an extremely heavy weight for four or more seconds at a time.
To maximize your TUT, 2:1:2:1 or even 5:0:1:0 are great choices.
Each will give you 6 seconds of TUT per rep, but gives you a little variation depending on your set preferences. The first option is better for more explosive movements while the second is ideal for really focusing on getting that full range of motion.
But, just how accurate is TUT when it comes to your fitness goals?
Let’s do some calculations.
As we mentioned earlier, between 20 and 70 seconds of TUT is great for building muscle, right? So, divide this range by 6 (the amount of time per rep).
That brings us to about 3 to 12 reps per set. Since we know that between 8 to 12 reps is usually ideal for muscle growth, 6 seconds per rep is just fine!
That proves that TUT is a great alternative to focusing on reps.
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Time Under Tension Vs. Explosive Reps
The problem with time under tension is that it might go against everything you’ve ever learned about weightlifting.
After all, how are powerlifters so buff if they’re doing reps quickly?
The difference comes down to the goals of each training regimen.
Let’s talk about TUT first.
When you focus on boosting your time under tension, you’re making your muscles work a lot harder over a set number of reps. It’s almost as if you’re doing a lot more work without spending as much energy actually lifting.
But, the benefit is that you’re working on full range of motion. Since each rep takes longer, you’re able to hit just about every single fiber in your muscles, which can lead to dense muscles and much better form.
This is much different than explosive reps.
When you’re doing explosive reps, you’re focusing mostly on heavy weights and high power output. You’re doing far fewer reps per set and completing your reps a lot quicker than with TUT, but you’re putting your muscles under an insane amount of tension.
The issue is that you’re focusing purely on putting up a heavy weight. That means you’re focusing much less on your form, which might not lead to the most substantial muscle growth.
In many cases, when using explosive reps on compound lifts, you may want to wear a weightlifting belt for extra core stabilization.
So, which is best for you?
If you’re looking to build solid muscle and strength, focus on bumping up your TUT for every set. Between 20 and 70 seconds is a terrific range to shoot for per set.
For power, you’ll want to do explosive reps instead. Your muscles will grow, but they might not be as dense as they would be if you focused on TUT instead.
Time Under Tension for Fat Loss
Can you burn fat weightlifting?
Is it the best method of burning fat?
But, there are some ways to maximize your fat loss when it comes to time under tension. Just like if you were focusing on reps, you’re going to have to boost your TUT during every set to actually see noticeable results.
So, how do you use this to your advantage?
You’ll want to focus on the upper range of TUT, similar to how a higher rep count can help with fat loss. That means you should shoot for around 70 seconds of TUT per set.
Does Time Under Tension Really Work?
Time under tension definitely works. After all, it gives you the chance to really focus on your form during a workout, which can help you to build denser and stronger muscles.
But, you need to make sure you’re using this method strategically.
That means choosing a tempo that works best for you while also honing in on a specific TUT range for each set.
Just remember that the weight you choose to work with plays a huge role. Nearing the end of your desired TUT, you should begin feeling tired in your muscles.
If you’re looking for a routine that focuses on building muscular size, check out the The Best Aesthetic Workout Routine [Bodybuilding Program] to learn how to get ripped in the gym.
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