Like most things, our body responds to pressure, or tension if you will. And increasing the time under that tension can produce results of increased strength and muscle size.
Just to add to your fitness vocabulary of HIIT, HILIT we have TUT, or Time Under Tension. Anyone whom I’ve trained will be familiar with this in that it’s common to hear me instruct them to slow down, to add a pause of a few seconds at the lower part of the exercise. Have you ever seen anyone at the gym ripping of barbell bicep curls like no one’s business? They’re executing them at about 10 per second? Most often you’ll also see some hip action as they move the hips backward when they lower the bar and swing forward to give it that little bit of help to execute the move, usually due to too much weight or sometimes it’s because they really don’t want to work out but want to feel like they did and are trying to get it over as quickly as possible.
So what is TUT. TUT refers to how long a muscle is under strain during a set. That person you observed in the gym doing bicep curls probably completed 10 in about 10 seconds. By increasing the duration of the strain on the muscle by lengthening the time of the set you can increase the amount of muscle breakdown thus increasing your strength and muscle size. Another benefit of TUT is by slowing down the movement your technique will be cleaner and should reduce the risk of injury.
Now, knowing this let’s look at how to properly train using TUT
Here are the points you are going to want to remember for your TUT training:
- Total Duration: Try to time the duration of your sets to 30 – 45 seconds. This will ensure you muscles are getting the proper amount of stress.
- 4/2/e/1: Keep this formula in mind. 4 seconds for the lowering phase, or the eccentric phase. 2 second pause. Explode for the concentric contraction. 1 second pause at the top.
- Keep it flexible: This is a rule regardless of the type of workout. Never lock out your joints at the top of a movement. This transfers the weight from the muscles we are trying to strengthen to the joints and can cause injury.
- Keep it hard: Don’t spend time in the zone where the work is easier. An example of this is when doing bicep curls. Have you noticed that when the weight comes closer to the body it gets easier? It’s usually the easiest when it is right above the fulcrum, the elbow. When you feel the load drastically reduce take that 1 second pause with the load still on the muscle then reverse the direction of the movement.
- The eccentric contraction: Spend more time doing the eccentric contraction, the motion of the move that lengthens the muscle. If doing squats, this would be the downward motion that lengthens the quads. This will cause more muscle damage and encourage muscle growth.
- Keep the intensity and the correct weight: Following the above tips but not being fatigued at the end of the set will not help you gain strength or muscle size. Keep the weight at the amount that will allow you to get out 8 – 10 reps. This is an ideal amount of reps for muscle growth. If your goal is to add as much muscle as possible keep the reps in the range of 6 – 8.
- Form: Always execute clean form. When you get tired, don’t compromise your form. Stick it out and do what you can. When you compromise your form you are cheating and neglecting the muscles that you are supposed to be training. If the next day you feel muscle pain in another area that you didn’t train this is why.
Intensity and speed. Follow the above guidelines and keep that intensity. Do you have to do TUT every workout? Absolutely not. Changing how we work out from mixing up the exercises you choose, mixing up the duration of the workout, incorporating different strategies such as stacking, pyramiding, etc. can bring changes quicker. This is another tool to help get you there.
Give Time Under Tension a try if you have been finding the gains haven’t been happening. And if you are finding things are becoming stagnate, the growth hasn’t been happening then maybe go back and read some of my other articles on training techniques and strategies. Muscle growth is like most things, it’s science.
Follow the correct science and the growth will happen.
Yours in health,