“Your Muscles Don’t Count But They Can Tell Time.”
This is something I say to my clients a lot to help them understand that while counting reps is important, it’s how much time to take to do each rep that counts.
Don’t believe me? Excellent.
I want you to do the same thing that I have all my clients do when they don’t immediately buy into this idea.
I want you to do two sets of 10 reps of push ups.
On first set, I want you to perform those 10 reps taking 2 seconds to lower and 2 seconds to push back up.
On the second set, I want you to take 5 seconds to lower and 5 seconds to push back up.
Which one was harder? The second set was, right?
Well, the fist set you took 40 seconds to complete those 10 reps. On your second set, you took 100 seconds to complete 10 reps. That’s over twice the amount of time of time that it took to complete the first set. Again, muscles tell time a lot better than they can count.
Time Under Tension
Time under tension (or TUT for short) is a commonly used term in the strength and conditioning and bodybuilding circles. In short, TUT refers to how long the muscle is under stress during a set.
Look around in the gym. You’ll see different lifting speeds and different times under tension. Some lifters will be doing their reps as fast and aggressively as possible while others use slow and controlled speeds.
Research show that the time that a muscle works and tension (tension = how heavy the weight is) are key factors in determining muscle growth. By putting the muscle under longer bouts of tension, you can cause more muscle breakdown leading to the sleeve-busting muscles that you’re working so hard for.
Putting Time Under Tension Into Practice
- Use proper exercise technique.
Longer sets mean more fatigue. If you’re not disciplined, this can compromise your technique. Use the right amount of weight and make sure you don’t cheat yourself and miss out on muscle and strength gains by breaking form or doing partial reps.
- Use full range of motion on every exercise.
Research also shows that working a muscle through a full range of motion on an exercise will lead to better muscle gains. Using full range of motion will also give you more opportunity to spend the necessary time under tension for maximum results. If you’re lacking in the flexibility department, make sure you spend some time warming up with mobility exercises so you can go through full range of motion with each exercise.
- Take 4 seconds on the negative.
The “negative’ refers to the lowering portion when your muscle is slowly elongating. Research shows that slowing down the negative (a.k.a. eccentric) part of the exercise causes more muscle damage and encourages more growth and strength. Do it.
- Use the right intensity.
Follow these general guidelines to make sure that you’re using the right time under tension for your goal:
It’s not just what exercises you do or how many reps you do. How your technique and time you take with each rep matters. Use these time under tension techniques to boost your strength and build more muscle.
And if you’d like me to be your coach then consider signing up for my Online Fitness Coaching program where I write your workouts and coach you to success. You can even submit videos of your technique for me to critique.