Workout Routines: King T.U.T (Time Under Tension)
Author: William J Sucik
Was searching the web the other day for information about TUT training, time under tension, and found a few good articles. They all of course went into the science of it and across the board agreed to the principles of utilizing it. One thing that was missing in what I read was how one can actually implement TUT training into their daily workouts and how TUT training actually goes hand in hand with tempo, the nuts and bolts of a rep.
I’m pretty much a meat and bones kind of person and all the science they put in their articles is nice, but lets let’s be honest most of us are looking for a straight forward answer without all the confusion. So my hope is to keep this simple, with minimal science, and show how one can implement TUT training in their routines to add a little spice and how TUT training and your reps go hand in hand.
A little bit of science will be needed, but will keep to simple. Across the board it seems this is pretty much agreed upon on the time under tension and how it correlates between different types of training:
- Reps: 1 to 8
- Time Under Tension: 4 to 30 seconds
- Rest Time: 2 to 4 minutes
- Reps: 8 to 14
- Time Under Tension: 30 to 60 seconds
- Rest Time: 60 to 100 seconds
- Reps: 15 to 25
- Time Under Tension: 1 to 2 minutes
- Rest Time: 1 minutes or less
All one needs to do is sit in the gym and realize most, including myself at times, are training in the strength/power range. We just pump our reps out with little regard to the actual time it takes to complete the set, or the tempo of the reps. (1)”…test have compared fiber recruition in athletes when they lifted in the 5 to 15 second range, to the 30 to 70 second range and found that the latter incorporated much more muscle fibers than the former.
The reason why this is true is because at a lower second range your muscles would fail due to a rapid ATP (our bodies’ main energy source) shortage, and this rapid shortage of energy, just doesn’t allow enough time for your muscles to be stimulated for growth.
Essentially, the total time that the muscle fibers are required to produce force is shorter in low-rep sets than in higher-rep sets. Simply put, a hard set that last 30 to 70 seconds delivers more growth stimulus to the muscle cells than a hard set that last below this because in a shorter set, failure may occur due to reasons other than muscle fiber fatigue and before a significant growth stimulus has been achieved.” (2)Charles Poliquin, “Generally speaking, however, sets that subject the muscles to less than 20 seconds of time under tension build strength, while those that take from 40 to 60 seconds to complete cause hypertrophy.”
There is a reason when you see different workouts they sometime include tempo, this lets us know to slow down to get the most out of the set. Reps are important but so is the tempo of the reps within the set.
Let’s take a quick look at tempo and what it means in a rep and how it correlates to TUT.
We will use the bench press for an example since it is easier for most of us to visualize. We will use a tempo of (4-2-1-0) for our bench press.
- “4″ is the eccentric phase of the lift, lowering the weight to our chest. This tells us we should lower the weight at a rate of 4 seconds. This is pretty much agreed upon as the most important part of a rep when lifting.
- “2″ is the pause at the bottom of the rep before beginning the concentric part of the lift, upwards movement. This is telling use to pause at the bottom of the rep, does not mean rest the bar on our chest but a little above.
- “1″ is the concentric phase of the lift, pushing weight upwards. There is some debate on this about the time it should take during this phase but most agreed upon is to explode up.
- “0″ is the top of the concentric phase, before starting the next rep. This tells use here in the example that we will not be pausing but go directly to the eccentric phase, lowering weight back to our chest.
If we did 8 reps using this tempo for our bench press it would take use roughly 56 seconds to complete, which would fall into the hypertrophy/mass in our chart. As you can see, TUT training and tempo go hand in hand and that is why we also follow prescribe reps for each type of training.
As the above chart and example show you cannot talk about TUT training without tempo and actually you cannot talk about tempo without TUT training. Read a lot of forum posts and it seems TUT really gets a bad name. Yet if we did proper form and reps would we not already be doing TUT training to some extent?
A lot of people say they lose size, but personally believe that is more of a mental issue since the amount of weight you will be using goes down considerable. Strength and size to some extent go hand in hand but they are both different kinds of beasts and the correlation is very minimal.
There is a lot of fun ways to add TUT training into your workouts to add some newness and break up the boredom. They are extremely challenging and will push you to the limit. Here are some of the different methods, styles, I use when doing my TUT training that I read and picked up on.
Different authors have called them something different at times but all are about the same.
For the first method you will pause for a certain count for each rep for the prescribed time in between the eccentric/concentric phase of the set.
1. Pause Method (9 rep set)
- Rep 1, 9 count
- Rep 2, 8 count
- Rep 3, 7 count
- Rep 4, 6 count
- Rep 5, 5 count
- Rep 6, 4 count
- Rep 7, 3 count
- Rep 8, 2 count
- Rep 9, 1 count
(45 count to complete set)
Countdown method concentrates more on the eccentric part of the lift, negatives, and each rep will have a different count to it.
2. Countdown Method (10 rep set)
- Rep 1, 10 count
- Rep 2, 9 count
- Rep 3, 8 count
- Rep 4, 7 count
- Rep 5, 6 count
- Rep 6, 5 count
- Rep 7, 4 count
- Rep 8, 3 count
- Rep 9, 2 count
- Rep 10, 1 count
(55 count to complete set)
Try this method next bicep workout, you will feel the burn
Tempo method uses different tempos throughout the set depending on which rep you are at…
3. Tempo Method
- Rep 1, Tempo (3210)
- Rep 2, Tempo (3210)
- Rep 3, Tempo (3210)
- Rep 4, Explosive
- Rep 5, Tempo (3210)
- Rep 6, Tempo (3210)
- Rep 7, Explosive
- Rep 8, Explosive
- Rep 9, Tempo (3210)
- Rep 10, Explosive
- Rep 11, Explosive
- Rep 12, Explosive
(45 count roughly)
Here is one of my favorite chest workouts, will definitely feel this days afterwards. Make sure you go light the first set because the amount of weight you will be using is a lot less, really concentrate on the reps and sets.
- 1. Incline Press (Tempo Method), 3 sets
- 2. Flat Dbl Press (Pause Method), 3 sets
- 3. Peck Deck (Countdown Method), 3 sets
These are just a few examples on how you could add TUT training into you workouts and make it a little more challenging and intense. I personally look forward to my weekly TUT training sessions knowing I need to bring the intensity each and every time. These different methods will challenge you to push past your normal intensity and really bring the pain!!! Good pain that is.
Most important part is to just slow down and make each rep and set count. Just by doing this one little thing you will be surprised on how much harder each rep and set becomes. Heading to the gym should be exciting and something you look forward to, so change it up and add TUT training every now and gain to spice things up.
(1) Jacob Wilson, BSc. (Hons), MSc, CSCS, Count to 60 seconds and grow
(2) Charles Poliquin, Manipulating Reps for Gains in Size and Strength
(3) Jason Shea C.S.C.S., PES, Overlooked Training Variables
(4) Nicholas A. Burd, Richard J. Andrews, Daniel W.D. West, Johnathan P. Little, Andrew J.R. Cochran, Amy J. Hector, Joshua G.A. Cashback, Martin J. Gibala, James R. Potvin, Steven K. Baker, and Stuart M. Phillips, Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men
(5) Christopher B. Scott, The effects of time-under-tension and weight lifting cadence on aerobic, anaerobic, and recovery energy expenditures: 3 submaximal sets
(6) Doug Janzt Photography, Photo of William Sucik
Author: William J Sucik | Website: Transformation Story
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