Want to get stronger? Build more muscle? Burn more fat? Reduce your rate of injury? The answer… increase time under tension.
“Reps for a given time under tension is the most important loading parameter for determining training effect”– Charles Polquin (Strength Sensei)
What is time under tension (TUT)? This refers to how long your muscles are loaded when performing an exercise including both concentric (shortening under load) and eccentric (lengthening under load). This can be increased using the following methods:
Tempo Reps, e.g. 4sec concentric, 10sec eccentric
Pause Reps, e.g. 10sec pause at the bottom of your squat (see video below – Klokov Pause Snatch 200kg)
Increased Total Volume, e.g. 6 sets of 5 reps VS. 3 sets of 5 reps
In order to get the right changes in the muscle you must know what the right amount of TUT should be. Here’s a quick guide:
Power: Low Reps, High Sets, 5-15sec TUT per set (predominantly concentric only)
Strength: Low Reps, Multiple Sets, 20-30sec TUT per set.
Hypertrophy: Moderate Reps, Multiple Sets, 60-90sec TUT per set.
Muscle Endurance: High Reps, Lows Sets, 60-120sec+ TUT per set.
Using the guidelines above you should be determining the Load based on Reps and Time Under Tension, not the other way around. The load should be such that you cannot maintain tension in the muscle any longer than what is prescribed.
Extra Tip: If you notice yourself shaking when trying to hold positions in pause reps this is a good thing. The neuromuscular system is working hard to contract which causes this shaking (google: ‘tetanus’)
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