How To Maximize Your Workout With Time Under Tension
Updated: Sep 26
Would you like to have bigger, stronger muscles? Well, you can and you will if you focus on TUT. The term, time under tension (TUT), also known as time under load, refers to the amount of time a muscle is under load without rest. In order for the muscle to increase in size and strength, the tension or load must be challenging enough to promote change. Greater stimulus placed upon the muscle, forces the body to repair the muscle, which then increases its size and strength, allowing it to lift that load again. Bigger, stronger muscles boost metabolism, improve bone density, and increase structural function throughout the body. Here are the key components to safely achieving maximal time under tension.
Slow it down
Because it is easier to move a weight quickly, and making it easier on your muscles is not the goal, the only way to achieve maximal time under tension is to slow it down. Once you are no longer using speed to power through your workout, you will truly experience the necessary stimulus that promotes change.
In order to stimulate muscle growth, true exercise must be achieved, which means an adequate level of demand must be put upon the muscle. The most efficient way to do this is to slow down the tempo. By removing speed from the equation, more effort and focus is put upon the targeted muscles. This cues the stage of repair to kick in and promotes muscle growth.
You can take time under tension a step further and eliminate movement all together by performing timed static contractions. Because you aren't working through a dynamic range of motion, the opportunity for locking-out is eliminated. This method allows you to get to the heart of the matter, making it an effective way to maximize time under tension.
"When you do a slow rep workout, your muscles experience a greater time under tension than they would if you were doing fast reps. This can lead to a greater increase in muscle size than faster reps which spend less time under tension." - Livestrong.com
Stay fully loaded
Whether you are performing timed static contractions or dynamic exercise, it is important to keep the muscles under load. If at any point you feel the sensation of relief or ease, it means you've let the muscles unload. That feeling of rest means that the muscles are no longer achieving true exercise.
The only way to maximize your TUT is to keep the muscles fully loaded. This means if you are performing a dynamic range of motion exercise, for each repetition you need to move slowly during the positive phase and don't lockout at the turnaround. It is important to work until momentary muscle failure is achieved. If you are performing timed static contractions, it is important to apply continual effort and don't back off. Instead, build up to one-hundred percent of your full effort until you finally reach muscle failure.
By keeping the muscles continually under load you are not only applying the necessary demand to promote change in strength, you are also maximizing your workout efficiently.
Go to muscle failure
By not pushing yourself as hard as you can, your muscles aren't being given the opportunity to adapt and change; they will merely stay at the level they are used to performing. Momentary muscle failure is the key to achieving true exercise.
Speeding up, or changing the body's position to make it happen creates unsafe, sloppy reps which are counterproductive. A key component of reaching muscle failure is adhering to proper form. If, and only if you put your full effort forth and perform as many proper form repetitions as you are physically capable of, will you achieve true muscle failure. If you aren't pushing yourself to this point, you're denying your muscles the workout they deserve.
Timed static contractions are an ideal exercise method that eliminates opportunity for improper form, especially with TSC-90. Because you aren't moving through a range of motion, there's no option to speed up or change position in order to cheat. It provides a controlled environment where you can safely and effectively learn how to reach true muscle failure.
"The way the body builds muscle is by lifting more weight than it can handle. We overload the muscle so that it will adapt by growing more and bigger muscle fibers (to help handle that added weight). The ultimate form of overload is to train to momentary muscle failure, which recruits the maximum number of motor units and muscle fibers."
Go for it!
If you already have a strength training routine you perform at the gym, simply apply the above necessary components that will maximize your time under tension. Slow down the tempo while pushing or pulling, keep the muscles fully loaded by following proper form, and always go to muscle failure on each exercise. If you do not have a gym, or you're not sure where to start, the at-home TSC-90 workout is a safe and effective way to experience all of the above. Give it a try, you'll be surprised!