Time under tension (TUT) is the amount of time that a muscle or group of muscles is under stress during a set. The reported advantage from TUT is that by focusing on the duration muscle fiber is under stress, rather than a movement repetition count, the intensity will result in gains in muscle size and strength.
The general consensus is that increasing TUT will maximize hypertrophy by increasing the muscle fiber breakdown that occurs during the workout. Thus, hypertrophy may improve if one lifts lighter weights for a longer period of time than to use heavy weights for fewer reps.
How does TUT do this?
TUT’s results may be through creating a hypoxic environment in the working muscles. The premise follows as such:
- Resistance training with weights produces a buildup of metabolites in the body,
- At the same time, muscle contractions cause blood vessels to condense and restrict the blood flow to working muscles
It is the lack of blood flow oxygen that creates a hypoxic environment for your muscles, and a 2010 study from the Mie University Graduate School of Medicine showed that hypoxic muscle environments actually enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy.
Applying TUT to your workouts
- Focus on the eccentric part of the muscle movement. Eccentric is the lowering, or “anti-contraction” part of the muscle movement. Slowing your eccentric motion will cause an increase in micro-fiber muscle damage, thus encouraging more growth.
- Focus on intensity. You need to be lifting heavy enough to fatigue the muscle. Consider ranges 60-80% 1 RPM.
- Drop sets until fatigue. It’s about time, and failing to finish a set works against it. So if you hit your limit too soon with the weight, drop to a lower amount, and keep repping out until you finish the set.
Apply TUT to bodyweight movements centers around slowing down the eccentric part of the movement. For example, lower yourself in a push-up using a 4-6 second count, before exploding back up. Same with a squat – slow lower, power back up. Resistance bands work for this too.
Hopefully you now understand enough include TUT in your fitness toolkit.