First of all, what is Time Under Tension?
Basically it’s the amount of time your muscle is under strain while performing reps and sets.
Typically, your tempo when lifting would be 1-2 Secs (Concentric Contraction) 2-3 Secs (Eccentric Contraction)
Concentric contraction meaning shortening the muscle, so for example when you push on a chest press
Eccentric contraction meaning lengthening or stretching the muscle, example being when you bring the bar back down to the chest in a chest press.
Now, Time Under Tension is focusing on the Eccentric part of the movement and applying more time to the muscle in this zone. So instead of 2-3 seconds, it could be 15 Secs.
The point of applying this principle of Time Under Tension to your training is to help build muscle faster, because why not!
So obviously I’ve been doing a lot of research into time under tension an also conducting my own experiments. And just like anything else in the fitness industry, there is no real answer!
There are articles for and against
Without you having to read into all these studies and scientific jargon, I have generalised them into a short paragraph below and attached links to the studies for all you geeks out there that love it!
The majority of studies conducted involved men following the same muscle building program for an 8-12-week period, however half would Use Time Under Tension principle and half would not. The results were almost exactly the same each time.
I found these studies interesting because surely just from that information alone, you would say, fuck it then, why bother.
You are doing the same gym session, taking longer to do it, putting more strain on your muscles… and you get the same results as the other guys swinging round dumbbells for fun??
Again, without going to in-depth, the main reason we are lead to believe that time under tension isn’t best for muscle growth, is that when it comes to building muscle, volume Is generally more important.
We all know that in order to build muscle there needs to be some sort of overload and progression to the muscle. Weight lifted in lbs/kg, reps and sets, frequency of training, is a good way to measure this.
One week you squat 100kg for 8 reps 3 sets… 3 weeks later, you are doing 12 reps of 110kg 3 sets. You know you have progressed and you have gotten stronger, you have obviously built muscle.
Now try tracking progression with Time Under Tension:
You squat 100kg for 1 rep, 3 sets, it takes 30seconds to complete, 15 seconds down, 15 seconds up, you physically can’t manage another one.
3 weeks later you are still on 100kg, and you have maybe managed 1 more rep, so now you’re on 2 reps of 100kg 3 sets. Have you built much muscle?
Compared to the training routine above, not really, you could of built a considerate amount more.
With Time Under Tension your volume is a lot lower, meaning you are putting the muscle under less stress overtime by performing less sets, reps and lifting less weight per week compared to normal tempo training.
Another way to look at it.
100kg Squat, 5 Reps = 500kg Lifted
100kg Squat, 1 Rep = 100kg Lifted
Simple right, surely you go for option one for muscle growth?
Before we wrap things up, lets look at why we adopted this principle in the first place. We did it to build muscle faster!
Guys, your body will build muscle as fast as it can, and nutrition would play a lot bigger part in speeding things up than some magic trick faffing about with tempo. Keep your protein consumption high, keep things simple and effective with your training and you will be sound!
I hope this helped explain things, check out the links below to see some of the studies for yourself: