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Time Under Tension

Time under tension is one of the most loosely understood techniques in bodybuilding and fitness. Some claim that time under tension is just longer in the gym or an endless amount of sets. However when considering of the most effective way of using this somewhat misunderstood technique, gear your thoughts toward the most effective way to stimulate muscle in the least amount of time. If used correctly, you can achieve more in 20 minutes what the average gym goer dose in over 1 hour.

What is Time Under Tension?

If you Google Tim under tension it will read something like this. (Time under tension (or TUT for short) is commonly used in strength and conditioning and bodybuilding. Essentially, it refers to how long a muscle is under strain during a set. A typical set of 10 reps for an average lifter will take anywhere from 15-25 seconds depending on lifting speed.)

Yes that’s basically right, however, you don’t really know how to apply this for maximum muscle gain. The key difference to doing it the most effective way, and the least effective way is how long your positive, static, and negative actions are during the sequence of each rep.

If done correctly time under tension or TUT can be the biggest game changer you’ve ever had.


How to apply time under tension (TUT) for maximum muscle gain

Thus technique is based on the Mike Mentzer approach, and I truly believe he had it right based on my own experience and the experience I’ve had with clients.

Mike Mentzer taught a 3 to 4 second positive, held at the contracted position for 3 to 4 seconds then a 3 to 4 second negative, no rest at the “bottom” of the exercise then repeat until failure with very strict form.

Example of a time under tension set

Barbell Curl
Rep 1

– Start by slowly with strict form raising the bar in the curl fashion.
(Remember if your form is not strict remove some weight until you are able to lift the weight with perfect form.)
– Use the one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four count.
– Now squeeze at the top using the same 4 second count
– Now start to lower the weight in the same 4 second counting fashion
– Without releasing tension on the muscle at the bottom repeat until you are at complete failure.


What is complete failure?

Don’t make it too complicated. When you can’t get the weight back up on your positive part of the movement no matter what, you’re at failure, that’s it.

Check out this video by CHRISTIAN THIBAUDEAU on Time Under Tension


In Conclusion

Time under tension is a misunderstood and widely debated technique. For maximum muscle gain and faster results, I highly recommend time under tension with the 4 4 4 cadence. Try it for yourself for a minimum of 2 months and see how you feel and look. Some bodybuilders live by the high set protocols like 20 sets per body part, and they may thrive using that style. They will not be able to do a TUT style training session of 20 sets however. People that want the best bang for your buck maximum muscle in the shortest amount of time in the gym need to apply time under tension in the 4 4 4 cadence and see yourself GROW.

Jake Anderson