Jump onto the internet to find effective training methods and workouts to build muscle and you’re most likely to run into the illustrious term tut (time under tension). We’ve mostly heard of it, a lot of us have tried it, some hated it and some loved it. The jury is still out on whether time-under-tension is all it’s cracked up to be (or at the very least, effective enough to help us in the ever-elusive pursuit of gaining muscle). So, let’s have a look at tut and confirm if it gets the yay or nay.

Let’s first clear the air...

What is Time-Under-Tension exactly? To give it a clear definition, TUT basically refers to the amount of time that a muscle is put under strain (or tension) during its resistance to weight in a particular set. I.E, Consistent tension in the muscle for a period of time during a lifting set.

You may have seen programs that recommend you use 1 second doing the concentric (going up) portion of a movement and then spend 2 or 3 (sometimes 4) seconds during the eccentric (coming down). They’re mostly noted in a numbered notation like this: 4-0-1-0. It is usually spouted that an optimal TUT duration is in the range of between 30-60 seconds and that anything falling short of or exceeding this is less than par for optimal “gains-making”.

With That Cleared Up, Is It Just Theory or A Real Thing???

Ok, so here’s what the science has to say about it. A study by Brad Schoenfeld PhD took two groups of weight lifting athletes and had one group perform a typical “bodybuilding-type” routine (e.g. 3 sets of 10 reps exercises) and the other group a typical “powerlifting type” routine (e.g. 7 sets of 3 reps) routine (1). These routines were conducted over the space of 8 weeks with 3 training days a week for each group. The Time-UnderTension performed per set for the bodybuilding group was around 30-40 seconds and the powerlifters underwent tension times of 9-12 seconds per set.

So what happened?

Both groups had almost identical amounts of muscle growth at the end of the experiment. A similar study performed under similar conditions had two groups train with one having almost more than double the TUT than the second group and the gains made at the end of the experiment were identical (2).

So TUT is useless??? NOT NECESSARILY!!!

TUT has been shown to promote greater hypertrophy (gains) in type I slow-twitch muscle fibres which, by nature, are fatigue-resistant vs type II fibres that are able to produce great amounts of force but fatigue rather quickly in comparison. It, therefore, stands to reason that you’d need to keep the type I fibres under tension for extended periods to elicit their maximal growth. A few studies conducted in cold Mother Russia concluded that light-load protocols involving high TUTs (50% 1RM) yielded greater muscle growth in type I fibres and heavier-loads with lower TUTs (80% 1RM) showed better muscle growth for type II fibers (3, 4, 5).

There is indeed a place for everything!

Take home message:

- Tut for slow-twitch fibres!

- heavier load and lower rep count for fast-twitch fibres.

And because we’re cool people here at Chrome, we’ll even give you the break down of which is which.

Now Go Forth and Make Gains the Right Way!


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