Understanding Time Under Tension - Raymond Neto

Understanding Time Under Tension

 

How many times have you seen a peculiar number listed beside a workout (40, 301, 4010), or even had a particular situation with a personal trainer that he or she mentioned (slow down, and accelerate up)?. Well this all comes under the term known as time under tension (TUT) . Whether you are wishing to build lean muscle, strength, power and endurance, it is extremely important to understand the importance of “TUT” so that you may achieve the best results possible for your goal.

I want to first begin with a case study that we as committed gym enthusiasts may report seeing. How many of us have seen the unique individual that graces us with his presence in the gym , he is that well known specimen that  huffs and puffs pulling up weight and counting repetitions in succession of lifts . If you could have a resemblance similar to his technique it would most likely look like a (Taser shock victim on Cops) as he hurls up the weight in a barbell bicep curl. For him and many others like him the most overlooked training variable is the process of focusing on time under tension, an often neglected and misunderstood training variable that can create ongoing results. To validate the importance of “TUT” we must clearly establish that it is a form of overload, which is key to the training improvement required for the continued gains in a particular exercise.

time under tension

My understanding is that repetition and sets should be the guideline for your goals with greater emphasis on time under tension, safety in technique and correct form. There is a multitude of sequencing of time under tension which even with relative strength training should be considered. So I believe this article will help you understand the importance of knowing how Time under tension can help you to gain the goal you want , understand its importance and correctly assess how to use it .

Defining Time under tension

 

Time under tension is used to determine the duration of time that a muscle should be under stress (tension) with a given load (weight), by incorporating “TUT” you can recruit different muscle fibres which in turn can develop strength, power, speed and hypertrophy. Charles Poliquin makes great reference to the importance of speed of lifting, tempo and the ideal preferred cadence required to develop a particular adaption. As one of the most world renowned strength and condition coaches in the world, Charles Poliquin has helped infuse the idea that time under tension is the fundamental component to any weight training program .

 

Defining Tempo

 

Tempo is a sequence of seconds that are allotted to a rep to develop a particular physical quality ( strength, power etc.). The most currently revised Tempo sequence is the 4 digit tempo by Charles Poliquin , thou frequently you may see different combination of the 3 digit tempo in various weight training programs by Russian and European strength and condition coaches   . ( The breakdown of the tempo sequence is explained further in the next heading).

As it stands time under tension is broken down into 2 components, one is the overall muscle stimulus requirement for the physical quality to be attained (hypertrophy 20-70 seconds etc ) . Number two is that “TUT” has a independent approach when performing an eccentric, concentric, isometric hold and pause. Which you can then say “time under tension” is sequenced into a tempo, so whenever tempo is addressed we clearly establish a direct relationship to “time under tension “.

How is Tempo read?

 

If for example you have a tempo cadence of:

Eccentric Pause Concentric pause
4 1 1 0

 

We will apply this cadence to a barbell bench press.

  • The first digit is (4) –Eccentric. This is known as the time taken to lower the weight to the chest (negative).
  • The second digit is (1)- Pause. This is the (isometric) hold at closest distance from the chest to the bar.
  • The third digit is (1)-Concentric. This is the time taken to push the bar away from the body (positive movement).
  • The fourth digit is (0) – pause. This is the fullest extension the bar can go.

The total Time under tension for this exercise of 3 sets of 12 reps is .

(4110 x 12= 72 x 3 ) = 216 seconds of tension time ( 3 min 36 seconds)

 

Placing time under tension into a tempo (cadence) structure for a specific goal

 

So you have made it to this point and I know you are either an athlete that is” hell bent” on building strength, power or unbelievable aesthetics, otherwise you would have probable scrapped this article by now and missed these critical points. Constructing a tempo is just as hard as dictating the exercises that fit your goals, that’s why I am helping you find the appropriate tempo selection for your desired goals.

For the use of this article I have constructed a sequence of   tempos related to different goal aims, I recommend you utilise a variety of speeds though keeping with a rep range and within the required time stimulus.

Below is my basic recommendation for the tempo average for the goal aim. I advise changing the tempo structure every 2 sessions for greater muscular stimulus and adaption

Goal Aim                    Speed of lift                 Rest                       Reps 

Hypertrophy              Slow to moderate        30-180s                 8-12

Recommendation             4                                     0                                 1                             0

1 for (12 reps)

Recommendation             6                                     1                                   1                            0

2 for (8reps)
Charles Poliquin establishes that per set you should be within 20-70 seconds of total time under tension per set, this is desirable for bodybuilders. He also recommends changing the rep variables to encourage stimulus of different fibres types.[1]This table incorporates some of the agreeable components required for the goal aim associated with Australian strength and conditioning association.

 

                                          Goal Aim                     Speed of lift          Rest                       Reps

Strength                          moderate             180-300s                    1-5

Recommendation               5                                          0                           1                                0

1 for (5 reps)

Recommendation              3                                           0                          1                                0

2 for (1reps)
Charles Poliquin recommends 1 to 5 RM range which is equivalent to the 85-100% intensity range , in order to develop maximal strength . [2]This table incorporates some of the agreeable components required for the goal aim associated with Australian strength and conditioning association.

  • Australian strength and conditioning association agrees that the primary energy systems are 10-15 seconds for anaerobic alactic, 40-60 seconds for anaerobic lactic and 1 min and longer for aerobic . So it is critical you don’t stress an energy system that is not required for the sport or position you play .[3]

 

Goal Aim              Speed of lift                    Rest                       Reps

Power endurance       Explosive                  60-120s                    10-15

Recommendation             2                                0                                  X                              0

1 for (5 reps)

Recommendation            3                                 1                                   X                             0

2 for (1reps)
(X) Illustrates a explosive effort as fast as possible movement.This table incorporates some of the agreeable components required for the goal aim associated with Australian strength and conditioning association.

 

 

(Here is a free attachment of 3 different forms of tempo training you can use )

Insert here: tempo guidance for chest .xlsx

For more information on the history and development on tempo training Charles Poliquin has a great article. http://www.charlespoliquin.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/285/Tempo_Training_Revisited.aspx?lang=EN

 

Why is tempo more beneficial then repetition based training for developing muscle gain.

 

I make reference to repetition based training as primarily the one goal that a majority of weight training athletes aim for.

If you put this into perspective, you may have a friend that wishes to join you in say a (leg workout). Your friend may state our aim is to attain a given rep range, and whilst performing you may progressively increase the weights as you perform set after set.

If you have fallen into this trap as “I have” then I would say we have missed out on some of the vital points of information that may have helped structured our programs differently for greater results. By utilising repetitions over tempo we are wasting valuable glycogen firstly by assessing the appropriate load required to achieve that rep for the first few sets .Then even when we have achieved the weight for the desired reps, the total amount of effort exerted to do that exercise would probably be estimated around the figure of 20-40% efficiency in total muscle fibre recruitment given that it was an isolated technique with correct form that was used.

Not to say we won’t get results with repetition based training, but we would attain very minimal results. Often your body would build up to the tolerance of the load and plateau in regards to both strength and muscle gain, unless you are (the genetically gifted monsters out there!)? Thou this article address basically the general class of athletes looking for muscle gains so we need to apply the science of tempo to gain the greatest amount of hypertrophy.

 

Tempo benefits include:

  • enhanced metabolic rate
  • Reduction in injury
  • Extensive micro tears in a range of different fibres ( Type -2a,2b,Type 1 -slow twitch )
  • Increased hormone production ( growth hormone)
  • Greater adaption in different energy systems ( anaerobic lactic ,anaerobic alactic )

These benefits out way the benefits attained through reps only. The best way to test the two theories of training is to perform it to know how physically demanding each one is.

I will get you to perform a Repetition and tempo assessment to feel the demand on the muscle group.

  • Let’s do this assessment by starting by performing a 10 Repetition maximum and time yourself based on the repetition method, assess the total time under tension which should be around 10-20 seconds.

 

  • Now complete the same assessment with a lighter weight at 10 repetition maximum aiming at using a tempo of 4010, then once again time yourself and the time under tension should be around 40-50 seconds .

(Here is a free attachment of 3 different forms of tempo training)

If you could mention the muscular pump, fatigue (lactic) and control, would you consider the tempo method to be more demanding on that muscle then the repetition based method? . This should be evident, I say this because physically speaking your muscle right now should be ready to “peel off and run away “at the sight of the second set.

I believe if we could have met after you performed this assessment, we would be agreement that the physiological demands are much greater through tempo training and If I had to precisely determine why?. This would be the answer , tempo delivers greater muscular stimulus(demand) , energy system adaption , and isolated movements to focus on controlling the desired seconds of tension . Even tho through tempo you may have to lift lighter weights to correctly abide by the set seconds in hypertrophy aims , this does not mean that you will lose general strength but maintain . Thou There are many variations of seconds that can be chosen to build strength and power, so don’t just think of tempo as the only method required specifically to build muscle (I give further reference below in applied tempos for different goal aims).

In conclusion Repetitions are set as guidelines to be incorporated in with tempo, this will re vitalise your program in order for you to overcome the plateaus that hinder continued improvement gains.

 

Upload Free program here :tempo guidance for chest

 

 

Time under tension recent research

 

Research developing on this topic is minimal but of great importance amongst   exercise sports scientist trying to solve the equations for better, faster ,stronger athletes .Unfortunately there is no one ideal tempo construct that fits all athletes but generalised consensus amongst the experts. A recent study assessed 2 variations in tempo 2/0/2 and 2/0/4 and the hormonal effects on (insulin-like growth factor 1) for a 1 RM maximum for males. The conclusive results found that both tempos rendered similar (IGF-1) results, with the exception the greater work load can be carried out on the 2/0/2 . [4]

muscle anatomy time under tension

The Muscular anatomy above is that of a fighter. Fighters will have to develop strength, power and aerobic conditioning, so you can bet tempo provides the adaptive means to reach their aims.

Regardless of what sport or training aim, the essential of time under tension is always included.

As a gym enthusiast to another have a go and try out Tempo.

Here is a link to the poliquin group on the ten things you should know about tempo training  

 

 

Key summary notes:Time under tension is used to determine the duration of time that a muscle should be under stress (tension) with a given load (weight),Tempo is a sequence of seconds that are allotted to a rep to develop a particular physical quality (strength, power etc.).As it stands time under tension is broken down into 2 components , one   is the overall muscle stimulus requirement for the physical quality to be attained (hypertrophy 20-70 seconds etc )   . Number two is that “TUT” has a independent approach when performing an eccentric ,concentric, isometric hold and pause.Whenever tempo is addressed we clearly establish a direct relationship to “time under tension “.

Charles Poliquin establishes that per set you should be within 20-70 seconds of total time under tension per set, this is desirable for bodybuilders. He also recommends changing the rep variables to encourage stimulus of different fibres types.[5]

 

Australian strength and conditioning association agrees that the primary energy systems are 10-15 seconds for anaerobic alactic, 40-60 seconds for anaerobic lactic and 1 min and longer   for aerobic .

Tempo benefits include:

  • enhanced metabolic rate
  • Reduction in injury
  • Extensive micro tears in a range of different fibres ( Type -2a,2b,Type 1 -slow twitch )
  • Increased hormone production ( growth hormone)
  • Greater adaption in different energy systems ( anaerobic lactic ,anaerobic alactic

Free download :

free excel download ( 3 variations of tempo training for chest)

Upload here :tempo guidance for chest

 

 

 

 

Articles to share on this topic ( these articles have not been used in any way to construct this article ) :http://www.charlespoliquin.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/285/Tempo_Training_Revisited.aspx?lang=EN 

 

[1] The Poliquin Principles . “successful methods for strength and mass development “Published by Dayton Winters Group ,1541 third st, Napa, CA 94559 , 1997 Dayton Winters Group and Charles Poliquin . reference to Chapter 2 “PG 24”

[2] Modern Trends in strength training ,5th edition , Successful methods for strength and mass development , by Charles Poliquin , 2012 , “chapter 1 , PG19”

[3] Australian strength and conditioning , Level 1 Module 5 Participants Notes

[4] Effects of lifting tempo on one repetition maximum and hormonal responses to a bench press protocol. by Samuel A Headley, Kelley Henry, Bradley C Nindl, Brian A Thompson, William J Kraemer, Margaret T Jones The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2011) Volume: 25, Issue: 2, Pages: 406-413

[5] The Poliquin Principles . “successful methods for strength and mass development “Published by Dayton Winters Group ,1541 third st, Napa, CA 94559 , 1997 Dayton Winters Group and Charles Poliquin . reference to Chapter 2 “PG 24”

 

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