Time under Tension (TUT)

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

Time under tension is a training method (for me is more like a tool for your workouts) that focuses on putting the muscle you are working on under tension for a prolonged period of time in order to maximize growth stimulus. It is very common amongst bodybuilders and fitness athletes to cause hypertrophy and, therefore, muscle growth. However, you can use it to build up your muscle endurance and strength too.


First off, what is time under tension (TUT)? It basically refers to how long the muscle is under strain during a set.

Let’s make an example: let’s say that you are bench pressing and you are spending 2 secs on the eccentric part, 1 sec pause at the bottom and 1 sec at the concentric part. It gives us a total of 4 secs. If you are doing 10 reps, this means you have a total of 10x4 = 40 seconds of TUT.

TUT is measured multiplying the number of reps of a set by the time spent on each rep. Remember that every repetition has 4 parts:

  • 4-0-1-0

  • First digit stands for the eccentric part of the movement (or the lowering part.

  • Second digit stands for the pause at the mid-point

  • Third digit stands for the concentric part of the movement (or the “lifting the weight” part)

  • The fourth digit stands for the pause at the top

The optimal tempo per set, depending on what you are trying to maximize, is:

1 – 20 seconds: Strength

20 – 40 seconds: Strength and size

40 – 70 seconds: Hypertrophy

70 or more seconds: Endurance

All of us have been told that: 4 – 6 reps for strength, 8 – 12 for hypertrophy and 15 – 20 or more for endurance, right?! But…why? Well, this is why: a set of 4 – 6 is most likely to stay around the 20 seconds long mark (staying at the strength gaining range); a set of 8 -12 reps is most likely to stay around the 30 – 60 seconds long mark, depending on how fast or how slow you perform the reps (staying in the size/hypertrophy tempo range); and a set of 15 – 20 or more reps is most likely to surpass the 60 – 70 seconds mark (entering the endurance tempo range).


The main benefit of TUT is increasing metabolic stress (one of the main muscle hypertrophy factors, along with progressive tension overload and muscle damage) which, in combination with mechanical tension (which takes into consideration the load of the lift) can really increase muscle growth.

Given the type of work that TUT implies, it can be very beneficial to promote type I muscle fibers hypertrophy. Remember that type I muscle fibers (slow twitch muscle fibers) provide you with fuel for an extended period of time, they are more “endurance-type” fibers; while type II muscle fibers (fast twitch muscle fibers) use anaerobic metabolism to create short bursts of strength or speed.

Considering that TUT implies putting your muscle under tension for a longer period of time, it can be a great tool for stimulating type I muscle fibers hypertrophy.

Also, since you are more focused on the exercise and you perform it slower, you are most likely to use strict and good form.

In conclusion, it is a great tool for causing hypertrophy and stimulating muscle growth.

So, the quick answer is yes, but let’s dig a little bit deeper. Yes, you should add TUT into your workouts since it is a great way to cause muscle hypertrophy and stimulate growth, strength or endurance (depending on what your goal is). It will cause a tremendous amount of metabolic stress and, combined with mechanical tension, you can really benefit from it.

However, you need to keep in mind a couple of things:

  • Your body will adapt to it, so make sure you switch things up every now and then to make sure you keep it on a “guessing” state.

  • Since the main goal of utilizing TUT is increasing muscle growth, you should do it mostly while bulking, not while cutting, since the lack of nutrients won’t allow optimal growth. Not saying you shouldn’t do It while cutting though, just saying that if your goal with TUT is growth, use it while bulking. If you use TUT just as another method to keep your workouts spicy, you can use it independently of what phase you are in.

  • Ultimately, what really matters for growth is the amount of work done on every session, aka training volume.

  • It is just another tool you can use to progress, avoid plateaus and stimulate muscle growth.

What is my recommendation? Whether you are bulking/cutting/maintaining, you can add it perfectly to your workouts, since, again, it is just another tool to get the most out of your trainings and keep your body in an adaptation state. However, I wouldn’t use it for every single set, since 1: you would only be optimizing type I muscle fibers growth stimulus, while not providing type II muscle fibers and intermediate muscle fibers (fast oxidative-glycolytic fibers) the same amount of attention/work and; 2, you will be dead by the third exercise…

That’s it for today’s post!! If you have any doubt, question, suggestion or constructive critic, please do not hesitate to let it in the comments section or using my social media.

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See you in the next one! :)


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