Utilization of Time Under Tension (TUT) in Resistance Training

Utilization of Time Under Tension (TUT) in Resistance Training

Strength and resistance training at home

During these unprecedented times, many of us are struggling to find ways to maintain or improve our strength gains while at home and without equipment. Although nothing will compare to our anxiously awaited return to the gym, we would like to share some insight on different ways you can challenge your muscles while at home and with minimal equipment! 

First, we will cover some of the basics of resistance training. During any single lift there are two phases of the movement, a concentric phase and an eccentric phase. The concentric phase is the active contraction of the muscle, which causes muscle shortening, and the eccentric phase is the slow controlled lowering of that muscle to it’s lengthened state or starting position. During both phases of the movement, muscle fibers produce force actively through the formation of actin and myosin crossbridges. During the eccentric phase, muscles also produce force passively through the resistance to the muscle being stretched. These various phases cause changes in both the muscle diameter and the length of the muscle fibers – AKA bigger muscles! 

There has been various research over the years to determine the best and most effective way to train our muscles. Guidelines have been published in regards to different amounts of sets and repetitions for achieving strength, endurance, and hypertrophy. More recently studies have looked at how the amount of time spent focusing on each repetition of an exercise can affect the size of the muscle itself and the resulting strength gains. This is more commonly referred to as Time Under Tension (TUT).

What is TUT?

Essentially, TUT refers to how long a muscle is under strain during a certain set of an exercise. For example, a typical set of 10 repetitions may take an individual anywhere between 15-20 seconds depending on lifting speed. The goal of TUT would be to increase this time to anywhere from 30-60 seconds per set to ensure your muscles are achieving enough of a stimulus to promote changes in size. As with any exercise, this amount of time – also referred to as tempo – will change with what your personal goals are. 

Tempo is a concept that utilizes a 3 number sequence where the first number represents the length of the eccentric portion of an exercise, the second number is the length of pause in the stretched position, and the third number is the length of the concentric portion.6 For example, if you are performing a squat your tempo could be 3/1/1 where you are lowering for 3 seconds, pausing for 1 second, and lifting for 1 second which would equate to roughly 5 total seconds per repetition. These numbers can be adjusted based on your training goals. For example, if you are training for hypertrophy you would perform 8-12 repetitions at 30-60 seconds TUT. If you are training for power, you would only perform about 2-4 repetitions at 10-15 seconds TUT. Training at various speeds can help to promote faster muscle growth and therefore tempo should be varied to help the body adapt and respond to different stimuli.6

A few tips for achieving this increased time per set:

  • Try to maintain a steady tempo. You ideally want to maintain a tempo around 4/0/2 (lowering, pause, lifting). This allows you to spend more time on the eccentric portion of the movement which requires more control from the muscle you are working.
  • Avoid pausing in the middle of a repetition. This is often the easiest portion of the movement and will not give you the strength gains that you desire. 
  • If necessary, decrease your weight in the middle of your set in order to maintain proper form and to complete the full set. 
  • Maintain a high intensity (this is the part that will be more difficult to achieve at home). For maximal strength gains using weight that is roughly 60% of your 1 rep maximum (RM). Another way to increase intensity is to decrease the amount of rest between sets.

What are the benefits of TUT?

While there are many benefits to utilizing TUT throughout your training routine, some of the more widely accepted benefits include: 

  • Stressing a muscle for longer periods of time and to total fatigue, will create greater muscle fiber recruitment. Muscle fibers are recruited from smallest to largest, so by maintaining a longer muscle contraction, you are therefore recruiting more large or fast twitch muscle fibers which are used for building larger muscles or muscular hypertrophy.1-6
  • Allows a focus on maintaining motor control and ensuring proper form during lifting by emphasizing slow and steady movements. This gives your body the chance to pause and adapt to the movement being performed which helps with muscle memory.
  • Adding an increased challenge to your workouts requiring your muscles to work in ways that they haven’t before. Simply pausing during a workout or performing a bodyweight exercise as slow as possible can make you feel sore the next day!

For more tips on resistance training and increasing your muscle strength, please click here to contact our office and make an appointment today!


  1. Burd, N.A., Andrews, R.J., West, D.W., Little, J.P., et al. Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub‐fractional synthetic responses in men. J Physiol, 590: 351-362. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200
  2. Cintineo, Harry P.; Freidenreich, Daniel J.; Blaine, Caitlin M.; Cardaci, Thomas D., et al. Acute Physiological Responses to an Intensity and Time-Under-Tension Equated Single vs. Multiple-Set Resistance Training Bout in Trained Men. J. Strength Cond. Research: 2018; 32(12):3310-3318. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002872
  3. Lacerda, Lucas T.; Martins-Costa, Hugo C.; Diniz, Rodrigo C.R., et al. Variations in Repetition Duration and Repetition Numbers Influence Muscular Activation and Blood Lactate Response in Protocols Equalized by Time Under Tension. J Strength Cond. Research: 2016; 30(1): 251-258. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001044
  4. Tran QT, Docherty D. Dynamic training volume: a construct of both time under tension and volume load. J Sports Sci Med. 2006;5(4):707-713. Published 2006 Dec 15.
  5. Tran, Q.T., Docherty, D. & Behm, D. The effects of varying time under tension and volume load on acute neuromuscular responses. Eur J Appl Physiol: 2006; 98(1): 402–410. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-006-0297-3
  6. Wilk M, Golas A, Stastny P, Nawrocka M, Krzysztofik M, Zajac A. Does Tempo of Resistance Exercise Impact Training Volume?. J Hum Kinet. 2018;62:241-250. Published 2018 Jun 13. doi:10.2478/hukin-2018-0034

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