Time under tension and tempo are key exercise principals that can help you build lean tissue. Understanding how to incorporate them into your fitness routine could help you see the results you want faster. Below we have outlined both time under tension (TUT) and tempo, so that you can use each principal in your next workout.

What is time under tension (TUT)

Commonly used in strength, conditioning and body building, time under tension (TUT) refers to how long a muscle is under strain during a set. Typically, a set of 10 repetitions can take anywhere between 15 to 25 seconds.

Putting your muscles under strain for a longer duration of time can exacerbate muscle breakdown, which basically increases muscle mass over time. For optimum muscle growth, time your sets between 30 to 40 seconds.

Time under tension is the basic principle used to guide the tempo at which you perform each exercise.

What is tempo

Simply put, tempo refers to the speed at which you lift each weight during each repetition of an exercise.

Usually, each weight bearing exercise has a tempo made up of 4 numbers (ex. 3040). These four numbers indicate the eccentric or negative phase, muscle contraction and the pause between the contraction.

  • The first number (3) is the time in seconds that you are suppose to lower the weight after you’ve reached the top of the movement. This is known as the eccentric or negative phase, which indicates the lowering of the weight opposite to the direction of the muscle contraction. Essentially, the eccentric phase is just when the muscle lengthens.
  • The second number (0) indicates the length of the pause between the eccentric phase and concentric phase of the exercise. The concentric phase is when the muscle contracts or shortens.
  • The third number (4) indicates the time in seconds of contraction, or lifting of the weight.
  • The fourth number (0) represents he duration of the pause at the top of the lift or movement. Depending on the exercise, this pause can be an important components of muscle building because tension is also held throughout the duration of the pause.

Tempo can vary depending on the results you want to achieve and the type of exercise you’re performing.

Try integrating these two principals into your weight lifting routine to see the results you want, faster.