TUT, or Time Under Tension, is an extended set technique that’s been around since the 90s. Many lifters swear by it. It currently seems to be gaining in popularity. So, What Is TUT? In this article, we answer that question and determine the best ways to use this technique in your workouts.
TUT is simply how long your muscles are under tension in an exercise. The optimal time you should try to maintain tension on your working muscles is 40-60 seconds. Performing reps in this way maximally incorporates the factors attributed to muscle growth. These include muscle fiber damage, mTOR activation, which leads to protein synthesis stimulation, and fatigue. How does fatigue contribute to muscle growth? By promoting fast-twitch muscle fiber recruitment and forcing the muscles to use more force to complete your reps.(1)
How To Apply TUT To Your Workout
Before we dive into this section, let’s be clear. You should work every set hard. Knocking out a quick 10-12 reps and stopping when you could easily do another 5-6 reps will not cut it. Your last rep should be near impossible to complete, and then you should look for ways to extend the set.
Now, there are a few ways to approach using this technique. First, to take advantage of TUT, we need to hit at least 40 seconds per set. To achieve that, some lifters set a timer for a predetermined length and perform their reps until the timer goes off. A better way is to manipulate the rep tempo. For those of you following our 6-Week Training Program, the tempo used in the routines will work here.
TUT And Rep Tempo
Let’s break it down and see where we stand. Here’s our tempo: 2-0-4. That’s 2 seconds on the concentric phase, no pausing at the turnaround, and 4 seconds on the eccentric phase of the rep. That means each rep lasts 6 seconds. If you perform 8 reps, that’s a time under tension of 48 seconds. So, that’s just over the minimum suggested mark of 40 seconds. Yet, there’s room to work with, especially if you want to maximize this technique and go for a full 60 seconds per set.
How To Increase TUT
There are a few ways to increase your time under tension. They are as follows.
Add Static Holds
The most obvious way to increase TUT is to add a static hold or pause near the turnaround. For example, if we add a 1-second pause at the fully stretched position just before the turnaround, we now have a 7-second rep. It’s also a 56-second set. Of course, you can play with the length of the static hold and easily go beyond 60-second sets. Additionally, you can add these anywhere along the range of motion. Yet, holding the stretch near the turnaround promotes protein synthesis, so make sure you use static holds in this position first.(2)
Of course, forced reps are a great way to extend a set when you’ve taken it as far as you can on your own. The key is to have a training partner that applies just enough help to allow you to knock out another few reps. Too much help and your partner’s doing all the work. Not enough, and you aren’t working hard enough.
Don’t have a training partner? No problem.
At the end of a set, when you can’t do another complete rep, knock out as many partial reps as you can. Any extended set technique like partials or forced rep keeps the tension on the muscles longer. When the goal is to maintain TUT as long as possible, these techniques can make all the difference.
5% Nutrition Supplement Suggestions
You need the proper supplement arsenal whenever you’re working tough sets that push past failure. After all, many lifters knock out a prescribed rep number and stop, whether or not the set was hard. That’s not what we’re doing here! Using a technique like TUT, you’re about to find out what hard work is all about.
That means you need a great pre-workout, such as Kill It Reloaded. Add Full As F*ck to really drive the pump. You can also add ADYM to stay in an anabolic state while you train. Finally, you’ll want Real Carbs + Protein, or Real Carbs and Shake Time immediately after your workout. After a routine like this, you’ll need to recover, which begins the minute your workout ends.
TUT is one more technique you can use to push your muscles harder. Variety was one of the hallmarks of Rich’s approach to training. That’s an approach that worked well for Rich, and it can work well for you. If you decide to add it to your training arsenal, don’t forget your 5% Nutrition supplements!
- Burd, N. A., Andrews, R. J., West, D. W., Little, J. P., Cochran, A. J., Hector, A. J., Cashaback, J. G., Gibala, M. J., Potvin, J. R., Baker, S. K., & Phillips, S. M. (2012). Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men. The Journal of physiology, 590(2), 351–362. https://doi.org/10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200
- Cheng, J., & Du, J. (2007). Mechanical stretch simulates proliferation of venous smooth muscle cells through activation of the insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology, 27(8), 1744–1751. https://doi.org/10.1161/ATVBAHA.107.147371