Time Under Tension is a Waste of Time

It is not uncommon for new lifters to fall prey to buzz words that over complicate or distract them from important training principles. “mind-muscle connection”, “the pump”, “muscle activation”, and “time under tension” are all examples of concepts or ideas elevated to the status of training principles or programming priorities that actually hurt your ability to make progress.

What is Time Under Tension

Time under tension is the amount of time your muscles are involved in an isotonic contraction, or more simply, the cumulative amount of time spent in the concentric, isometric, and eccentric portion of the lift. 

The idea is that the longer you are under strain, the better size gains you will receive. However, this allocates the responsibility for muscle growth to the wrong variable: time.

Muscles grow and get stronger in a variety of different rep ranges, and with heavy or light loads. The research shows that if you lift heavy, you can use less time under tension, but if you use lighter loads you have to be under longer time under tension to compensate.

When time is the variable that you measure, and you read this information you might think “this makes sense? Whats the problem?”

The problem is that time is not the reason why muscles grow, it is the amount of tension you expose them to and progressively increase.

When you lift heavier loads, the reason why you can use less time under tension is because the tension is so high.

If time was the determining factor, then isometric training would be just as effective AND efficient as traditional resistance training taken through a full muscle contraction.

Time under tension misplaces the focus you should have on training. If you do more reps, more sets, more exercises, more frequent training sessions, more regular, consistent training sessions, these all increase time under tension with or without your conscious desire or will to do so. However, if you only focus on increasing the time under tension and not increasing the tension, you will have active sabotaged your own strength and hypertrophy.

As a natural lifter you have to get stronger, if you care about time under tension, then do more reps with the heaviest load you can manage for a particular rep range rather than trying to do 1 rep of a 30s curl.

How You Should Actually Think About “Time Under Tension”

If time under tension were measured properly, it would be measured in years rather than seconds.

If you train hard, meaning you focus on progression because other wise you are just working out or exercising, and you do so for years uninterrupted, you will have accumulated so much time under tension that it will have been impossible for you to be small and weak.

However if you try to measure it in seconds, you will artificially inflate the time you were under tension but also you weren’t even close to using the amount of tension necessary to get bigger and stronger.

Go to the gym or train AT LEAST 3-4 times per week, AT LEAST 48 weeks out of the year, for AT LEAST 5 years and show me your physique.

Be patient, put in the work, the real work not the small details we pretend to be work because “it feels difficult”.

Stand Fast. Stand Strong, Start Where You Stand.