"Repetitions vs. Time-Under-Tension"
"Training Goals for a Beginner"
- REPETITIONS VS. TUT
anyone for a breakdown of their weight-training routine and
they will say "X # of sets of X # of repetitions".
BUT, 10 repetitions to one individual may be only 5 repetitions
to another. Take a look at the speed of the person training
next to you. Are the repetitions performed slowly and meticulously?
Are the repetitions "piston-like" (up-down-up-down)?
OR are the repetitions so fast that all you see is blur of
limbs and dumbbells?
various repetition cadences brings me to the topic of this
column: muscle time under tension (TUT). "Time under
tension" (TUT) refers to the time your muscles are actually
working and TUT has become a hot topic amongst strength coaches
and trainers. Most trainers will agree that TUT is important
variable for muscle growth along with weight, # of sets, and
# of reps but TUT is often a neglected variable.
is controlled by repetition TEMPO. The tempo refers to the
speed of movement in the resistance exercise. The lift can
be broken down into 4 phases: the eccentric, a "transition
pause", the concentric, and a second "transition
pause". The eccentric phase is muscle lengthening (i.e.
lowering the bar in the bench press) while the concentric
phase is muscle shortening (i.e. pulling the bar to the chest
in the front pulldown). Most "transition pauses"
should be eliminated from your training because often the
muscle is allowed to rest at this point reducing the effectiveness
of the exercise.
designation of a slow tempo: 4 - 0 - 2 - 0 (4 seconds in the
pause, 2 seconds in the concentric phase, no pause, 4 second
eccentric, etc.). The designation of an explosive tempo: 2
- 0 - X - 0 (2 seconds eccentric, no pause, an explosive concentric
phase, no pause, etc.).
prescribing 10 repetitions (without a consideration to tempo)
to 2 different people could be like prescribing 2 totally
different training programs all together. If "Jeremy
Slow" does his reps with a tempo of 3 - 0 - 2 - 0 it
will require a significantly lighter load than if "Fast
Craiggy" did his reps with a 1 - 0 - 1 - 0 tempo. BUT/,
most importantly, what would be the final outcome of such
a difference in training?
using different movement speeds will elicit different neuro-muscular
responses from the body. I.e.) A slow tempo will increase
the time of tension in the muscle for each rep. If an equal
number of repetitions are used with a fast tempo, the amount
of work will be greater with a slow tempo. Therefore the slow
tempo is associated with programs designed to enhance muscle
fast tempo is beneficial to sport-specific training and incorporates
some explosive movements. Therefore, a fast tempo will train
the neuromuscular system to contract at a faster rate BUT/
may not provide the optimal stimulus for muscle growth (hypertrophy).
The fast tempo is much more specific to sport movements as
few sport movements occur at a slow, controlled tempo.
typical recommendation by most strength coaches for TUT is
between 30-70 seconds for muscle growth (any more or less
is presumed to be less efficient for growth). Sticking with
the TUT recommendation may require a greater focus on exercise
technique and a possible reduction in weight. To maintain
a certain number of repetitions OR TUT the weight may need
to be decreased. Do NOT sacrifice exercise form OR safety
in order to maintain tempo as you approach failure. It is
okay to have a long tempo in the concentric phase in the final
repetitions of each set due to muscle failure.
benefits of slow tempo
increased TUT (when number of reps are equal)
elimination of momentum (therefore more work done by
muscle in each repetition)
possible reduction in injury risk
benefits of fast tempo
of training to sport performance
ability to use a heavier weight (if momentum is minimized, this may compensate for the reduced
there is a greater level of tension)
though, muscle growth can still occur if a set is less than
the previously recommended TUT. For example, powerlifters
train for maximal strength with very heavy weights and few
repetitions (< 5) and still have a lot of muscle growth.
On the other hand, training with lighter weights that allow
a longer TUT will still help increase maximal strength levels.
The longer TUT theoretically promotes more muscle growth,
and more muscle is correlated with greater levels of strength.
The fact is, no one knows exactly how muscle growth occurs
in response to training.
amount of tension on the muscle is probably a key component
to growth. The magnitude of muscle tension is increased through
lifting heavier weights and the volume of muscle tension is
increased through increasing the length of which the tension
is applied (TUT).
you go. That is a lot of information on a previously neglected
topic. Please keep in mind a lot of this information has only
a theoretical basis and hopefully the issue will become clearer
in the future.
- BEGINNER IMPROVEMENTS: WHAT TO EXPECT
2 recent studies, untrained males were placed on an 8-week
resistance-training program (3-6 sessions per week training
the entire body 2-3 times per week). The intensity was moderate
to high (3 sets of 8-10 at 80-85% 1 RM) and the exercises
were performed on machines. What kind of improvements did
the subjects make? What should we tell the eager beginner
resistance trainee to expect when they start lifting weights?
Remember that the program was designed for hypertrophy and
strength gains and not weight loss. Another important note
to make is that the studies used machines! Therefore, any
method of resistance is effective at increasing body mass
in beginner trainers.
body mass increased ~2-4kg
fat decreased ~2-4%
increased ~14% (biceps curl) to 47% (leg curl)
beginning trainer can expect some pretty dramatic increases
in strength and changes in body composition, BUT/ remember
that all good things must end as strength increases slow down
over time. Note the changes in body composition, providing
a pretty good reason to include resistance training in weight-control