Building on my prior post on Tempo, Time Under Tension (TUT) is the next step in creating more targeted training programs. By having a goal TUT, we can target the specific training quality we want, whether it be power, strength, hypertrophy, or endurance.

Time under tension is, as it sounds, the amount of time you spend working against the exercise load. What is important to realize is that the exact repetition and set prescription can have drastically different stimuli depending on the tempo.

The general rule of thumb is that shorter sets with faster tempos will incur more neurological stimuli like speed, power, and relative strength. In comparison, longer sets will be more metabolic such as hypertrophy and buffering capacity.

Time Under Tension (TUT) Guidelines

  • Power + Relative Strength
    • 1 – 12 seconds
    • Mostly Neurological
  • Absolute Strength 
    • 12 – 25 seconds
    • Neurological with some Hypertrophy
  • Myofibril Hypertrophy
    • 25 – 40s seconds
    • Mostly Hypertrohpy – Actin and Myosin
  • Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy
    • 40-70 seconds
    • Mostly Hypertrophy – Muscle Cross-Sectional Area
  • Endurance
    • >70 seconds
    • Metabolic – Buffering capacity

Example – 5 Repetition Set

Typically, a five rep set is typically seen as a mix of strength and some hypertrophy. The perfect example is its use in the classic Reg Park 5×5 program.

*Note – x indicates explosive intent – as fast as possible!

Target Stimulus Tempo TUT
Power 1,0,x,0 ~7 seconds
Relative Strength 2,1,x,0 ~15 seconds
Absolute Strength 2,1,1,0 25 seconds
Myofibril Hypertrophy 3,0,3,0 35 Seconds
Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy 5,2,1,0 40 seconds
Muscular Endurance 14,0,1,0 75 seconds

Once you begin to adjust the duration of your training sets, you can see how there are infinite ways to progress and change an exercise. You’re not simply limited to load, volume, or intensity. Sometimes, things just need a bit more TUT.

Troy Wilson

Wilson Kinetic Health, MScKin, PKin, Team Canada Athlete, RockTape Ambassador