Time under Tension Training

Time under Tension Training

There almost seems to be as many ways to do weight training as there are internet gurus out there. If you listen to those that seem to shout the loudest, there is only one real way to build muscle and it just happens to be the one that they espouse.

Fundamentalism is an inherent part of human evolution, so it is not surprising that we find it in Bodybuilding/strength training as well. In this near infinite universe that we live in there is NOT only one way to live, there is not one way to cook a meal and there is definitely more than one way to build a more muscular body. The reason why so many great bodybuilding champions and general gym enthusiasts over the years have built amazing physiques using such a varied array of training styles is that there are many different factors that affect muscle growth. Different muscle fibre types, different hormones and natural compounds (testosterone, Insulin, IGF-1, creatine, Follistatin, etc) and multiply genes all contribute to the overall growth and repair of muscle and each style of training aligns differently to each of these growth factors.

This is not to say that there are no basic rules and that almost anything goes. Some methods are more effective than others in reaching specific goals. If you want to be a power lifter for example you  will need to focus predominately on heavy weights and lower reps. What I’ve been seeing a lot of lately by several well-meaning intellectual Muppets is that heavy lifting is the only way to build new muscle tissue.

Lifting heavy really does have its place. If you can add 10kg to the bar over time while retaining perfect form then no doubt about it, your muscle mass will increase. But we just can’t add weight to the bar every workout otherwise we would all be benching 1000kg by the end of next year (not going to happen). One of the techniques often used to compliment heavy basic lifting is the time under tension technique. Initially your weights may have to drop in order to utilise Time under Tension properly, however this will only be an issue for those who bind their identity to the amount of weight they lift and weights will gradually increase anyway.


This training principle has been around for many a decade and has served millions of people faithfully in adding quality muscle. There are several reasons why this style of training initiates growth, ranging from increasing natural testosterone production to better nutrient saturation in the target muscles. One of the least known factors that makes Time Under Tension incredibly effective is the upregulation of localised IGF-1. IGF-1 (Insulin like growth factor 1) is responsible for most of the positive effects of Growth Hormone. Growth Hormone is signals IGF-1 production, then IGF-1 goes about it’s business in repairing muscle and connective tissue while.

Here is the cool part. Time Under Tension Training, where each set is 40 seconds or longer produces a lot of lactic acid. The Lactic acid tends to cleave the last 3 amino acids off an IGF-1 molecule, which would normally render most molecule useless. However the resulting molecule,  des(1-3)IGF-1, is about 10 times more effective than the original. Bottom line is that the huge lactic acid burn/pump that you get from time under tension training super-charges the growth factors produced in the muscle. Plus the huge pump forces more nutrients into the trained muscle.


Heavy weights are great, Time Under Tension is great so why not do both in the same work-out. Check out this routine with a thorough warm-up followed by heavy 5×5 training and finished off with 2 Time Under Tension exercises.


Warm-up Bench 30-45 seconds 1:1:1 3 x 12-15
Bench Press 90-150 seconds 2:1:1 5 x 5
Incline Dumbbell Press 45-60 seconds 5:0:1 3 x 12
Flat Dumbbell Flyes 45-60 seconds 5:0:1 3 x 12


Note: 5:0:1 is 5 seconds lowering the weight, zero pause at the bottom position and 1 second in the lifting phase. Notice also, how the bench press has a 1 second pause sitting on the chest similar to power-lifting competitions. 

There is a whole world of variety with weight training styles, get among it and see which ones work well for you. Hit a plateau with your current routine? Get a new training plan here to get you back on track




Back to blog