Varying the tempo on an exercise to manipulate the time under tension (TUT) is an excellent tool for building muscle and busting plateaus. It is also a great trick for making your in-home workouts more challenging if you are limited to a few lightweight dumbbells.
TUT is commonly used in strength training and bodybuilding as a way of calculating the total amount of work you place on a muscle. It refers to the total time a muscle is under strain during each set.
For example, a typical set of 8 reps on the barbell curl for the average lifter may take about 16 seconds. 1 second to lift the weight, 1 second to lower weight. Most people just move the weight as fast as possible.
However, various studies have shown that slowing the tempo, particularly on the eccentric portion of a movement (the lowering portion when your muscle is slowly elongating) provides a stimulus to the muscle that can trigger adaptations leading to higher rates of protein synthesis and muscle development.
In other words, by putting a muscle under longer bouts of strain, you can cause extensive muscle breakdown leading to greater muscle growth.
Take the same 8 reps on the barbell curl and slow down the eccentric portion (lowering the barbell) to 3 seconds, and now your total time under tension goes from 16 to 42 seconds.
The number of reps and the amount of weight have not changed, yet in the second example, you spent more than double the amount of time under tension. That is the basis of TUT training.
Focus on sets that last for a certain amount of time, based on your training goals while still maintaining good form and full range of motion. You will probably find out that as you slow down the movement, you will need to go lighter in weight or use drop sets to complete the last few reps without stopping.
Committed To Your Health,
Brian Donovan is a certified fitness and nutrition coach, and the founder of Online Fitness Coach – an online fitness program where clients get direct coaching and personalized training and nutrition plans. Coach Brian was voted Chicago’s “Best Personal Trainer” by Chicago Reader magazine, Best Of Chicago 2014 edition. He has been featured in magazines such as Muscle & Fitness, Chicago Reader, Voyage Chicago, Bach Performance, and The Personal Trainer Development Center (PTDC).
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