December 8, 2013 damonhayhow

The Real Meaning of ‘Time Under Tension’

Some very smart scientists have described the stimulation of muscle growth to be a function of ‘time under tension’. This phrase has understandably gained enormous popularity in the worlds of bodybuilding and fitness. Unfortunately scientific concepts gaining popularity in bodybuilding and fitness is a bit like knives gaining popularity in a children’s playground. You know they aren’t going to be used for the purpose they were intended!


In the case of ‘time under tension’, the term ‘time’ is the only word fitness professionals and bodybuilders seem to understand. They say that ‘time under tension’ means to lift lighter weights, slowly. It doesn’t! They presume that ‘Tension‘ means any magnitude of ‘tension’. It doesn’t! They seem to think ‘Tension‘ is another ambiguous, meaningless term like ‘fitness’; an amorphous quality with no measure or agreed definition. It isn’t!

Tension‘ does have a definition. A very clear definition. It is a measure of force. It is a term used in Physics to describe a particular type of force. It even has a unit of measure: the Newton (or equivalent).

Newton Forces – including Tension – are calculated with the equation: Mass x Acceleration.

In terms of weight training, the mass is what we refer to as the ‘weight’, obviously. Acceleration is the rate of change of speed of the weight (against gravity).

In the most simple terms: maximum muscular tension is created by lifting as HEAVY a weight as possible, as FAST as possible.

‘time under tension’ is the scientists way of saying that power-bodybuilders had it right all along. Very heavy weights lifted explosively for multiple reps and sets

The ‘Time under tension’ concept says:
hypertrophy stimulation = time x mass x acceleration.

Clearly the idea is to lift as much weight as possible, as acceleratively as possible for as long as possible. The time aspect is increased by doing multiple sets and reps; NOT reducing the other 2 factors in the equation!

Reducing either weight or acceleration reduces force (tension). Reducing BOTH weight and acceleration reduces tension exponentially! Exponentially reducing tension to achieve a fractional increase in time is exactly what the ‘time under tension’ concept says NOT to do in your training!

Basically, ‘time under tension’ is the scientists way of saying that power-bodybuilders had it right all along. Very heavy weights lifted explosively for multiple reps and sets is the key to maximum hypertrophy.

‘Time under tension’ confirms that all these new-age, wimpy-bodybuilders and fitness-saps are wrong, as we all knew. All that poetic, namby-pamby bodybuilder prose about needing to reduce the weight and lift slowly to ‘feel the muscle’ is nonsense! Hypertrophy requires tension which is a tangible, measurable quality! Tension is weight and acceleration, literally! Pretending and lying to yourself that a light weight is heavy by lifting it slowly doesn’t create tension. It exponentially REDUCES tension! And, according to the ‘time under tension’ concept, that exponentially reduces hypertrophy stimulation!

Lighter weights and slower lifting is, by every definition and measure, the most inefficient and ineffective way to train. And thats what ‘time under tension’ really says.

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