Fitness and transformations have so many factors to manage and gets very difficult to juggle all them all. There is training, nutrition, sleep hygiene, stress management and the list goes on. However, there are some factors that we can manage that are not particularly difficult. This is used during lifting sessions and can be manipulated depending on your goals.

How many times do you see guys in the gym trying to pack on muscle mass and they’re quickly cranking out heavy sets of eight to ten repetitions? Then they take a rest period about 3 – 4 minutes long. From the sounds of it, they’re just looking to get a workout in – which is great. But if they want to pack on some serious muscle, they need to utilize one thing. This is time under tension. We will be breaking down what it is and how to maximize this to accelerate you towards your goal. Ask your personal trainer in Richmond.  

So what is time under tension?

When people talking about time under tension they are usually referring to the amount of time your muscles are working during a set. Personally, I would also define it as the time the muscle is worked across ALL sets. For example, if I performed four sets of bench press, my time under tension would be from the first repetition in my first set to the last repetition in my last set. This also includes how much rest you are including between sets. Ask your personal trainer in Richmond BC.

Why is this important? Well simply put, muscles need to be put under tension for an X amount of time in order for adaptations to occur. Muscle need to be put under a stress for them to change. How long do we stress the muscle for? It is proven that the optimal time under tension for muscle growth is between 35 – 45 seconds. In this time range, muscles can obtain the stress required for muscle growth.

However, time under tension is not everything we need to look for during a training session. The total amount of tension is something we also need to consider. If I take building the chest muscle for an example, I can perform four sets of bench press at perfect time under tension. OR I can perform four sets of bench press, four sets of chest flies and four sets of dips. Of course the latter example will give me greater adaptations because I have a greater total amount of tension. I would highly recommend at least 10 – 12 sets of exercises, like the above example, for a targeted muscle. I know this sounds a lot to target one muscle but if you break it up into different movements, it is manageable.

We have been speaking a lot of lifting specifics and how to utilize the time under tension to maximize our gains but what about our rest periods? How can we use our rest periods to achieve greater gains? No not by texting or scrolling on Instagram. Keeping building muscle as our example, we must keep rest periods short in order to maintain our overall time under tension. Remember, time under tension is looked at an overall level from our first to last set.

How long should rest periods be? I would recommend generally 45 seconds to one minute of rest for muscle growth. My recommendations stem from two reasons: ability to maximize performance on the next set and to maintain maximum tension on the muscle. If we have our rest periods too long, it will take off too much tension on the muscle and thus diminish our gains. Ask your personal trainer in Richmond.

Final thoughts

For your next workout, you are trying to pack on muscle, I would recommend considering your time under tension during a set and the total tension across all sets. Think of slowing down the tempo during your lifts for the increased time under tension. You may need to lift lighter for this to work but it is worth it. Also, keep that rest period short. It helps if you have a stop watch or looking at a clock to time it.

Until next time,

Coach Marco