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Understanding Time Under Tension Training

When scrolling the internet for new training ideas you may have come across four numbers accompanying a particular exercise. Eg (4:2:1:0) But what do these numbers mean and how important are they?

As a personal trainer at Studio Athletica Bondi Junction I’m always pushing my clients to challenge themselves more and more and experimenting with time under tension is a great way to do it.

Time under tension or TUT training refers to how long the muscle is under tension during each repetition. Slowing your reps down and placing the muscle under load for longer increases the difficulty and improves form by reducing momentum allowing you to better isolate the target muscles to develop a better and more effective mind muscle connection.

Imagine doing 10 repetitions at your standard pace, generally you lower your weight down and explode up during the contraction wait a second and lower the weight back down resulting in about 3 seconds per rep, 30 seconds per set with 10 of those seconds spend in an easy portion of the rep. These are valuable seconds that could be better spent working and growing your muscles!

Now check out the examples below, each of these reps will take 7 seconds, by the time you have completed your 10 reps you would have spent a whopping 70 seconds under tension with zero seconds resting. Your muscles will be challenged far more incorporating this technique into your training.

Now let’s take a look at the basics and break it down:

*Barbell Squat, 4 Sets, 10 Reps (4:2:1:0)

*Bicep Curl, 4 Sets, 10 Reps (4:0:1:2)

“Barbell Squat” and “Bicep Curl” is the exercise you are performing.

“Sets” is how many times you perform the designated amount of reps.

“Reps” are the amount of times you perform the movement.

The Numbers “(4:1:1:0)”

1st Number: How many seconds the negative portion or the eccentric contraction of the movement takes Eg: When you are lowering down into a squat or when you are lowering the barbell down during a bicep curl.

2nd Number: How many seconds you pause on the stretch Eg: Holding down at the bottom of a squat or the part where your arms are completely straight during a bicep curl.

3rd Number: How many seconds the positive portion or the concentric contraction of the movement takes Eg: When you are pushing back up into your standing position of a squat or when you are lifting the barbell back up during your bicep curl.

4th Number: How many seconds you pause on contraction Eg: When you have completed your squat and you are standing upright or when you are holding the barbell up towards your shoulders during your bicep curl.

Looking at the two examples above they both have different timings but a similar feel.

*Barbell Squat, 4 Sets, 10 Reps (4:2:1:0)

*Bicep Curl, 4 Sets, 10 Reps (4:0:1:2)

Barbell Squat: When you are at the top of your squat this is when the rep will feel its easiest, in fact many people use this time for a little rest. As a personal trainer I like to minimise this portion so that once the hips complete the movement and you get a full contraction of the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps, instantly lower back down into the eccentric/negative portion of the rep. In the example above you will lower back down for 4 seconds. This way all the leg muscles are under complete load for the whole 10 reps.

Bicep Curl: Like the squat example above the bicep curl also has an easier portion or opportunity to rest. However this isn't at the top on full contraction but down the bottom when the arms are completely straight, in the example above you would spend 0 seconds here contracting straight back up.

During your session it’s always a good idea to have your personal trainer or training buddy to count out loud keeping a steady pace so that you don't start to speed your count up as you get more and more fatigued.

Like any type of training this is just one small aspect of a larger training program and it’s always a good idea to vary your exercise plan, not just week to week but during your session as well. This way you can you will be sure to work short and long twitch muscle fibers with different rep ranges and resistance levels.

If you’re unsure exactly about how you can add diversity to your workout regime checkout your training options with a personal trainer at Studio Athletica Bondi Junction.

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