1) Increase Time under Tension – Time under tension refers to the amount of time the muscle(s) is being stressed (overloaded) during a set. The muscle should never relax at any time during the entire set. The recommended time under tension per rep is 6 to 10 seconds, 3-5 seconds for the concentric or positive movement and another 3-5 seconds for the eccentric or negative. Therefore, if a client sets a rep range between 8 to 12 reps, the time under tension range will be between 48 seconds (8 reps x 6 sec.) and 120 seconds (12 reps x 10 sec.). Example: a client executes 10 perfect reps to MMF on a standing barbell press, with 100 pounds, and the total time under tension was 60 seconds. The recommendation for the next workout would be to stay with the 100 lbs and increase the reps to 11 or 12 and or increase the time under tension to 66-120 seconds. A minimum speed of 6 seconds per rep is acceptable under these guidelines.
The following is an example of a client that performs more reps but actually less work. During Monday’s workout the client uses 100 pounds in the standing barbell press and executes 10 reps in 100 seconds. The average rep speed was 10 seconds. The next workout, two days later, the client uses 100 pounds again in the standing press and performs 12 reps in 60 seconds. The average speed per rep is 5 seconds. This is below the acceptable rep speed guideline for TUT, and was 40 seconds less than the time under tension performed on Monday. The client is convinced that they got stronger due to the fact that they performed two more reps than in the previous workout. However, because the time under tension was 40 seconds less, and the resistance was the same, the client did not increase the overload intensity. The difference was that the client used greater momentum and performed less work (reduced tension) per rep during the set. As a result they actually performed less work. The bottom line is that the T.N.T. Triple progressive overload system requires specific guidelines that must be understood and practiced in order to achieve maximum strength gains and have direct accountability of strength improvement with each set. Accurate records are essential.
Based on the above example, the following is the correct approach: The client should keep the weight at 100 lbs. for the next workout and try to exceed the time of tension, 100 seconds, to failure. This would show accountable strength gains and will ensure that the client does not cheat by adding more momentum to the set.
Most clients are not even aware of their rep speeds and will average 1.5 to 2.5 seconds per rep. Performing reps at that speed will minimize muscle recruitment and limit the client’s ability to maximize strength gains through the full range of motion. I realize that it may not seem practical to use a stopwatch to time every set. However, I do highly recommend that the client and trainer use a wristwatch and or a small metronome to get a rough idea how long each set takes to complete. The client needs to experiment with time under tension because there is a dramatic learning curve that must be experienced if the program is going to be successful.