T Nation

Time Under Tension Parameters

Dr. Darden.
Is there a minimum and a maximum time under tension for muscle growth. I had always been told 45-60 seconds for hypertrophy. But now I am starting to think it is not that simple.

At one time I’d read that there an ideal tul which might vary between individuals and even between body parts in the same individual. I understood that this had to do with orderly recruitment of fibres whereas as slow twitch and medium twitch fibres become exhausted you eventually reach the more adaptable fast twitch fibres. I further understood that if a tul was too long , it gave the slow and/or medium twitch fibres a chance to recover and be recruited again which, in turn , limited the involvement of the fast twitch fibres and would be less than optimal. I believe the variation between individuals and individual body parts had to do with the preponderance of one or more of the fibre types. Dr Darden’s writings have included a method of determining this utilizing 80% of one’s 1RM to determine the tul and or rep range that would provide a 20% inroad. Since then, apparently some studies have suggested that tul was not as relevant as long as failure was reached, it’s assumed that fast twitch fibres have been recruited and results will be the same. This has been hailed as evidence that you can get equal results with lighter weights and workouts can be safer. Now with 30-10-30 and other “backloaded “ variations , it seems that Dr Darden is suggesting that failure is not only unnecessary but even undesirable. So, I eagerly await new book hoping this will be addressed.

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I should add that I’m understanding that what Dr Darden is saying is not that failure should be avoided all the time but that finding ways to create inroad without ALWAYS going to failure can be beneficial to overall recovery

It seems to me that there is too much obsession over time under tension or cadence speed…control the movement, no jerking, swaying or explosiveness, have a smooth turn around, if you feel like you are moving to fast then slow it down…and relax the face, neck and hands


Yes, Ricky, this is what I’m working on now.

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Yes, to all of these guidelines. Thanks.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen these giant guys working out and they seem to be using monsterous weights yet they don’t go to failure and their reps are somewhere in the middle of the rep never going full range and the reps are like one or two seconds up and down, fairly quickly. All I can figure is the key stimulant for them is the heavy weight and short set time , not failure or slow descents or full range of motion. Not at all like I’m used to hearing how to do it properly .

the “giant guys” are literally one in a million… and if you go to a gym, or watch youtube, you mistakenly believe there are many of them… if you go to Walmart, they are almost non-existent… if you watch the NBA you see really tall people, but if you happen to see anyone over 6’ 5" outside of there, he is likely being gawked at… and the latter has nothing to do with them dribbling basketballs, and the former likely does not have as much to do with what they do, as to who their parents were, first and foremost… Boyer Coe, when asked what he did for biceps, said, (paraphrasing), my biceps grow no to matter what I do. That’s not to say that the “giants” don’t have knowledge, but remember, when looking at the “evidence you see” (gym/youtube) to consider the “evidence you don’t see”, (walmart and the countless in the hidden graveyard with injuries as a result of poor form, etc). Just my perspective…

oh, and just to add, I believe Arthur Jones, acknowledged that failure was likely not a requirement, but that it was difficult to measure “almost failure” and so that by going to failure, you could be assured you’d done everything you could to provide an optimal growth stimulus

Right again, Ricky. Thank you.

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Training to failure and training to deep inroad are pretty popular ideas in the HIT world. My recollection was that Arthur Jones thought a certain level of inroad was necessary, but I don’t thing he believed deeper was always better. I associate that way of thinking more with the Super Slow guys (Hutchins & McGuff).

Suffice it to say that not everyone believes that deep inroad and failure are optimal for strength and hypertrophy. Some believe that it unnecessarily taxes recovery, and therefore unproductively limits frequency and volume. As to which school of thought is correct: you probably need to test both for yourself.

I would think that all one would need to do is a little more than the last time and the body would adapt , or try to adapt to get a little stronger, so as to be able to handle it easier? If this time I curled 20 pounds , the next time I curl 21 pounds , the muscles would try and adapt to be able to handle the 21 pounds easier. I don’t see why they would need to be pushed to failure? Just something a little harder than before.

At some point, you don’t adapt, and attempts to progress load will end with failed reps. Then what do you do? That is really where the disagreements start.

== Scott==
Doesn’t that also happen with to failure or forced reps or whatever you do?

It’s no different than trying to get from 19" arms to 21" arms…your genetic potential may not allow you to get there, just like strength, you will eventually reach your potential.

The ONLY Constant is Change!!!
When you hit a wall*, do something else. (*after first making sure you’ve exhausted the best ways do do what you were doing… SSTF, for example)

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== Scott ==
I guess if you get to the point where you have reached failure and you’re not progressing when you keep trying to do another rep then short of pulling out the steroids that’s it or do forced reps or extenders or negative only reps , J reps or whatever goes beyond failure pushes your system to further progress?

== Scott==
So somehow the muscles sense a change of routine and keep growing as a consequence? They know the difference in failure from single set to failure compared to 3 sets to not failure or whatever? The muscles must get bored easily , ha ha .

I was just responding to your statement implying that progression is the simple way to endless gains.

As for what happens when you can’t use simple progression…

Mentzer and others would have said to increase the intensity of the exercise by using forced reps, deeper inroad. Then eat more, do fewer exercises, and train less frequently.

Others would say: stop going to failure, to spare your body unnecessary depletion. Stop short of failure, so that you can train with more volume and more frequency.

So… a disagreement. People have gotten impressive physiques using either strategy. Interesting, but possibly not relevant to everyone.

Of course, at some point you do max out, because there is only some much adaptation your body will allow. At least that was the case before steroids were invented.

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I don’t think I ment endless gains, just until you reached your potential or limit All this stuff is just theory talk that we’ve gone through a hundred times. Working from home I have lots of time to think about this stuff, too much time. I know I’ve brought this same stuff up many times before and I’m sure the same answers will come up again but who knows? It’s an endless argument . ha ha .