T Nation

Time Under Tension Question



I’d like to ask a question regarding the importance of TUT.

I’ve read contrary views but recently as my interest has shifted to hypertrophy and I have read people such as Nick Mitchell, Christian Thibaudeau and Charles Poliquin amongst others, they all stress it’s importance. I watched a video from Athlean-X that stated that the whole point of 12 reps is to cross a 40 second threshold to stimulate hypertrophy.

The more research based texts (I mean publications for general consumption based on research rather than direct research texts) I’ve read seem to state that sacrificing weight to prolong the rep time is counter productive. I also know that super slow seems to be widely discredited.

So, I guess my question is what is the sweet spot? My sets typically take about 20 to 30 seconds, normally the lower, should I be aiming for lighter wesight and either more or longer reps in order to prioritise hypertrophy.

Apologies for the basic nature of the question.

Thanks in advance.


while there probably is a threshold of time under tension you need to be above, there’s been studies that show it’s a cumulative effect.

So using completely arbitrary numbers as an example: say you need 1 minute of TUT to stimulate a growth response, 3 sets of 20 seconds would get you there.

It’s not really something you can look at in isolation, though. Like, I could probably grab a really light dumbbell and do a 3 minute set of lateral raises. I doubt it’ll do much for my shoulder growth though. Using the above example, 3 sets of 20 seconds isn’t going to work unless the weight is challenging.

It’s a piece of the puzzle that has to be factored in like everything else, but really it can just be as simple as if you are doing low reps do more sets, or if it’s higher reps do fewer sets.


I saw that video on my facebook feed where he makes it seem like you’re missing out on a goldmine of massive gains. While not exactly true, it isn’t entirely false either.

You can see different permutations of TUT in the various types of lifting like Olympic/power when they use very fast, low number of reps in a lift, and other applications in things that use slow eccentrics, etc.

Its important for the over all design of a program in that you aren’t going to get 12 reps for 3 sets at x-x-x tempo for hypertrophy, and its a good way to understand that a rep can be broken up into its constituent elements, but there is no magic number, just a given purpose.


Super Slow is super stupid. If you try to raise a Deadlift slow, and it might not come off the floor. Move barbells with bad intentions! Push or pull fast! Lift every weight like it’s heavy. Produce force. Do more sets or more reps for more time under tension.

On the other hand, only a real clown does violent, explosive 1 rep maxes on the preacher curl. The goal of the exercise is peak contraction, and tension on the muscles. Don’t rush it. Isolation exercises on cables, dumbbells or machines (push downs, pull downs, leg curls, calf raises, all manner of curls) with a “guided” path, that you are doing specifically for hypertrophy are good ones to lower slowly, or hold at peak contraction. The weight/reps don’t even have to vary too, too much. Just think about the ROM and squeeze, and TUT will increase in a natural, unforced way.

Lastly, you have to consider ligaments and tendons. They progress slower, and need many, many reps to get worked. So why not do high-high reps with low-low weights and long-long TUTs to work them properly?! Think of a boxer, jumping rope for fast feet. Hundreds and hundreds of fast, short, bouncy reps to build up the ligaments and tendons of the feet ankles and get more springy. Or doing 2 x100 band Pushdowns or band leg curls on an off day. 3 sets of 12 wouldn’t do shit. You need longer exposure (TUT) to the lighter load.

Figure out what you’re trying to do, then use the best weight/speed for that goal. Use a variety of weights, rep/set ranges, speeds or methods of execution. Plan it carefully.


Thanks for all the replies.