Time Under Tension, Volume and Weight Used... I'm Confused

I’m not sure if i’m overthinking this, but anyways…

This is something i’ve never really paid attention to, until recently, when I read that for hypertrophy, every set should last at least 40 seconds or so. Preferably around a minute.

This would mean a glacial eccentric phase of 4 seconds and concentric for 2, for a set of 8-12 reps.

I’m currently doing a very high-volume program, in which, for example, on the upper body day I’m doing 5x12 bench press with 60% of my 1RM. But the problem is that no way in hell am I able to complete even one set if it takes me 4 seconds to lower the damn bar at that weight. The best I could do is 12, 8, 5, 4 and 4 reps.

If I took a more regular tempo of 1-0-1-0 or 2-0-1-0 for example, I could complete almost all the sets, BUT the TUT for each individual set (which is the most important variable??) would be just 24-36 seconds, meaning i’m not even in the hypertrophy range. My sets used to always look like that - very short - so I thought that maybe that’s the reason why I haven’t really been able to add any muscle.

And now i’m confused, because this seems to be a major conundrum. Every option I would take seems to have a major flaw, and nothing I could do would be a good option. What the hell should I do then?

  1. Keep the weight, sets and reps the same but lower the TUT per set (lift at a normal, controlled speed), making each set inefficient for stimulating hypertrophy because of their short length and thereby, useless;

  2. Keep the sets and reps the same and the TUT high, but reduce the weight to 30-40%1RM, turning the set into a pointless pump and burn workout;

  3. Keep the weight the same and the TUT high but reduce the sets and reps, removing much of the neccessary volume?

I’d really appreciate if someone here could clarify this for me, thanks in advance

Never liked time under tension for volume.

In the work formula time is a divisor, and increasing it results in a smaller dividend, so if you want to do more work per unit time, move the bar faster.

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This is what I consider high volume.

Don’t worry about TUT. Most of us just need to do the basics. Don’t worry about all this “advanced” stuff.

The driver of muscle growth is failure. If you’re hitting your 5x12 then you need to add weight. 12,12,11,9,8 would stimulate more hypertrophy because you’re hitting failure multiple times.


I don’t know where you read this, or who wrote it, but IMO it is overstated.

Are you happy with your current program? If so, you should just stick with it.

(Don’t know how to quote on these forums, so…)

  1. I heard it from Dan Stopwatch or something on the BB forums. Also numerous other resources.

  2. I’m kinda happy, but since I’m not the type to gain muscle fast, I want to tweak every variable to perfection and that’s the only reason I even began to research TUT and its effects on hypertrophy (ending up being more confused than when I started)


But isn’t taking every single set to failure something that should be avoided, especially as a natty lifter who can’t recover as fast? I usually only ever take the last set to failure, AND only if it’s isolation work…

Sounds like you’re worrying too much about small details, my man. It won’t kill you to go to failure and it won’t stunt your growth to leave a rep in the tank


There are almost no goals in which executing an intentionally slow concentric is better than executing an intentionally fast concentric

Do you think Arnold, Ronnie, Lee Haney, Dorian or Phil ever worried about TUT? Sure, they were all on gear, but 99% of the rules are just the same.

Lift heavy, lift safely, lift intensely and don’t sweat the small stuff. The important thing is to strive to make progress and be consistent.

I usually find that a major contributing factor in why people can’t add muscle is poor nutrition.


Personally I would focus more on TUT, failure, intensifiers etc if my volume was lower

High volume? Just get those reps in and keep that log book burning


The vast majority of unsuccessful lifters–and as a gym rat for 40+ years, I’ve seen a fair number–do not work hard enough, plain and simple. And given you describe yourself as “not the type to gain muscle fast,” chances are you fall into that camp. So as mentioned by several respondents already, stop obsessing over details and work harder. Take at least half of your non-warmup sets to failure, and take at least half of those past failure via forced reps, drop sets, etc.


Others have already covered it pretty much but personally i dont worry about tut much either. I believe in controlling the negative portion to some extent, and i believe that theres a time and place for intensifiers/failure ect. At times when i favor volume, i dont go for intensifiers as much but i like throwing a little in still. Not every factor is going to be perfect but if you can do the major things reasonably well (train hard, eat intelligently, and get a decent amount of sleep) you will make gains. The minor stuff doesnt matter as much as you think.