As you can see, it is another article with completely illogical combination of subjects. What can I say? I’m just good at this stuff. In all seriousness, these two topics are the result of my recent experimentation. And while the first one is somewhat predictable, the second one may surprise you.
With no further ado, let us get to the first part.
Time Under Tension
I was introduced to the principle of time under tension [TUT] by the works of Charles Poliquin. As I understand, he is the biggest proponent of using this variable in strength training.
The idea behind the TUT principle is simple yet reasonable. It states that sets and reps by themselves can’t give you the exact picture of what trainee does. To get precise, we need to use another variable – repetition tempo (or cadence if you wish).
Let me give you an example. Say, trainee A gets great results in hypertrophy with 5 x 5 set/rep protocol. He is so happy that he persuades trainee B to try it. For the sake of simplicity, let us assume that both trainee A and B have similar genetics and lifestyle, and importantly, both are in caloric surplus. Somehow, trainee B receives no positive results. In fact, he gets further away from his goal of the ultimate muscle mass. He starts drinking a lot, gets involved with bad company, and finishes in a dumpster near New Orleans.
What’s the possible problem? Repetition tempo. Trainee A tried to control the resistance as much as possible and spent around 5 seconds on every rep, which gives us a total of 125 seconds per exercise (5 x 5 x 5 sec). Trainee B was always in a rush and gave any repetition no more than 2 seconds. This adds up to a total of 50 seconds per exercise. This example shows us how two persons can do 5 x 5 completely differently and thus get different results.
Does Time Under Tension Matter?
In short, yes. Reread the above example. In what universe should it not matter? However, I believe that there are times when the TUT principle is applicable and there are times when it is not.
You can use the TUT principle:
– to increase strength in simple motor pattern exercises (Barbell Squats, Bench Presses, Military Presses, etc.).
– to increase muscle mass, again, using simple motor pattern exercises.
You should not use the TUT principle:
– with complex motor pattern exercises. Well, not until you can nail at least 6 repetitions without thinking about tempo.
– with advanced calisthenics moves like Planche Push-Ups, again, because of the same reasons. To use rep tempo, you should be VERY familiar with the movement pattern. You should be able to perform the exercise in the middle of the night with closed eyes.
– with explosive exercises. You just can’t perform them correctly without going as fast as you can.
Furthermore, I believe that the total time under tension [TTUT] principle can be even more significant than the ordinary TUT. It is the same thing as with the Most Flexible Set/Rep Scheme. If you are doing, say, 3 sets of 6 and spend 5 seconds per repetition, your TTUT equals 90 seconds (3 x 6 x 5 seconds). You can try to achieve similar effect with any rep/set scheme and some math. For example, 90 seconds / 5 sets = 18 seconds. 18 seconds / 6 reps = 3 seconds per rep. This leaves us with 5 sets of 6 3-second reps. Additionally, again, like with the FSRS, there is no need to follow exact, set-in-stone sets and reps. You can accumulate time under tension to the number you are after.
Before moving forward, I think it is important to break down the common repetition tempo notation. Usually, you can see something like “3121” or “40X0”. What do these numbers mean?
The first number is the amount of seconds devoted to the negative part of the exercise (lowering the weight down). The second represents the amount of seconds you hold the weight at the bottom. The third one is the positive part (moving the weight up). And the fourth is the amount of seconds you hold the weight in the top position.
“X” means “as fast as possible”. For the sake of simplicity, I tend to count “X” as one when adding up a total amount of seconds of the repetition.
For example, 50X1 for the Bench Press means:
– lower the weight for 5 seconds;
– do not hold it in the bottom, immediately reverse the move;
– press the weight as fast as possible;
– hold it on top for one second.
Use this cadence for desired amount of reps.
How to Use Time Under Tension Principle in Your Training?
– sets of 20 seconds and less are good for increasing relative strength;
– sets of 40 seconds and more are good for increasing muscle mass.
– sets of 20-40 seconds are a cross-section.
Keep in mind that the more reps you perform per set, the more your work is biased toward hypertrophy. The less reps you do, the more it is strength work.
For example, if your goal is hypertrophy, you should be fine with 3 sets of 8 reps. Your sets should take at least 40 seconds. Let’s go with this number. Thus, one rep should take 5 seconds (40 seconds / 8 reps). Your rep tempo can be 30X1. As simple as that.
And one more tip. With all this counting, it can be hard not to get confused about how many reps you have performed. My solution is to say out loud the repetition you are doing during the positive phase. All the other counting should be done without any sound.
The TUT Challenge
Here is a challenge for you. Use the TUT or TTUT principle with one of the exercises in your current training routine. After 4 weeks, let me know how it worked. You should have more strength, muscle, or both.
That is it for the first part of this article. Let’s get to the second one.
A Natural Remedy for Your Joints
NOTE: I don’t know how, but it works.
I have done all sorts of crazy stuff with my training. The body was O.K. with it most of the time. Yes, I had injuries, my elbows were killing me with this tendinitis thing, etc. Nevertheless, I somehow managed to avoid any chronic pains until the fall of 2013. That’s when I was rewarded with nice pain in my left knee-joint. I dropped squatting for some time, but nothing seemed to help. Then I had a conversation with a drummer of my former band. It turned out that he also suffered joint pain and managed to defeat it with gelatin. Yes, you got it right.
Gelatin – a virtually colourless and tasteless water-soluble protein prepared from collagen and used in food preparation, in photographic processing, and for making glue.
You can buy it in any food store.
After that conversation, I searched the web for some time and found out how to use it. In 10 days, my knee pain went away. Everything cost me some discipline and consistency, as well as 8 UAH (~$1).
Additionally, lots of people find Glucosamine/Chondroitin mix effective in fighting joint pains, although I never tried it.
How to Use It?
The protocol is simple. At the evening, dissolve 5 grams of gelatin in 100 ml of water. In the morning, add 100 ml of boiling water and drink this stuff on an empty stomach. Repeat for 10 days. Then rest for 10 days. Make a total of 3 such 20-day cycles and, hopefully, your joint pain should go away.
That’s it for now. Use tempo variable in your training if it suits your circumstances and goals. Get some good old gelatin if your joints are killing you. And thanks for reading.
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Do you have any thoughts? Let’s chat in comments.
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