Increasing your time under tension
When you start feeling comfortable with your workout and are considering increasing your weight load, try increasing your time under tension first. Time under tension is the time your muscles spend under strain during a set. Think of a bench press—the time under tension is the movement of pushing the bar up, your pause at the top, and lowering the bar back down. Extending your time under tension is going to make you feel a serious burn that can help you with muscular gains.
Set a consistent tempo for your set. Thinking of the bench press, spend 2 seconds raising the bar, a 1 second pause at the top, and 3 seconds lowering the bar. This takes a lot of muscular control and can cause some serious breakdown and fatigue. This can help boost muscle volume as well as endurance.
You’ll get the best burn by focusing on the negative (or eccentric) portion of your lift. For pull-ups, this would be lowering yourself or for back squats, bending your knees. Take the extra time spent on your set to focus on form. Don’t cheat yourself! The tempo you set for yourself should give adequate time to make sure you’re using proper form and doing a full rep.
Increasing time under tension directly targets type I muscle fibers. Type I muscle fibers (slow twitch) are highly resistant to fatigue compared to type II which produce high force but fatigue far more easily. Increasing time under tension can actually fatigue these resistant type I fibers to achieve muscle growth.
While increasing time under tension can have great benefits, it’s important not to use this as an excuse to drop some serious weight off your lift. These time-extended sets should be completed with 60-80% of your one rep max. If you’re unsure about what weight and time under tension are going to have you reaching your goals, check out M43 Fitness. We have a workout plan just for you, all the equipment you need to succeed, and an activity tracking app to help you see your progress. We promise to have you on the road to fitness.