Richard Webb doing Leg Press

Use Time Under Tension (TUT) to Build Muscle

Lifting heavy has it’s place, and in fact it was once thought to be the only way to grow muscle mass. However, research has shown you can increase muscle mass without lifting heavy and taxing your joints. Increasing muscle mass is important because the higher your muscle mass the more efficiently your body burns fat.

Time Under Tension (TUT)

Super slow repetitions using lower weight (65-70% of a 1 rep max) where you keep the muscle fully engaged in a single set for 40 seconds or more is referred to Time Under Tension (TUT). Keeping the muscle under tension means no resting between reps and absolutely no locking out which allows muscles to rest.  Slowing the repetitions down to 4 or 5 seconds on ascending and 4 or 5 seconds on descending (yes, that’s 8 to 10 seconds per rep) completely takes momentum out of your movement. TUT also maximizes your efforts on training the muscle without undo stress on the joints.

There’s a sweet spot between going heavy enough, but not too heavy and focusing on the duration (TUT). I target 8 to 12 reps, and I manage the weight simply by how many reps I can get in using a 5 count for each part of the movement. The reps continue until momentary muscle failure…meaning you absolutely cannot do another rep with good form. If I’m unable to do 8 repetitions, I drop down 10 to 20% of the weight. If I am able to do 12 or more, I increase the weight by 10 to 20%.  All exercises need to be either on machines or monitored by a spotter. Since I prefer to workout alone, I generally will focus on using machines knowing that I can go to failure while keeping good form and safety in mind. Given this formula, my sets generally take at least 80 seconds to complete. That may seem like a long time, but I only do one set per body part in a workout.

Benefits to slowing your reps down. Specifically, TUT:

  • Reduces impact to joints and focuses workout on the muscles. No momentum is used, and very good form followed to maximize work on the targeted muscles.
  • Reduces necessary workout time.  What takes longer to do: 3-4 sets of heavy reps with 2 to 3 minutes rest in between, or one set for 80 seconds? Seriously, I’m in and out of the gym in less than an hour after warmup and doing a full body workout.
  • Releases more growth hormone. Generally, the longer the time under tension, the more growth hormone released.
  • Increases metabolism faster. Keeping the muscle under duress for a longer duration (compared to normal heavy lifting) creates more micro tears in the muscle fiber. This makes the body work harder to repair during rest.
  • Recruits both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers. At the beginning of the set, the slow twitch fibers are primarily used, but as fatigue sets into the muscle the fast twitch fibers take over. As a result, you get growth in both.

Time Under Tension is the key to the weight training I write about in my book, “Fat Burning Secrets“, which is available in PDF format from this site or buy it on Kindle from Combining TUT with the right cardio and diet is the most efficient and effective way to stay in shape and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

As always, I encourage you to join the conversation by commenting on this post.

Good health to you,



  1. “Why Time Under Tension is Important for Seeing Best Results” by: Martin Bolduc (
  2. “New Research: Light Training for Huge Gaining” by Steve Holman & Jonathan Lawson (
  3. “The Need for Speed: Accelerate Your Muscle Growth by Manipulating the Speed of Your Reps” by Jim Stoppani (
  4. “Stimulate More Muscle Growth” by Christian Thibaudeau (
  5. The New High Intensity Training” by Ellington Darden, PH.D.


Richard Webb is an entrepreneur, fitness author of Fat Burning Secrets, bodybuilder, blogger of fitness & technology, and a digital nomad working mainly from Mexico and travels frequently to Texas and California. He has 25 years experience working in software technology, so he truly considers himself as an unusual combination of bodybuilder-tech nerd.


  1. Reuben McDaniel Reply

    I have tried this Time Under Tension and it is truly intense and efficient if you can get the reps up to 10 seconds. I have never worked so hard to just get one set. Do you have a full body workout recommendation? I am thinking that I can get my workouts down to 30-45 minutes a day with TUT and HITT aerobics.

  2. Richard Webb Post author Reply

    Reuben, thanks for your comments. Actually, yes, I have a complete plan in my book, “Fat Burning Secrets.” You can buy it here on this site in PDF form, or you can get it on Amazon Kindle. Links are in the post above. I appreciate any and all feedback and wish you luck.


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