Hit a muscle-building plateau? Getting bored with training? If you want to add some size, here is a method I have used with athletes ranging from the likes of Branch Warren to the weekend warrior. This method is not for the weak of heart but it's brutally effective. You will be testing yourself mentally and physically.

If you follow the outlined routine, your diet has to be on point and you need to supplement with carbohydrates and protein post workout. You will be breaking your muscles down as well as vastly depleting glycogen stores because of the intensity and duration of the sets.

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The Theory

For some time now, there has been talk of muscle hypertrophy not relating to rep ranges but to the duration of the set. A recent study from McMaster University in Canada published in the Journal of Physiology concluded prolonged muscle contraction was the most important variable for increasing muscle size. The study compared light loads using a tempo of one second up and one second down or using slow reps of six seconds up and six seconds down. The study concluded the slow reps were superior because of the prolonged time the muscle was under tension.

When we turn to the arm chair academics of the Ivory Tower for serious muscle-building advice, we have to take it with a grain of salt. Certainly, science needs to be the guiding light for training, but studies can have flaws, particularly because they're designed by folks that have never trained seriously.

This particular study compared explosive repetitions and slow repetitions with 30 percent of the subject's one rep max. No one serious about getting stronger or packing on as much muscle as possible is doing 30 percent of their one rep max for serious work sets. To put it in perspective, that would mean if you bench press 200 pounds, you would workout with 60 pounds with a goal of packing on serious muscle. It ain't going to happen.

Influencing Muscle Growth

Let's look at the training factors that influence muscle growth:

Mechanical Tension is related to exercise intensity (the amount of weight you are lifting); in other words, to get big you have to train heavy. Eight-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney once said, "The key to building massive, powerful muscle is to doggedly increase the training weights you use." Science anecdotal evidence backs Haney and common sense says when a bodybuilding icon like Haney speaks on building muscle, we should all listen.

Muscle damage is associated with muscle soreness, this inflammatory response aids in the muscle building process. Of course, assuming the lifter recovers properly.

Metabolic Stress is a result of the byproducts of anaerobic metabolism in the 30-60 second range of set duration (i.e., hydrogen ions, lactate, inorganic phosphates). In other words, lifting all-out for this duration of time, scientists believe, causes a hormonal response that will illicit the greatest muscle growth.
The previously mentioned study isn't pure hogwash, but it only sheds light on metabolic stress. Let's look at how we can maximize time under tension training, keeping in mind mechanical tension, muscle damage and metabolic stress.

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Time Under Tension (TUT)?

Time under tension training is simply performing the maximum amount of reps in the specified time, with maximum intensity. Step on the gas! Light weight need not apply, this is a sprint not a marathon.

Follow the below guidelines TUT
  1. Control the negative reps and explode on positives.

  2. The goal is to keep the weight moving, if you reach momentary muscular failure (MMF) continue with partials. DO NOT DROP THE WEIGHT!!

  3. Start with weights you can do for a true rep max of 8-12 reps, shoot for 10-15 included partial contractions.

  4. On each set, reduce load by approximately 1/3, so if you start with 90 pounds, set two would be with 60 pounds and set three with 40 pounds.

  5. This technique is very high intensity, do it for a maximum of three to four weeks before taking a light week.

  6. Weekly progression can be add 5-10 seconds per set, keeping the rest interval the same or keep the time constant but increase weight.

  7. Use primarily bilateral movements (ones that use two limbs); dumbbell movements would be with both limbs contracting simultaneously. There are exceptions to this rule, it is majority of the time not all the time. You will see tow effective unilateral movements below.
The Routine

Here is a three day week time under tension routine designed for someone with minimal time but who is willing to put out maximal effort for training. These routines only work if you put fourth an all-out effort.

Routine Guidelines
  • Superset exercises are performed consecutively.

  • Each exercise is maximum repetitions for 30 seconds.

  • Take a two-minute break after each superset.

  • If this isn't tough, you aren't giving 100 percent.

Chest and Back TUT Workout

Superset 1 Dumbbell Incline Press Neutral Grip Pull ups
Superset 2 Dips One Armed Dumbbell Rows
Superset 3 Chain Flyes Straight Arm Pulldowns

Leg and Bicep TUT Workout

Superset 1 Leg Press Incline Dumbbell Bicep Curl
Superset 2 Leg Curl Leg Extension
Superset 3 Glute Cable Kickbacks Fat Bar Curls

Shoulders and Triceps TUT Workout

Superset 1 Dumbbell Military Press Dumbbell Reverse
Superset 2 Dumbbell Incline Lateral Raises Overhead Triceps Rope Extension
Superset 3 Front Plate Raises Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Time under tension can be a valuable ally in your muscle-building war. If the war to build the ultimate brick outhouse physique constantly ends in defeat, give this strategy a try! Remember, muscle hypertrophy is a product of muscle damage, mechanical tension and metabolic stress. The time under tension method done with maximum intensity exploits all three hypertrophic mechanisms.

Author Josh Bryant training Cory Matthews in route to his IFBB Pro Card using TUT

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