Time under tension workouts aim to boost strength and muscle control with a long, slow burn.

Do you spend every workout squeezing in as many reps as possible before your muscles burn out? If so, you might wanna meet the new method in town: Time under tension (TUT).

Think of TUT as the Zen sibling to high intensity interval training (HIIT). Instead of aiming for maximum reps, you aim for longer times in the toughest phase of a movement. Holding your muscles under tension can help stimulate muscle growth without the frenetic pace.

Want to learn more? Here’s the deep dive on why and how to add time under tension training to your routine.

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Javier Díez/Stocksy United

Folks who stan TUT workouts rave most about:

Slowing down helps you focus on proper form and breathing techniques. And that could lead to dope muscle control and more definition. Plus, the better your form, the less likely you are to end up with a strain or injury.

The most important thing is to go slooooow.

The TUT method looks different with each move, but here are some general pointers:

  • Slow down. Whatever the move, do it slower. For example, if you typically do 10 squats in 30 seconds, aim for 10 squats in 90 seconds. Take 5 seconds to slowly squat down, hold for 2, then take 2 seconds to rise. Keep the movements smooth and controlled the whole time.
  • Be safe. TUT is such a great way to perfect form and alignment. BTW, your muscle response might feel different than it does at warp speed. Slow burn, baby, slow burn.
  • Start low. With TUT, there’s no momentum on your side. Start with lighter equipment than usual. As endurance increases, so can the weight.
  • Prepare for fatigue. Lean into the discomfort. That’s where you’ll find those #gainz!
  • Switch it up. Alternate between other forms of training to let your muscles recover. And cycle through different muscle groups each time you use TUT.

The best thing about TUT is that you can incorporate it into all your favorite moves. Start increasing your hold time during bodyweight exercises like:

Remember, TUT = holding the tension longest during the most challenging part of each position. Increasing time under tension can be incorporated into everything from leg lifts to Downward Dog.

TBH, the research is mixed.

Research shows that increasing your muscles’ time under tension can increase metabolic response.

And a 2012 study found that when athletes increased each move’s time from 1 second to 6, their muscle fiber synthesis was stimulated for up to 30 hours post-exercise. So, TUT workouts might increase post-workout perks like metabolism boost and growth hormone release.

Sounds swell, but not all research gets those results. A 2019 study and 2021 study both found that TUT made no noticeable effect on muscle size and strength. Womp, womp.

Bottom line? We need more studies to know if and how TUT = stronger, better, faster muscles.

Follow these tips to keep your TUT workouts safe.

  • Start light. Choose a weight that’s just heavy enough to tire your muscles. Then dial it up slowly over several weeks.
  • Focus on the more challenging part of an exercise, which is usually the lengthening or eccentric phase.
  • Rest between sets. Aim for 4 to 6 sets of 6 to 12 reps for each exercise. Rest for a minute between sets, then finish strong with a super slow final set.
  • Take recovery seriously. TUT may be slow, but that’s no reason to skip your rest day. Also, target different muscle groups on different days to maximize recovery time.
  • Consider a trainer. A small 2015 study found that most peeps didn’t follow TUT exercise instructions when working out solo. More recent research suggests that some folks also experience a decline in performance after a week without live instruction. A fitness pro can help keep you on the right track. Plus, they’ll tailor your workouts to your fitness goals!
  • Training under tension (code name: TUT) involves slowing down each move when the muscles are under tension.
  • TUT workouts add intensity and challenge to your fitness routine. They might even accelerate muscle growth.
  • TUT is also a stellar way to improve your form.
  • As with any new workout method, incorporate TUT gradually and consult a trainer if you’re unsure of how to start.