Reps are Dead
One… Two… Three… This is a very typical sound you would hear if you sat in on one of my early training sessions. I was taught that you were supposed to lift weights and aim for three sets and do 10 reps per set. No Matter what the exercise was. This is the gold standard of training and every now and then it still is for me but why?
My name is Drew Smith and I am a personal trainer, competitive powerlifter and general fitness nerd. After I studied all of my books and personal training certification materials I jumped into the world of fitness and gave my clients cookie cutter programs that I learned from my books and quickly realized that no one person is the same and to have a standard program for everyone isn’t logical. Most of my programs for clients are similar but not identical and they shouldn’t be.
I’ve always counted reps and knew that if you wanted to grow muscle you aim for a 12 -15 rep range during the different exercises. This has worked for many clients as well as myself however as a personal trainer/ coach I am always asking why? As I researched this topic I found that the reps aren’t what’s really important but the time under tension, how long the muscle is working. A typical set of 12-15 reps can take anywhere from 20 -30 seconds depending on how fast you’re moving and in some cases it could be less than 20 seconds. Which might not necessarily be a bad thing but if muscle growth is your goal then time under tension is of the utmost importance and reps are almost an arbitrary number.
Having muscle is very beneficial for many different reasons for many different people. Whether you’re a busy mom, a carpenter or even usher checking Id’s at the movie theater. Strength training has been proven to prevent osteoporosis in women and for men it makes them all believe they’re as hot as Channing Tatum (even if they only workout once a year). If building muscle is you or your client’s goal then TUT (time under tension) should be in the program. I’ve be incorporating this into a lot of my programs and have seen some great results. Not only are my clients getting stronger their form is improving and their more focused, we go for multiple sets and instead of counting reps we count seconds. I will start the thirty seconds when a client starts the movement, during the exercise I coach my clients to pace themselves for 2 seconds on the concentric movement and again for two seconds on the eccentric movement. When they do this I notice they have more fluid patterns and more control, it’s almost as if they lose the urge to get through it as quick as possible, because the faster you go the more reps you have to do! Also it is a good change of pace, we still do rep work but it’s a nice break in the session to change the mindset of a client and really become immersed in the training.
I coach all different types of clients from local competitive powerlifters, middle-aged adults to seniors. All having different goals but I have incorporated TUT training into all of their programs. I typically shoot for one or two exercises per week or session and I will use more for the client who wants huge muscle gains and have even tried up to 90 seconds for time under tension. There are many ways you can manipulate the time as well, for instance on the bench press you can do an excruciatingly slow 8 seconds on the eccentric and 1 second contraction. You can do 2 seconds down and 2 seconds up, or 3 seconds down and 1 second up. My personal favorite is 2 seconds down and 2 seconds up, this leads to nice smooth, controlled reps and what I typically aim for is 30 seconds total or about 15 reps.
For hypertrophy aka muscle growth TUT can be very useful however if overused it can cause some serious post workout pain! No pain no gain right? While some muscle soreness after working out is expected it’s not the best way to judge if you’re getting a killer workout. When using TUT training I like to sprinkle it into the workout as a nice addition but not for a complete workout. The benefits of TUT aren’t worth the soreness, at least not for me. The best way to measure your results are through progression, measurements and time. Keep a log of your workouts and track your weights and reps so you can look back and see that you increasing the weight and reps over the course of your training.
If you’ve never tried TUT now might be a good time to give it a shot! We would love to hear what you think please feel free to get in touch with us below at any of our social media pages or email us too!