What is Time Under Tension?

woman checking time after exercising for weight loss


Time under tension refers to the duration a muscle is under strain during a set. It factors both rep duration and load as stimuli for muscle growth and strength development.


  • Time under load stresses muscle fibers – moderate duration spurs hypertrophy, while prolonged tension increases muscle endurance.
  • Lower weight, slower tempos and higher reps equate to greater time under tension. But sufficient load also matters.
  • Research indicates maximum motor unit recruitment occurs from 40-70 seconds under load.
  • Manipulate tempo, reps, sets and rest periods to find the right balance of load and time efficiency.


  • Higher time under tension doing 4-1-4 tempo squats to increase hypertrophy stimulus.
  • Decreasing time under tension when training for strength using heavier loads and lower reps.

Related Terms

  • Rep duration, tempo training, hypertrophy, strength training, sarcoplasmic growth

Common Questions

  • Will increasing time under tension grow more muscle? Yes, when combined with sufficient load to fully fatigue the muscles. Don’t sacrifice too much weight.
  • Is it superior to training for strength gains? For pure strength goals, lift heavier for lower reps with adequate rest.

Do Not Confuse With

  • Time between sets – Recovery duration, not tension duration.
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