TUT vs Load, lighter weight vs heavy lifting

Posted by Ben Simpkins on July 4, 2016

Had to start with a fun little meme, and this one is brilliant! This post isn’t all about lifting heavy don’t worry, enjoy the rest of the blog.

Now back to the post, this is a good place to start if you are new to fitness, and it is a great place to be at if you are already training regularly! Unfortunately, we get told that we need to do HIIT, lift heavy and live off no carbs/fat/protein and a lot of the superstars in the fitness world live by one or more of these rules. I am going to take a guess here that you are not a fitness model, you are someone who wants to improve their figure, feel a little better about themselves, improve their energy and strength or just take care of their health.

Our personal training clients always come to use with new studies, new diets and new exercises that are going to get the best results in the shortest space of time, but keeping it to the basics of these 2 will do you wonders. So what should you focus on? Weights, cardio, HIIT or all of it? We will cover each part of these in the coming weeks but today is based on weights and we are looking at TUT (Time Under Tension) and Volume. We will explain what they are and how they can benefit your training, both are useful but you need to know how they differ.


Time under tension is how long you are moving the weight from A to B, so imaging a squat, you have the downwards part, the eccentric (eccentric contraction is when the muscle tension increases as it lengthens while under a load) and then the push back up to the top, concentric (concentric contraction is when the muscle activates and shortens with an increased load). Time under tension looks at how long you are moving for each stage of your rep, so you could be looking at doing 3 seconds down, and 3 seconds up as a start point.

The benefits of you working on TUT is you have to use a lighter weight because you will most likely be activating more muscle fibres and creating more of a burn through this method. As you have a lighter weight too you can put more focus on correct form, you can keep the correct muscle groups firing and you can focus on a bigger range of movement.

How does this help with results? Well if you are doing 10 reps, with 3 seconds down and 3 seconds up, that is 6 seconds of work per rep, so 60 seconds of work for each set. If you do those same 10 reps but with 2 seconds down and 1 second up, you only have the muscles activated for 30 seconds.

TUT allows you to put more work through the correct muscle groups doing the exact same reps, yes it will take longer but you can keep your form, recruit the right muscles groups, reduce the risk of injury and increase the chances of muscle gain!


Volume is based on you lifting as heavy as possible, you look at how much weight you can move in each exercise, which is where most people start, they will do their squats, shoulder press, chest press and lat pulldown as heavy as they can. Now this is great because it enables you to lift heavier weights over time, burn more calories, reduce the risk of osteoporosis and feel awesome! Lifting heavy is badass!

Volume allows you to track your progress as you train and you can see improvements week by week, month by month. You may start the month squatting 30kg and by the end of the month you are up to 40kg. This type of training is absolutely fine and you should be encouraged to lift heavy as it allows you to fail, it gets you used to not achieving all the time and gives you something to work towards BUT you must, must, must focus on form, as you are lifting more weight you cannot allow your form to falter otherwise you are at a much higher risk of injury!


The boring answer? Both, you should be looking at mixing your training up every 4-6 weeks any way and what better way than to vary your training style, one month focus on putting your muscles under tension for longer, and then the next month go heavy and focus on lifting as much as you can. This will ensure that the muscles are continually getting tested and will encourage an improvement in both strength and muscle tone.

Please though, ensure you are putting your focus on recruiting the correct muscle groups on either of these systems as it is all very well and good you’re deadlifting 80kg but if your back and quads are taking the weight then you are not activating the muscles it should and you will stop progressing or put yourself at risk of a major injury.

Ask a fitness instructor at your local gym to check your technique out, that’s what they are there for, use them to your advantage until you master it!

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