Why time under tension matters

Mention “tension” to someone and they’ll likely free associate to headache. But time under tension is a principle of strength training, and ultimately, living longer. Let us explain.


Monuments that endure do so because of having a strong foundation - they withstand the tension of time placed upon them: climate, weather, etc. When you lift something off the ground, say a suitcase, you're able to do so because of your ability to create tension. By squeezing your muscles, you stabilize your bones and joints, which in turn enables you to lift the weight. You've created a foundation. If you're able to increase tension, you increase your foundation, and ultimately your strength: feel free to add some items to that suitcase.


To paraphrase strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline here's how tension and time under tension work:

Make a tight fist. Where do you feel the tension? Your forearm and biceps, right? Good. Now squeeze your fist tighter. Feel your shoulders, chest and back getting tense. When you create that demand for strength in your fist, that tension irradiates - spreads - from the clinching muscles in your hand to recruit other muscles. A muscle working hard recruits the neighborhood muscles, and if they are already a part of the action, irradiating tension amplifies their strength; the neural impulses emitted by the contracting muscle reach other muscles and ‘turn them on’ as an electric current starts a motor.

Tension induces stability, which induces strength. That's why we teach our clients the proper plank at Haysboro Fit. The plank can teach you tension, which should be the foundation for all strength training. And strength (and mobility) correlates with longevity. A good plank trains you to identify tension, and the changes that occur to the position of your plank when turning off tension. Learning to build acute tension will ensure those suitcases aid your travel plans (fingers crossed that's soon!), not your physiotherapist's bill.