Best Time-Under-Tension Workout for Total-Body Strength

Athletic man wearing gray T-shirt and maroon shorts doing renegade row with dumbbell
Photography by Marius Bugge. Shot on location at Performance Lab by the Wright Fit

The key to 360-degree muscle: 90-degree eccentric isometrics. It might seem like we’re throwing a lot of geometry at you, but the concept behind time under tension (TUT) is simple, says Joel Seedman, PhD, owner of Advanced Human Performance: “Perform the lowering phase of a movement in a slow, controlled fashion, usually 3 to 5 seconds; pause in the stretched position, typically around 90 degrees; then perform the lifting phase in a powerful yet controlled fashion.” Believe us, a time-under-tension workout can humble even seasoned lifters…Eccentric isometrics are like the pressure cooker of training.

“Rather than mindlessly performing slow-tempo reps, you’re using the increased time under tension as a means to fine-tune your body mechanics and alignment, which requires more mental engagement and focus,” Seedman adds.

If you want to forge functional muscle mass and strength while simultaneously bulletproofing the joints and connective tissue, give this 10-move, full-body eccentric isometrics workout a go.


Perform the following moves as 90-degree eccentric isometrics following the above protocol. Use heavy weight, but not at the detriment of proper form. Rest 60 to 90 seconds between sets and 2 minutes between circuits. Perform once every 2 to 4 days for optimal results.

Best Time-Under-Tension Workout for Total-Body Strength

Circuit 1

Barbell Back Squat
Marius Bugge

A. Barbell Back Squat

Set a squat rack up with heavy weight, then grasp bar and step under it. Squeeze shoulder blades together, then stand to unrack bar and step back with feet shoulder-width apart. Inhale, hinge at hips and slowly bend knees to 90 degrees. Pause, keeping natural arch in low back, then extend through hips to powerfully stand. 3 x 4-6 reps

Athletic man wearing gray T-shirt and maroon shorts renegade row
Marius Bugge

B. Renegade Row

Start in the top position of a pushup with hands shoulder-width apart on moderate-to-heavy dumbbells (shown). Explosively drive right elbow back to row dumbbell toward ribs while balancing on opposite hand and feet. Pause, then slowly lower weight, stopping a few inches above floor. Switch sides after all reps are done. 3 x 5 reps each side

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Circuit 2

Athletic man wearing gray T-shirt and maroon shorts doing renegade row Dumbbell Bentover Row in gym
Marius Bugge

A. Dumbbell Bentover Row

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding two moderate-to-heavy dumbbells in front of thighs, palms facing you. Push hips back and hinge torso forward so it’s nearly parallel to floor, soft bend in knees. Dumbbells should be near shins. Drive elbows back to row weights toward ribs. Pause, then slowly lower down for 3 to 5 seconds. 3 x 4-5 reps

Athletic man wearing gray T-shirt and maroon shorts doing Incline Dumbbell Chest Press with Legs Raised 
Marius Bugge

B. Incline Dumbbell Chest Press with Legs Raised 

Set an adjustable bench to a 30- to 45-degree angle and lie back with dumbbells in either hand. Engage core and lift legs off floor, flexing feet. Press weights overhead, palms in. Slowly lower to 90 degrees, staying tight and compact. Pause, then drive weights up directly over chest. 3 x 4-5 reps

Circuit 3

Athletic man wearing gray T-shirt and maroon shorts doing Dumbbell Bulgarian Squat
Marius Bugge

A. Dumbbell Bulgarian Squat

Stand lunge-length in front of a flat bench, holding heavy dumbbells in each hand by your sides, palms facing in. Rest the ball on top (shoe’s laces) of your right foot behind you on the bench. Slowly lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Pause, then drive through your heel to stand. Switch sides after all reps are complete. 2 x 3-4 reps each side

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Athletic man wearing gray T-shirt and maroon shorts doing Single-leg Romanian Deadlift
Marius Bugge

B. Single-leg Romanian Deadlift

Stand with feet hip-width apart holding dumbbells or kettlebells. Drive right leg up, foot flexed, knee aligned with hip, making a 90-degree angle. Hinge at hips as you slowly lever your torso toward floor, lowering weights and driving right leg back for counterbalance. Hold, then squeeze glutes to reverse. 2 x 3-4 reps each side

Circuit 4

Athletic man wearing gray T-shirt and maroon shorts doing pullup
Marius Bugge

A. Pullup

Hang from a pullup bar using an overhand grip with legs extended and feet flexed. Engage lats and draw shoulders down your back, then pull yourself up until chin is higher than hands. Pause at the top, then slowly lower. Pause at bottom, then reset before your next rep. 2-3 x 4-5 reps

Athletic man wearing gray T-shirt and maroon shorts doing Kneeling Overhead Barbell Press
Marius Bugge

B. Kneeling Overhead Barbell Press

Hold a bar with moderate-to-heavy load at shoulder level with forearms perpendicular to floor. Kneel at end of bench with feet flexed to grip edge for support. Inhale, engage your core and glutes, then press the bar overhead, pushing your head forward so it passes your face, exhaling at the top.
Slowly lower until elbows are at 90 degrees, then hold to maintain tension. Begin your next rep from here. 2-3 x 4-5 reps

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Circuit 5

A. Dumbbell Pushup

Place hands on dumbbells (this provides greater range of motion) at shoulder width and feet wider than shoulder width with just toes touching the ground. Keep head neutral and hips high to increase tension on core, chest and tris and reduce stress on spine. Slowly lower to the floor. Stop
once elbows hit 90 degrees, pause, then push up to start. 1-2 x 6-8 reps

B. Biceps Curl

Stand with feet hip-width apart with moderate-to-heavy dumbbells in each hand hanging by sides. Engage biceps to curl the weights up, keeping upper arms still. Pause at the top, then lower slowly. Don’t let arms drop all the way down to keep greater time under tension on biceps. 1-2 x 6-8 reps

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