I’ve spent the greater part of my life helping people with their workouts in the gym. I’ve been a personal trainer for over 10 years and I have been coaching others online for the last 6! One thing that I have to remind myself is that most of the people I help may not understand what I am saying. If I am speaking a different language then how can I expect my clients to follow my plan or advice! I have always spent time explaining what I mean when I use certain terms, so I figured that it would be best if I wrote an article for you so that you can better understand gym lingo and make more gainz!
The first term that I want to talk about is the word “eccentric”. With regards to the gym, the word eccentric is talking about the part of a repetition that does not involve the contracting of the target muscle. This is often referred to as the “negative” portion of the lift. For example, if you were to do a barbell curl you would start with the barbell in your hands around your hips and then curl the bar up towards your chin. The eccentric portion of this lift would be when you are lowering the bar back down from your chin to your waist after you have lifted the weight.
The eccentric part of most lifts doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. There is a lot of evidence that this portion of the lift plays a large role in stimulating muscle growth. To get the most out of the eccentric, I suggest that you control the weight during this phase of the rep instead of just relaxing and dropping it.
The “concentric” part of the lift is often referred to as the positive or the contraction. This is the part of the lift when the target muscle will flex (contract) and move the weight. If we use the same example as the eccentric in the barbell curl then the concentric part of the lift is the actual lifting of the weight from your waist towards your chin. If you understand the eccentric but not the concentric, or vice versa…then just think of it this way. The concentric part of the lift and the eccentric part of the lift are the complete opposite of one another. If you can understand one then you can understand the other.
“TUT” stands for, “Time Under Tension”. This is referring to how much time you are stressing a muscle with a weight that requires the muscle to contract. One can perform TUT with the concentric, eccentric, or both portions of the lift. TUT can also be used with paused reps, static holds, etc. Another term that is related to TUT is also called “tempo”. The tempo of a rep will determine how quickly an entire rep is completed. This is the concentric and eccentric portion of the rep combined together for a specific amount of time. A fast tempo will require a more explosive concentric and faster eccentric. A slow tempo will require a slow and steady concentric combined with a slow and steady eccentric. You can replace the word tempo with TUT over the last two sentences and get a greater understanding of time under tension.
There are several workout techniques that key around TUT. These often require paused reps, static holds, and very slow eccentric and concentric parts to a repetition. These are all great and work well for a lot of people, but you don’t have to be following that style to understand TUT. Understanding that there is a rhythm and a tempo to each rep will further help you expand on using the various types of repetitions to get the best results according to your goals.
“ROM” stands for “Range Of Motion”. This refers to how far you can stretch and contract the target muscle. If you use the barbell curl as an example again, a full range of motion is completely contracting the bicep on the concentric and completely stretching the bicep on the eccentric. A partial range of motion may only be a half contraction on the concentric and a full stretch on the eccentric; or it can be a full contraction on the concentric and a half stretch on the eccentric.
Typically a full ROM is preferred for most lifts, but there are techniques that take advantage of partial ROM to accomplish specific tasks for your goals.
Now that you understand these terms let me give you a test. I want you to try and understand the following directions:
“I want you to perform a barbell curl with a 3 second concentric and a 5 second eccentric. I want you to perform this with a full ROM and perform a 5 second pause at the bottom of the eccentric to increase the TUT of the exercise.”
Go ahead…use the article and make sense of those directions…
Alright, here is the answer to those directions:
“I want you to perform a barbell curl. You will lift the weight over a 3 second count and drop the weight back down to the starting position over a 5 second count. I want you to fully contract the bicep on each rep and then fully straighten your arm when the weight is on its way back down to the starting position. When you are holding the weight in the starting position, I want you to pause for 5 seconds before completing the next rep.”
If you were able to translate that then congratulations! You can now speak the gym language that much better! If you weren’t able to translate that then don’t worry! You’re still learning! Stay tuned for more explanations of the Gym Vocabulary!
Let’s get better together!