Training Variables – Part 2

As a general rule of thumb, the higher the total time under tension, the greater the impact on body composition. This is due to greater metabolic adaptations associated with increased time under tension. In order for an athlete to maintain control over a weight for a prolonged period, he/she must sacrifice on the intensity of the set (weight on the bar). This has a knock on effect of potentially reducing the strength training effect. Heavier weights will be required to optimally develop maximal strength, and particularly so to develop relative strength, therefore lower prescriptions for total time under tension must be applied. It is possible to have repetitions with a tempo for each rep totalling over 10secs (e.g 80X2), while still delivering a great strength training effect. However, in these cases the reps must be much reduced due the challenge presented by the intensity/weight, most likely only 1-3 repetitions per set.


When training for relative strength (maximal strength gain with minimal or no bodyweight gain – e.g. boxing/mma), provided the athlete has a strong strength training history, the total time under tension should not exceed 20-25 seconds per set. This strength quality is largely dependant on strength training methods where the aim is to improve motor unit recruitment and firing rate. The intensity required for these methods is typically in the 85-100% of 1RM (maximal weight that can be lifted for one repetition), and the range in repetitions will usually fall between 1-5 per set. Depending on the stage of training the athlete is at within their overall plan, their training on strength lifts could look like any of the following examples:

 4 sets of 5 repetitions @ 85%. Tempo: 40X0 (24 seconds TUT)

8 sets of 2 repetition @ 90-93%. Tempo: 62X0 (16 seconds TUT)

3 sets of 3 repetitions @ 87-90%. Tempo: 30X0 (9 seconds TUT)

Each of the above examples will achieve the objective of a total time under tension of <25seconds, intensity > 85% 1RM, and a repetition range between 1-5.

Its important to note here that none of these methods would be used for a very long period of time. Variation is hugely important for long term strength development, and in general, more advanced athletes require even more variety.
Its possible to alternate between phases of relatively intensive phases with lower TUT, to extensive phases with reduced intensity and higher TUT, while staying within the parameters associated with the overall training objective.

When training for absolute strength (maximal strength development irrespective of bodyweight gain – e.g. Rugby prop), the total time under tension will generally fall somewhere between 20-40 seconds but may be more or less depending on the sport and/or training priority.

The intensities used for these methods is typically in the 70-90% range of 1RM, and the repetition bracket is generally 5-8 per set. Again, depending on the stage of training the athlete is in within their overall plan, their training on strength lifts could look like any of the following examples:

3 sets of 8 repetitions @ 75%. Tempo: 40X0 (40 seconds TUT)

5 sets of 5 repetition @ 80-85%. Tempo: 32X0 (30 seconds TUT)

4 sets of 7 repetitions @ 80%. Tempo: 30X3 (48 seconds TUT)

Each of the above examples will achieve the objective of a total time under tension between 20-40seconds, intensity > 70% 1RM, and a repetition range between 5-8 per set.

Of course, there are many other factors which must be considered when designing a complete training program. Of most importance is the athletes training history and exposure to high loads and volumes of strength training. The exercise, variation type and range of motion all further influence the tempo prescription and therefore the number of repetitions required.

After reps, the next variable to be decided on is the optimal number of sets.

Blood Flow Restriction Training

Blood Flow Restriction Training

Restriction to blood flow first emerged as a form of exercise training with Japanese bodybuilders in 1995, but is now more commonly referred to as Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training.  Over the past 3-4 years, BFR training has exploded in popularity amongst strength coaches and physiotherapists alike. Early research identified the capability of BFR to stimulate hypertrophy and strength gains when combined with low-load resistance training but there was a distinct lack of research on how this was happening.  

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Field Sport Conditioning

Field Sport Conditioning

As teams across the country are forced to suspend all collective training, we thought we would help out with a sample session that can be completed individually and modified to suit!
This session includes work in all energy systems to maximise transfer to your sport.
Give it a go and pass it along to your team mates if you think they would benefit. Feel free to get in touch with any questions!

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Repetition Tempo

Repetition Tempo

Tempo is a training variable equal in importance to reps and sets. This programming tool allows coaches to target specific adaptations in an athletes programme and is a key component of a training plan. Essentially, in resistance training, tempo refers to the speed that an exercise is performed. The tempo that each rep is performed at will dictate the total time under tension (TUT) for any given set, and this component is one of the major keys to achieving the desired training response.

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Psychological Resilience in Sport

Think of the physical preparation that goes into an athletes performance; nutrition, sleep, strength training, recovery, rehabilitation are just a few. Ask, is mental performance receiving the adequate amount of time and dedication that it should be in comparison to the physical preparation, and if not, why?

Movement Skills – Acceleration

There are many elements to enhancing speed, no one training method holds the key. Rather it is a combination of components that result in greatest improvements. For example, developing specific strength qualities, is one of the most effective ways to increase the power necessary for maximal sprinting. However unless an athlete first focuses on movement, and in turn movement skills, they may struggle to maximise the results from their efforts in other areas.

Movement Prep

The purpose of any physical preparation routine should be to optimise performance in the upcoming session or competition, while decreasing the risk of injury.
Traditional warm-ups have typically included light aerobic movement followed by static stretching, and while this approach is successful in raising body temperature, it does not contribute significantly towards reducing injury risk, and certainly not towards optimising performance.

Pre-Season in Gaelic Games

We are at that time of year where a lot of teams are returning to training for the season ahead. Of course, most will have different league and championship calendars and will go about their preparation for each competition in various ways. Some will begin with gym sessions only, some will opt for field sessions only, and some will choose a combination of both. Some may even decide to give their players another few weeks before returning to any form of training.

Fuel Your Performance

At AXSOM, we believe that the process of eating should be viewed simply as fuelling the body. In the same way that a high performance car needs clean fuel to perform to the highest level, the body needs clean fuel to be at its most efficient and effective. We fuel to train, fuel to recover, and fuel to compete. This is applicable in all areas of life, not just with regards to competitive athletes. With nutrition, you are not only fueling the body, but the mind too, as food provides energy for our brain as well as our bodies.

Training Variables – Part 3

As is the case when determining the optimal reps and tempo, the training objective also dictates another important variable – the number of sets.
In general, the higher the number of repetitions, the less sets that are required to achieve the optimal volume. Conversely, the lower the number of repetitions being performed, the more sets that are needed. There are of course exceptions to this, but to illustrate how training objective will most typically influence the number of sets performed we will take two examples for comparison..