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.

Maximal Aerobic Speed

Maximal Aerobic Speed

In recent years Maximal Aerobic Speed has become popular among team sports in particular, primarily because it presents a simple and effective method of testing aerobic power. However, the real value of this method is that the data from testing can be used directly in the prescription of conditioning loads. This article aims to provide detailed instructions on how to effectively administer an MAS test, in a team setting, and examples of how to effectively use this data.

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Psychological Resilience in Sport

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?

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Movement Skills – Acceleration

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.

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Training Variables – Part 1

The amount of weight an athlete lifts in an exercise, relative to the 1 repetition maximum (1RM) for the same exercise, determines how much tension a muscle produces and the number of motor units recruited. These are two hugely important factors in strength development.
Unfortunately, there is a trade off between the intensity, and the overall volume that is possible in a given workout. Which of these is prioritised (intensity or volume) at a particular stage of a performance plan, is decided primarily by the training objective.

Classifying Strength Qualities

Strength is one of the most popular components which athletes will look to develop in a performance plan. However, the exact strength qualities they require is usually unknown to them, and researching can lead to further confusion.
This article will aim to classify some of the main strength qualities and present examples for each. The strength quality in which an athlete seeks to develop dictates almost all training variables including frequency, reps, sets, tempo, intensity and even rest.


At AXSOM, when we register a new athlete or client for programming, one of the first things we require is a movement assessment. This is no different with our online clients, in fact, when combined with a coach-athlete dialogue and our on-boarding questionnaires, we have found our digital movement pattern assessment to be just as effective as our in-person screening. With this option, an athlete simply follows a step by step process of performing basic movement patterns, usually right from their home. Each movement is recorded & uploaded easily from a mobile device, all from within our online portal. This process allows our coaching staff to carefully assess each pattern for compensations, restrictions and limitations, and to make purposeful & precise training decisions.