When Josh Bryant first performed time under tension training, it was 1995 and he was a freshman high school football player. With the older varsity guys using the free weight space, Bryant's coach sent Bryant and the other freshmen to the area of the gym full of Nautilus machines. Since they couldn't use heavy free weights, they changed their approach and did sets based on time rather than reps; every athlete had to do a circuit, using every machine for three sets of 30 seconds, doing as many reps as possible in that 30-second set. Bryant learned quickly how effective that type of training could be and now, years later, he's refined it, combined it with knowledge from other great coaches, and used it with many successful lifters.

Quick facts about the program:

  • Start by picking a weight you can use for eight to 12 reps
  • Perform 30-second sets for Week 1 and increase set duration each week
  • When you reach muscular failure, perform partial reps, then an isometric contraction
  • Rest for 90 seconds
  • Do three total sets

The key to this program is going at a controlled pace so that in the first week your eight to 12 reps are completed in 30 seconds — no slower, no faster. When you hit failure, let's say at 10 reps for instance, don't stop. If your 30 seconds aren't up, do partial reps. If you can't do partial reps, squeeze in that isometric position until you reach time. But no matter what happens, you don't stop until you reach 30 seconds.

After the first week, keep the weight the same but increase the duration of each set by five seconds. Over four weeks your progression should look like this:

  • Week 1 — 30 seconds
  • Week 2 — 35 seconds
  • Week 3 — 40 seconds
  • Week 4 — 45 seconds

A second option, if you adapt quickly, is to keep the duration of time the same but increase the weight used, as such:

  • Week 1 — 80 pounds for 30 seconds
  • Week 2 — 85 pounds for 30 seconds

For each exercise, you're generally going to reduce the weight by 25% each subsequent set. So if you start with 100 pounds for your first set, your second set should be 75 pounds, and the third set should be 50 pounds. Keep in mind, though, that this is not an absolute rule, and if you can use the same weight each set, you should.

The key to this program is to keep the weight moving. Once you reach momentary muscular failure, continue with partial reps. If you cannot do partial reps, isometrically squeeze. To make this program work, you need to push failure. It's high intensity, so do it for four weeks in a row, then give yourself a lighter week to recover before starting again. There are three training days, and the remainder of this article includes videos for each of the sessions. The order of the workouts should be:

  • Day 1 — Chest and Back
  • Day 2 — Legs and Biceps
  • Day 3 — Shoulders and Triceps
  • Day 4 — Rest
  • Day 5 — Repeat sequence

Shoulders and Triceps

In this video, Bryant walks shows a shoulder and triceps session using the time under tension method. Adhering to the program guidelines, there are three exercises for each body part, with three sets of 30 seconds for each exercise. This is a very fast and simple workout, but in the following month, every set will progress by five seconds each week.


  • Seated Dumbbell Military Press — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Dumbbell Rear Delt Partial Flyes — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Machine Lateral Raises — 3 sets of 30 seconds


  • Smith Machine Close Grip Bench Press — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Triceps Pushdowns on Dip Machine — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Dumbbell Triceps Extensions — 3 sets of 30 seconds

Legs and Biceps

There are a few keys to the workout Bryant shows in this video. First, don't ever do a traditional squat for this workout. The belt squat is optimal, but if you don't have a belt squat you should choose a leg press or even a hack squat, but never a barbell squat. Second, unlike the shoulder and triceps workout, this session alternates exercises for the body parts being trained.

  • Belt Squat — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Chin-Ups — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Lying Leg Curls — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Incline Hammer Curls — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Backward Sled Drag — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Machine Curls — 3 sets of 30 seconds

Chest and Back

Similar to the legs and biceps session, the workout Bryant shows in this video alternates between the two body parts being trained. The session begins with a free weight bench and a bodyweight pull-up before progressing to machines for the remainder of the workout. Using the program guidelines, this week each set is 30 seconds and will progress by five seconds in each subsequent week.

  • Flat Dumbbell Bench Press — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Neutral Grip Pull-Ups — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Hammer Strength Incline Press — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Hammer Strength Row — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Uppercut Cable Fly — 3 sets of 30 seconds
  • Straight Arm Pulldowns — 3 sets of 30 seconds

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