Restore: The Bodyweight Strength Program


Time Under Load 

So, we’ve established we’re going to create tension from within and radiate that tension inside-out, in addition to letting gravity do its work, right? Good.

The next topic to discuss then is perhaps the MOST important principle or concept you will use for this program – time under load.

I do consider this principle of thinking about “time” versus sets or reps to be a critically important principle, so let’s talk about it.

Time Under Load: What does it mean? 

Time under load (also sometimes referred to as time under tension) simply means that we’ll count and record the amount of time we’ll be under tension (e.g. working, not resting or being passive), versus accomplishing a set or pre-planned number of repetitions.

This might be very different than what you’re accustomed to.

Most programs and gyms do typically tell you to do “x” number of reps and “x” number of sets. Sure, when you’re performing these movements, you’ll still accomplish a certain number of “reps,” but the critical difference is that the number isn’t your focus – the amount of time under tension or load, is!

Basic Muscle Physiology: A Quick Review 

Let’s review a little basic muscle physiology to understand WHY the concept of Time-Under-Load is so important.

And let’s keep it simple, shall we? 

The smallest unit of a muscle is a motor unit. Motor units work much like a regular light switch – they are either on, or off. There’s no in-between.

There are very small motor units. And very large motor units. And medium-sized motor units. Your body will only use as many (and as large) as it needs to do work – to perform a certain task.

For example, say you reach down on your desk to pick up a pencil. Being very light, only the smallest motor units will kick on. And not very many of them.

If you squeezed that pencil very hard and tried to break it in half, more of the larger motor units would have to kick in and turn on in order for you to be able to generate more force. And if you continued to squeeze hard for more than a few seconds, eventually those smaller motor units that first turned on would become fatigued. They’d tire out.

So eventually more motor units would have to turn on in order for you to be able to continue to squeeze and generate the force required to break the pencil.

If you squeezed hard and long enough, you’d be getting really tired and your hands and fingers would start to hurt like hell! Even though you’d be feeling like the smaller muscles in your hands and fingers were exploding, the reality would be that they’d be generating less and less force as time went on, due to fatigue. That is, as you are getting increasingly tired and feeling quite a bit of significant discomfort, the actual amount of force you are generating is getting lower and lower. It doesn’t feel that way, I know!

Now imagine, instead of a pencil, you were bending over to pick up a much heavier steel rod. You’d need more of those motor units (and larger ones) to kick in and turn on.

Are you following me here?

Even more motor units and larger ones will have to kick on to contribute!

My friend, exercising doesn’t make us stronger.

What makes us stronger is STRESS to our body, which in turn causes an adaptive response to become stronger.

You get that positive stress that forces adaptation to a higher level of strength more efficiently – more quickly, with time under load. It’s that simple.

And again, not easy mind you. But it is simple. 

Bodyweight training is NOT ABOUT using your muscles to move the weight of your body.

Rather, you should think of it as using your body weight to work your muscles harder.

Think about it! 

 The Difference Between “Reps” and “Time”

If you keep the “pressure” on the muscle, more motor units will need to kick in. And perhaps even larger ones, too. But conversely, if you rest or pause, the units can regenerate and as a result, not as many will need to be involved.

Think about doing a regular push-up the normal way most people do it. You get into position, lower quickly and then rebound back up to the starting position. At which point you’d rest momentarily. And then drop back down again.

Short bouts of work, with rest in between. Momentum and rebound all contributing. With a big dose of passive lowering because of gravity!

Think about it: at no point are the larger motor units really ever asked to contribute. For the most part, the work is accomplished with a minimum number of smaller motor units.

Yes, you’ll get tired eventually. But it may take a dozen or more reps and a few sets.

However, think about this…

if you KEEP THE TENSION ON and focus on TIME UNDER LOAD / TENSION, instead of reps, moving slowly and actively (not passively!), more and more motor units MUST kick on to help do the work and keep the tension on.

If you are squeezing hard from within and really generating a lot of tension yourself, EVEN MORE motor units and larger ones will have to kick on to contribute!

This is the true secret to training via time under load, vs reps!

It works like magic!

Take a minute to listen in to the video where I will discuss these principles in detail!

Keep reading to continue learning more about other training principles that we’ll make use of in this course.