Time under tension. Life is a regiment. Your mind is a muscle.


Three years ago, I was a 16-year-old who weighed 135 pounds. Standing at about 6 feet tall, this was not the ideal frame for a young man trying to impress the lovely ladies in his life. I was horribly insecure, and quickly starting to realize that the subtle undercurrents of anxiety were clenching at my ankles. I hated my body and I was trying not to let that cause a cascade of hatred toward my life as a whole. I was the type of kid who would turn down the chance of meeting girls at a pool party because I was terrified of letting them see me shirtless. I was the type of kid who would do 40 pushups in the bathroom before going out to meet someone for coffee. It was not a good season of my life.

I was tired of being skinny, so I wanted to enact a change. I went to the gym with my buddy on February 15th, 2018; it was humbling, and painful, and made me aware of a lot more of my insufficiencies that I was not aware of previously. But I wanted a change, so I went again, and again, and again. I went for about a month, and what do you know, I saw a hint of progress. I forced myself to be uncomfortable. I was still skinny, but I could feel my body adapting. I was adapting to the process of being uncomfortable. I stuck with it, week after week, and then month after month. The weaknesses started to strengthen. I saw my strength increase, my confidence started to increase, I was more excited to enter the gym each time. I continued the sets and did the reps. We call them reps because it’s the repetition that causes change. You make the muscle repeat the movement over and over so that the muscle has no choice but to adapt, grow, and strengthen. We call this the ‘time under tension’. Your time under tension is what causes growth.


It’s called time under tension for a reason; it takes a while. Anyone who has tried to put on muscle mass will tell you that. It takes a very long time. If you go to the gym once, you won’t leave with a 6-pack, you won’t leave with Hulk Hogan traps, and you certainly won’t leave with biceps as big around as your head. You go once, nothing happens. Twice, nothing happens. But give it time, it will happen.

Take powerlifting for example. You want to deadlift 500 pounds. Great. No coach in the world will tell you to load 500 pounds on the bar and start pulling until it moves. You’ll fail of course, but maybe you come in the next week and load 500 pounds on the bar again and start pulling. That’s just not going to work. You’re not ready for it, you haven't trained for it, and there is a lot of work to be done before you can even consider it. So what do you do? You make a plan. A realistic plan. A plan you know you can follow. You start low, you lift the embarrassing weight, it doesn’t look impressive but that doesn’t matter. It’ll be impressive when you’re done. You train the weak points, the areas where you know will fail first. If your muscles are a chain reaction, it does you no good to only train the ones that are already strong. You do the repetition, and you put in your time under tension. It’ll burn, and it will take time, and you may fail a lot before you reach your goal. But over time, when you load 500 on the bar you will have no fear in your mind. Because you know you have the strength to do it. Why? Because you put in your time under tension.


Growth hurts, it burns, it pushes your limit. But that’s how you know it’s working. Mohammad Ali used to say, “I only start counting when it starts hurting because they’re the only ones that count.” If it was easy it wouldn’t require discipline. If it was easy it wouldn’t require tension. Discipline is what builds the character. Tension is what builds strength. So if you want to grow, you have to face the fact that it will not be comfortable, nor will it be quick. So here is the question: am I willing to let it burn? Am I willing to do it when it hurts, when I’m tired, when I don’t want to lace up my sneakers and hit the rat race? Do I believe it’s worth the time?


Time under tension counts for something. It’s an investment. You won’t see returns immediately. But they will come if you’ve been hitting your reps, and feeling the burn.

I’m not just talking about the gym, I’m talking about your mind as well. Time under tension is a mentality that will fit into any skill or talent you wish to cultivate. I found that my gym strength was slowly increasing but the other areas of my life were hitting a wall. I was getting stronger, but my creativity was at a stalemate. I was frustrated with what I was creating outside of the gym. My photography was bland, my painting lacked emotion, my writing was uninspired and flat. I realized something: I was only training with passion in one area of my life. The rest of my mental muscles were atrophying. There was no plan, no regime, and no time under tension.

If you want to get stronger: train.

If you want to be a better painter: train.

If you want to be a better writer: train.

If you want to be a better, stronger, and more disciplined man or woman: train.

You will not become an accomplished writer overnight. You will not be a culture-defining painter overnight. You will not be a musical genius overnight. And you will not deadlift 500 pounds overnight. Treat your mind as a muscle; target your weaknesses, train with fury, set your goals high, but set your actionable plan low, start slow, learn the technique, and develop a strategy. Your growth is not a one-and-done process, you need to spend the time under tension.




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Ezra Hercyk

Ezra Hercyk

I have no idea what I'm doing

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