In this day and age, it’s so easy to get information overload – especially when it comes to health and fitness. Too often you’ll find someone try this new workout or diet plan and then get lost in the hustle-bustle of weight training.
Let’s be honest, folks. If only if it were that easy, right?
Truth of the matter is, your goals in lifting are reliant on not only your repetition schemes and sets. Your goals are tied in with much tension your muscles are going through.
This is where tempo training comes in.
Muscle development becomes significantly improved once resistance is introduced, and tempo training does just that. Tempo training is an underrated form of resistance training and you only need to change the tempo of your workout to alter the results of your training.
Can tempo training pave the way for larger results? You bet.
Before we go any further, let’s talk about definitions. Speed of contraction is the rate of movement of the limb involved in any given exercise. To put it simply, the speed of contraction refers to how fast or slow you can complete each phase of a rep. Tempo is referred to as the collective time it takes to complete the entire repetition.
Now, let’s divide tempo training into three important components.
The first component is called the Eccentric Contraction, or the period of time when your muscles are lengthened under load. For example, lowering the weight or going down on a movement like the squat. The descent should be slower as opposed to being faster.
The second component of tempo training is the pause in-between the eccentric contraction (lowering) and concentric (lifting) phase. When you pause at a “disadvantageous” position (i.e. a position with low or poor leverage, muscular tension is increased. For example, resting the barbell the moment it touches your chest during bench press is a good example of an isometric pause.
The third component is the concentric contraction, which occurs when a muscle shortens during a particular phase of the repetition. To illustrate it simply, you’d have to lift the weight through explosive action to achieve full acceleration of the lifting movement. An example of a concentric movement is lifting the barbell up to your shoulders in a barbell curl exercise.
The fourth component is another pause, but this time during the shortened position. A pause during this position provides you with good leverage and increases the recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers. These fast-twitch fibers are responsible for giving you more power and strength.
So how do you illustrate this in one movement?
Let’s use the bench press as the primary movement. I use a 4-2-1-2 tempo for huge movements (like squats and presses). Lower the bar to your chest in four seconds. Then pause for two seconds when the bar touches the chest. After this, press the weight upwards and lockout in one second. Then rest for two seconds again before performing another repetition.
The most common tempo for a beginner is 4-0-1-0.
I know what you are thinking… WHY? The truth is muscles grow time under tension and when we have different goals we have different time under tension brackets
ABSOLUTE STRENGTH = UP TO 25 SEC (get stronger but not bigger)
FUNCTIONAL HYPERTROPHY = 25 – 40 SEC (get bigger and stronger)
HYPERTROPHY = 40 – 70 SEC (get bigger)
STRENGTH ENDURANCE = 70SEC+ (increase endurance)
So I believe this is the first essential loading parameter when looking at strength training.
What are you aiming for?