Tempo Training – What? Why? How? Is it useful?


Tempo Training – What? Why? How? Is it useful?

Before we even get into this blog let us start here. Yes. Tempo training is soooo useful.

Inside on this type of training you will come to realize there are tons of benefits. The variance and manipulations of tempo can elicit many different responses from the body.

In this article we are gonna jump into What Tempo Training is. Why it should be used and finally how to implement it.

What is Tempo Training?

Tempo in resistance training is the rhythm at which you move a weight, including the rest time at the top of the lift and at the return of the weight to the starting position.

Tempo inside of resistance training helps a Coach or Client to change the amount of tension a muscle is exposed to. But not just the amount of tension, also the time. This is called Time Under Tension (TUT).

A way to help make this more understandable is to remember that “Muscles are stupid, they only recognize tension”.

If you pick up something and move it, your body doesn’t know how much or what you just moved.

All it understands is that your muscles felt tension and your brain had to recruit more muscle fibers to move the object.

When you do Tempo Training you will often see the exercise listed that will be used. Followed by the reps, sets, “@”, and then four different numbers. Each number represents a specific segment of the lift. One number represents the eccentric portion of the lift. The next represents the isometric pause. Then the concentric portion of the lift. The last number typically shows the time before the next rep is performed.

Here is an example of a Simple Bodyweight Squat:

Air Squat 10 reps x 3 sets @3/1/x/1

Why should you use it?

Where do I even start with the benefits?

The first of many benefits is gonna be the usefulness of it for New Clients to training. When a person first starts working out they typically do not do exercises very well and they respond to almost everything.

So when you apply a tempo requirement to a exercise it makes the person move more slowly through an exercise allowing for higher learning for the movement and motor control. It also applies a great deal of tension at typically lighter weights helping to grow new muscle and lower injury risk.

Next, it helps to apply more TUT or Time Under Tension to an exercise. In the example of the exercise above one rep of a squat will give 5 seconds of total TUT to the body. If you multiply that by the 10 reps you are seeing 30 seconds of TUT for that one set.

That leads to tons of practice of the movement and a high amount of tension to the muscle.

For beginners it is great to teach movement. For intermediate and advanced it helps accrue tension. In general it helps a Coach to get the correct dose of training that they want for their client.

How to implement?

Here are some guidelines to stick to:

  • Beginners can handle 30-90 sec of TUT per set.
  • Intermediates can handle 10-60 sec of TUT per set.
  • Advanced can handle 0-30 sec of TUT per set.

What you see from those recommendations is that beginners in general can handle more TUT than everyone. That is simply because most beginners can’t apply as much resistance.

Where as Intermediates and Advanced can typically move much more load fatiguing the body and nervous system more.

With that in mind lets talk about different implementations and then the way I personally like to use Tempo.

Traditional Implementation is always listed in this fashion no matter what the movement is.

Eccentric / Isometric / Concentric / Isometric

So in that manner a Tempo for a Strict Press of 3/0/x/0 would be to (x) Explosively Press Up, Pause (0) seconds at the top, (3) seconds down back to the shoulders, Pause (0) before the next rep.

For me that always seemed confusing.

The way I find to be more simple is to list the Tempo in succession from the beginning range of motion of a movement to the end. In the Strict Press the barbell begins on the shoulder, is pressed overhead, is locked out, lowered back down, and then rested on the shoulder before the next rep.

So to use the same amount of Tempo as the first example I would write that as x/0/3/0 instead. Explosively Press Up (x), Pause (0) seconds overhead, Lower down to the shoulder for (3) seconds, and then wait (0) seconds before the next rep.

More simple right?

Is it useful?

My answer to that is clearly a yes.

But only if the person using it has a reason to use it.

If it is implemented mindlessly for fun, with no intention or idea as to how it will affect the body then I would say no.

If used for beginners, to add more TUT, or to control the Tempo of an exercise it is very useful!

A few examples to leave you with

  • Squat 3/1/x/1 (3 sec down/1 sec pause in bottom/explode up/rest 1 sec before next rep)
  • Press x/2/3/1 (Explode up/2 sec pause overhead/3 sec control down/1 sec pause before next rep)
  • Deadlift x/1/5/1 (Explode off the floor/1 sec pause at top/5 sec down/1 sec before next rep)

Written by:

Coach Cody Smith