What is Tempo? Tempo is the amount of time it takes to complete an entire repetition. More then likely, if you have never studied it you probably don’t know what it is. It’s the most underutilized technique when it comes to lifting and should never be overlooked if you plan on increasing your strength, size, and athletic performance.
By using a tempo for any given exercise you place tension on your muscles, which is called “Time Under Tension or TUT”. This helps breakthrough plateaus and place significant stimulus to your muscles improving relative strength, functional hypertrophy, hypertrophy and strength endurance.
Relative Strength: The maximum force an athlete can generate per lb. of bodyweight irrespective of time of force development. (gymnast, wrestling)
Functional Hypertrophy: Muscle growth that is considered strategic in that it grows in such a way to help improve physical performance (football players, sprinters, baseball players)
Hypertrophy: Muscle growth, muscle fibers respond to strength training by growing larger (football lineman)
Strength Endurance: An athletes tolerance level to fatigue in strength performances of longer durations. (runners)
Tempo Breakdown: 5 Sec = 1 Rep (4-0-1-0)
4 = The eccentric motion of the lift, muscle lengthens, or down
0 = Isometric pause before concentric motion
1 = Concentric motion of the lift, muscle shortens, or up
0= Isometric pause on top of motion
Here’s an example of different strength qualities when performing a squat. Client 1 is training for strength endurance squats using 125lb. for 15 reps. at a 2-0-1-0 tempo, the time under tension for all 15 reps would be a total of 45sec. Client 2 training for hypertrophy squats the same weight for only 8 reps. at a tempo of 4-0-1-0 which equals 40sec. Even though client 1 did more repetitions it doesn’t mean that he/she will grow muscle like client 2 due to the fact that the stimulus was different. That is why it’s very important to understand TUT when designing a training protocol because it determines the strength quality your trying to achieve.
It is good practice to train in slow and fast speeds when implementing training programs so that you give your muscles a different stimulus, optimal growth, and never become bored in your training.