Tempo training: What is it and how to apply it in your training
What is tempo training?
Tempo training is adding a set tempo or speed into your training to help you build more muscle, improve strength and aid fat loss . This essentially means that you have another factor added into your training, which is the speed at which you perform your reps. I like to think of it as it’s not just the what you’re doing but how you’re doing it. Next time you go the gym and train weights, ask yourself, how fast or slow you’re performing your rep, and are you working the speed to your advantage?
Aside from helping you to build more muscle, increase strength and aid with your fat loss goals, it has a few great extra benefits that I think you should know about. First of all it helps you improve your technique. I find a much higher correlation between rushed movements and technique error. Secondly, tempo helps you to identify where your weak links are within your movements, as very often our stronger muscles overpower our weaker muscles when we move faster. Finally, tempo training can help build eccentric strength which is brilliant for injury prevention, so I think it’s a method that is worth considering incorporating into your training.
When it comes to tempo training, it’s important to understand what ‘Time under tension’ (or TUT) is. Time under tension can be defined is the time that given muscles or muscle groups are subject to a load during an exercise set. Different times under tension elicit slightly different results. For example, if your goal is to build muscle mass then as a rule of thumb the TUT you would want to aim for is sets lasting 30-40 seconds, regardless of the number of reps you’re doing. However if you’re goal is to lose fat, then you would want to aims for a TUT between 45-75 seconds.
Tempo can be broken down into 4 separate parts so you will see it written as 4 separate numbers (for example, 3010). Each of the numbers represent a different part of any movement. Here is what they mean:
1) The first number represents the eccentric component of the movement (the lowering part in which we control a weight against gravity). An example of this is the downward phase in a bench press movement.
2) The second number represents the pause in the stretched position of a movement. For example, a pause at the bottom of the squat position. Quick tip: unless you are training specifically for strength, the majority of the time you will see this written as 0.
3) The third number in the sequence represents the concentric part (and is often the only part people think of). This part of the movement is the lifting phase, where we work against gravity to lift weight. For example, pulling up on a deadlift.
4) The final number represents the pause in the contracted/shortened part of the movement. This number is also often written as 0, apart from when look at pulling movements- such as rows or facepulls.