The common method for most people when it comes to gaining strength and size, both athletes and general population, is to lift as much weight as possible as many times as possible.
While this standard of strength training does create the intended results and necessary adaptations for size and strength when used properly, there are other variations of strength training that will produce the same strength, size (hypertrophy), and power effect based on the principle of tempo lifting.
In simple terms, tempo refers to the time under tension for each phase of the lift, more specifically eccentric (downward portion), isometric (amortization), and concentric portion.
Utilizing tempo during lifts is a great way to manipulate the intended goals of your training program. Whether athlete or for general fitness.
Understanding the 3 phases.
1.) Eccentric Phase
As mentioned before , this phase involves lowering the weight, or moving the weight opposite to the muscle contraction.
2.) “sticking point” or amortization Phase
This portion of the lift involves the pause or isometric contraction between the first phase and third.
3.) Concentric Phase
This phase involve moving the weight or bar up, or the actual muscle contraction. During a squat, the concentric phase would be the upward motion of the squat.
To identify the length of time to dedicate towards each phase of the lift, 3 numbers can be assigned to indicate how many seconds to dedicate to each one.
For example, a 2-1-2 tempo would mean 2 seconds for eccentric, 1 second isometric, 2 second concentric. A 1 or an “x” could also indicate an explosive descent or ascent during the eccentric and concentric phases respectively.
Why This is Significant:
By manipulating how much time you spend completing a rep (time under tension), you will get variable muscle response and variable training adaptations.
Tension is what forces your muscles to contract. More significantly, it also factors into muscle fatigue, which causes the actual response to training, whether for strength, mass, or power.
The common perception is to lift as heavy as weight as you can for a low amount of reps.
However, through the manipulation of tempo and time under tension, you can also get effective results from doing less weight with slower tempo.
Bench Pressing 300lbs 3 sets of 4 reps at the traditional 1-0-1 tempo that you mainly see used in high school training and or your typical membership gyms
185lbs 3 sets 10 reps performed at a 3-2-3 tempo.
Even though less weight, the amount of time under tension maneuvering the weight is greater than the first example, causing a more intense response.
If training for strength and or hypertrophy, slower tempo is an efficient solution for that goal. I generally utilize moderate tempos like this during general preparation phase for my athletes or for general clients looking to increase muscular size or strength (yes that includes women ).
In developing pure concentric power, or training for explosion, strength endurance, or power endurance, I use faster tempos. These tempos would come for more advanced clients during a more dynamic phases.
As you can see, adjusting tempo can be an effective component for any program, whether for athletes or general clients.
It is a very simple system to implement and a good variation to “traditional” weight lifting and exercise.
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