28 Aug 2018

What is Tempo Training?

Fitness and workout advice

Yet another training variant, you might say with a roll of your eyes. And yes, tempo training is yet another hybrid training technique as fitness gurus seek bigger and better ways to train.

However, it may well be a good hybrid.

Tempo training, as the name suggests, deals with time. It’s about time and tempo in each phase of a workout rep. The theory is that the longer you take to complete a single rep, the harder your muscles will work and the more you’ll focus on each phase. Rushing only leads to bad form and injury.

It’s all about time under tension for more effective muscle building.

So in tempo training a rep is broken down into 4 phases represented by numbers. For example, a tempo for a squat might look like this: 3 0 1 0

Each represents a phase in the rep – eccentric, pause at bottom, concentric, pause at top in that order.

The eccentric phase

No, this isn’t wandering around an inherited English estate in baggy corduroys asking trees if goldfish will ever ride bicycles

Tempo trainers use the word ‘eccentric’ for no apparent reason and dictionary definitions of eccentric don’t seem to have been devised for workouts, running or anything else even vaguely fitness related.

This from the Merriam Webster dictionary: Deviating from conventional or accepted usage or conduct especially in odd or whimsical ways: an eccentric millionaire.

So we’ve progressed no further than Earls interrogating trees about goldfish.

Another definition of eccentric: Deviating from an established or usual pattern or style. We might be getting closer, but no.

In tempo training, eccentric actually refers to the descent phase of a rep; in other words, the load going down.

Okay, let’s just call it ‘descent’ then, shall we?

So in our 3 0 1 0 tempo, the descent is 3 seconds, the time you take to move through that phase of the exercise. Therefore with the squat you’ll descend slowly for 3 seconds.

Make sense?

The pause at the bottom

Fairly self-explanatory – if the second number is 2 or 3, you pause for 2 or 3 seconds to get a good burn on. If it’s 0, you don’t pause at all; you move straight into phase 3.

The concentric phase

And we’ll dispense with the concentric nonsense straight away; this is the ascent; the movement back to a standing position in the case of our squat.

For this tempo, the number is 1, so it’s really just straight up.

The pause at the top

Our fourth ‘pause at top’ number is 0, so no pause at all, straight into the descent phase again for the next rep.

Tempo workout variations

Aside from numbers, the ascent phase of your rep might be an X or A. An X is asking you to explode up as fast as you can. An A is an assisted ascent for a super heavy weight.

If you haven’t used tempo training before, talk to your gym instructor or personal trainer to see if it’s right for your muscle building goals. There’s a bit of science to it, so make sure you talk to someone with a thorough knowledge of the phases as they apply to each exercise.

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