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30 April, 2012
Not understanding tempo
Tempo is truly a big determining factor on what type of results you get, from weight loss or muscle gain and at Studio41 personal training studio we emphasise tempo in almost all sets we do. Depending on how long your muscle is actually working for, will dictate the training response you will get – strength/strength and size/or more just size. Roughly under 20 seconds is considered relative strength (you will get stronger but not bigger) 20 – 40 seconds is considered functional hypertrophy – you will gain mass that is more applicable to sports and 40 – 70 seconds is considered hypertrophy (this is simply going for size).
To quickly cover tempo – 3120 would mean
3 = Lengthening Phase
1 = The stationary point between the lengthening and shortening phase
2 = Shortening Phase
0 = The stationary point between the shortening and lengthening phase.
This means that on a bench press (where the lengthening phase occurs first) you take 3 seconds to come down, rest for 1 second at the bottom (this is a great technique to help people who like to “bounce” the weight at the bottom), and take 2 seconds on the way up. Crucially there is no pause at the top. As you now know this is a hypertrophy program if done correctly for 10 reps. However if you do only take 1 second down and then only 1 second up – this now becomes a very poor relative strength programme. Hypertrophy is not better than relative strength or vice versa, the key is to know what your goal is and to use your tempo to help you achieve that goal.
Cheating with the tempo
One of the biggest mistakes with a tempo is that people halfway through the set start to take a pause at the top to rest, Well if they have to rest at the top to complete the set then the weight is too heavy. A lot of the time people will take 1 second down and then bounce and take less than a second on the way up – rest for a couple of seconds and do this for 10 reps, therefore most of the actual time is spent resting. If we add the total amount of work done on the previous example it is only 20 seconds which is a relative strength program (and then they wonder why they are not putting on mass).
Using the split squat as an example – people will often lock the front leg out at the top of the motion. This gives them a slight rest during their reps. If you are performing a split squat on a 4010 tempo there should be truly no rest at the bottom or top. Resting for that second at the top will probably also mean that you are not taking the full 4 seconds down either. So therefore this goes from a potential work (lets use 10 reps) from 50 seconds to 40 seconds. This is big difference. Plus the rest will recruit different muscle fibre types.
Using the rest to your advantage
The rest should be used in training and put effectively into your tempos – especially when relative strength is your goal – i.e. lifting heavy for 4 reps, taking that rest at the top will allow you to lift heavier, which may coincide with the training goal of that phase. This is absolutely fine and indeed should be used. However just know and understand your goal, if your goal is muscular endurance or hypertrophy and you are using a 3010 tempo – there truly is no rest – the muscle is working for the constant total time. When I take a new client through a split squat – they almost never use the weights that they reported using, and even though I am using a lighter weight they can still hardly move after the set – it is the lack of rest and proper technique combined with the correct tempo that truly gets great results.