T Nation

Rep Tempo

I recently picked up “The New Rules Of Lifting” with Alwyn Cosgrove’s training programs. His “normal” tempo is “301” - 3 seconds negative, 1 second pause, 1 second positive. This seems really slow to me; my “normal” tempo (and what I mostly see others doing) would be around 101.
What do you consider “normal?” Should I treat those “seconds” more like short counts?

Don’t get too carried away with counting. I believe if you can count while lifting, you need to add some weight to the bar!

See how a 3 sec. negative feels and looks then try to use that same tempo but don’t lose sleep over it.

Plus, that 301 tempo goes out the window on a whole slew of good lifts.

[quote]derek wrote:
Don’t get too carried away with counting. I believe if you can count while lifting, you need to add some weight to the bar!

See how a 3 sec. negative feels and looks then try to use that same tempo but don’t lose sleep over it.

Plus, that 301 tempo goes out the window on a whole slew of good lifts.[/quote]

You’re right, I’m definitly not counting seconds while lifting. However, the reason I was asking about others’ “normal” tempo is that such a long negative makes the exercise very different - I have to use much less weight! Of course this can be used as a variation, but shouldn’t the “normal” tempo be the one which allows you to do the most work?

I just lift the weight as fast as possible, and lower it controlled. Not sure how many seconds it takes. The only time I lower the weight slower is when I am doing post fatigue negatives, or negatives above what i can normally lift.

Rep tempo is the dumbest thing in the universe. There’s good-form-speed and there’s Get-Shit-Up-speed. You hardly need to know anything else. Just the notion of thinking about rep-speed will screw up your lifting. Some people don’t want to leave anything to instinct. Too bad.

Bodybuilding is not a precise science yet. The best advice imo is to think of it in terms of weight and form. You do what you have to to move the weight without loosing control or hurting yourself.

[quote]CBassBeer wrote:
derek wrote:
Don’t get too carried away with counting. I believe if you can count while lifting, you need to add some weight to the bar!

See how a 3 sec. negative feels and looks then try to use that same tempo but don’t lose sleep over it.

Plus, that 301 tempo goes out the window on a whole slew of good lifts.

You’re right, I’m definitly not counting seconds while lifting. However, the reason I was asking about others’ “normal” tempo is that such a long negative makes the exercise very different - I have to use much less weight! Of course this can be used as a variation, but shouldn’t the “normal” tempo be the one which allows you to do the most work?[/quote]

First of all, yes…you will be using less weight. That is because you are elminating momentum and also utilizing the “stretch shortening cycle”.
Remember that the “negative” is really the part of the rep that causes the actin and myosin fibers to tear across each other leading to muscle fiber disruption which should lead to muscle growth proving your nutrition and anabolic state are in a positive mode.

As for not being able to count in your head and lift intensely I have observed in training people that it takes quite a few sets before people are actually able to “slow down” and lower the weights slowly. After that, counting a tempo out verbally actually HELPS them concentrate on the movement.
Yes…yanking and cranking may work for genetic marvels and drug assisted athletes like Ronnie and the rest, but for most of us, our joints, muscles and so forth require us to train smarter.
The funny thing is, when I have helped people lower slower and count tempo, they are WAY more sore than they have ever been. I do know that soreness is NOT the sole indicator of an effective workout, but it is an indicator of muscle fiber damage (taking into consideration that they are doing the same movement).

The reseach suggests that sets are 20-60 seconds are optimal for growth. Obviously if you can count to 30 reps using a 1-0-1 tempo, using a tempo of 4010 for a set of 10 or so should be NO more difficult!

The best that write and have written on this site: Coach Charles Poliquin, Coach Ian King and Coach Charles Staley, have always prescribed tempos in their workouts. If they didn’t think it was important I doubt they would have included this piece of information. In fact, Coach Staley even suggested bringing a metronome to the gym if you need help in counting tempo! This was of course written in Muscle Media 2000, the now defunct bastard parent of this here website!!!

Some authors of late have seemingly tried to “dumb down” their training prescriptions seemingly for the masses.

If you cannot concentrate enough on an exercise to count a tempo in your head, then a) take a shot of Spike before your workout (smile Biotest) or get a new hobby!

bump

Here’s a tidbit on the relevance of tempo.

Exercise physiologist Greg Wilson of Australia discovered that it takes nearly a 4-second pause for the energy from the stretch shortening cycle to dissipate.

That means unless you rest for almost 4 seconds between the eccentric and concentric portion of a bench press, you’re getting a huge bounce effect from the lift.

If you’re a powerlifter, you want to take advantage of the stretch shortening cycle. If you’re a bodybuilder, you’d be better off allowing the energy to disspate.

This is why slow tempo lifts are harder. No bounce.

Obiously, there are many ways to negate the stretch shortening cycle. If you use a slower eccentric, like Alwyn, you won’t build up any elastic energy and you don’t need to pause at the bottom of the lift.

As always, if you’re a bodybuilder, it’s best to vary the methods and tempos.

Slow will lead to more hypertrophy…for awhile.

Then it’s best to go explosive to tap into different muscle fibers.

Just as long as you aren’t actually letting your muscles relax on the way down you should be ok. 101 sounds a little to fast to not have them relaxed though.

TC, thanks for chiming in. You helped bring this imformation to the forefront in the first place.

And you are correct of course…being that you ARE TC and all:) and have talked first hand to the strength and hypertrophy coaches I referenced!

I think MOST guys in the gym are looking for a mix of hypertrophy and some strength and therefore adherence to the negative is more important.

Thanks for clarifying!

Don

[quote]TC wrote:
Here’s a tidbit on the relevance of tempo.

Exercise physiologist Greg Wilson of Australia discovered that it takes nearly a 4-second pause for the energy from the stretch shortening cycle to dissipate.

That means unless you rest for almost 4 seconds between the eccentric and concentric portion of a bench press, you’re getting a huge bounce effect from the lift.

If you’re a powerlifter, you want to take advantage of the stretch shortening cycle. If you’re a bodybuilder, you’d be better off allowing the energy to disspate.

This is why slow tempo lifts are harder. No bounce.

Obiously, there are many ways to negate the stretch shortening cycle. If you use a slower eccentric, like Alwyn, you won’t build up any elastic energy and you don’t need to pause at the bottom of the lift.

As always, if you’re a bodybuilder, it’s best to vary the methods and tempos.

Slow will lead to more hypertrophy…for awhile.

Then it’s best to go explosive to tap into different muscle fibers.
[/quote]

Very interesting. The slow tempo definitly makes the exercises tougher. I’m still on the “break in” program and it’s kicking my ass!
However, I’m still not sure if Cosgrove really means seconds when he prescribes 311 as the “normal” tempo, not a special slow negative technique. Even in the strength programs the negatives seem really long. Could it be that the numbers are meant to be quick counts to show the relationship between the phases of the lifts?
I have blind faith in Cosgrove’s programs and I’m willing to do them the way they’re written; I just wanna make sure I get it right.

[quote]CBassBeer wrote:
TC wrote:
Here’s a tidbit on the relevance of tempo.

Exercise physiologist Greg Wilson of Australia discovered that it takes nearly a 4-second pause for the energy from the stretch shortening cycle to dissipate.

That means unless you rest for almost 4 seconds between the eccentric and concentric portion of a bench press, you’re getting a huge bounce effect from the lift.

If you’re a powerlifter, you want to take advantage of the stretch shortening cycle. If you’re a bodybuilder, you’d be better off allowing the energy to disspate.

This is why slow tempo lifts are harder. No bounce.

Obiously, there are many ways to negate the stretch shortening cycle. If you use a slower eccentric, like Alwyn, you won’t build up any elastic energy and you don’t need to pause at the bottom of the lift.

As always, if you’re a bodybuilder, it’s best to vary the methods and tempos.

Slow will lead to more hypertrophy…for awhile.

Then it’s best to go explosive to tap into different muscle fibers.

Very interesting. The slow tempo definitly makes the exercises tougher. I’m still on the “break in” program and it’s kicking my ass!
However, I’m still not sure if Cosgrove really means seconds when he prescribes 311 as the “normal” tempo, not a special slow negative technique. Even in the strength programs the negatives seem really long. Could it be that the numbers are meant to be quick counts to show the relationship between the phases of the lifts?
I have blind faith in Cosgrove’s programs and I’m willing to do them the way they’re written; I just wanna make sure I get it right.

[/quote]

Hi…have you ever read “4 Seconds to Productive Workouts” on the site here or any of Coach Poliquin’s articles…Ian King’s articles or Christian Thibaudeau? All of them have ALWAYS prescribed not only “load” as a percentage of a 1 rep max, but also TEMPO as well as rest periods between sets! Yes…you should be using a stopwatch or whatever can give you feedback on rest between sets.

Christian is the only author I have seen that has seemed to abandoned “tempo” prescriptions in his workout protocols of late and therefore has “dummy downed” an important aspect of program recommendations.
And keep in mind, I really respect Christian as an authority and even bought is “Black Book” of training.

[quote]PtrDR wrote:
CBassBeer wrote:
TC wrote:
Here’s a tidbit on the relevance of tempo.

Exercise physiologist Greg Wilson of Australia discovered that it takes nearly a 4-second pause for the energy from the stretch shortening cycle to dissipate.

That means unless you rest for almost 4 seconds between the eccentric and concentric portion of a bench press, you’re getting a huge bounce effect from the lift.

If you’re a powerlifter, you want to take advantage of the stretch shortening cycle. If you’re a bodybuilder, you’d be better off allowing the energy to disspate.

This is why slow tempo lifts are harder. No bounce.

Obiously, there are many ways to negate the stretch shortening cycle. If you use a slower eccentric, like Alwyn, you won’t build up any elastic energy and you don’t need to pause at the bottom of the lift.

As always, if you’re a bodybuilder, it’s best to vary the methods and tempos.

Slow will lead to more hypertrophy…for awhile.

Then it’s best to go explosive to tap into different muscle fibers.

Very interesting. The slow tempo definitly makes the exercises tougher. I’m still on the “break in” program and it’s kicking my ass!
However, I’m still not sure if Cosgrove really means seconds when he prescribes 311 as the “normal” tempo, not a special slow negative technique. Even in the strength programs the negatives seem really long. Could it be that the numbers are meant to be quick counts to show the relationship between the phases of the lifts?
I have blind faith in Cosgrove’s programs and I’m willing to do them the way they’re written; I just wanna make sure I get it right.

Hi…have you ever read “4 Seconds to Productive Workouts” on the site here or any of Coach Poliquin’s articles…Ian King’s articles or Christian Thibaudeau? All of them have ALWAYS prescribed not only “load” as a percentage of a 1 rep max, but also TEMPO as well as rest periods between sets! Yes…you should be using a stopwatch or whatever can give you feedback on rest between sets.

Christian is the only author I have seen that has seemed to abandoned “tempo” prescriptions in his workout protocols of late and therefore has “dummy downed” an important aspect of program recommendations.
And keep in mind, I really respect Christian as an authority and even bought is “Black Book” of training.[/quote]

Check a watch - 311 means 5 seconds per rep, that’s a long time! I think including tempo in programs is a great thing; 5 seconds per rep just seems really slow for “normal” tempo. I wanted to know what others think about that.

[quote]CBassBeer wrote:
PtrDR wrote:
CBassBeer wrote:
TC wrote:
Here’s a tidbit on the relevance of tempo.

Exercise physiologist Greg Wilson of Australia discovered that it takes nearly a 4-second pause for the energy from the stretch shortening cycle to dissipate.

That means unless you rest for almost 4 seconds between the eccentric and concentric portion of a bench press, you’re getting a huge bounce effect from the lift.

If you’re a powerlifter, you want to take advantage of the stretch shortening cycle. If you’re a bodybuilder, you’d be better off allowing the energy to disspate.

This is why slow tempo lifts are harder. No bounce.

Obiously, there are many ways to negate the stretch shortening cycle. If you use a slower eccentric, like Alwyn, you won’t build up any elastic energy and you don’t need to pause at the bottom of the lift.

As always, if you’re a bodybuilder, it’s best to vary the methods and tempos.

Slow will lead to more hypertrophy…for awhile.

Then it’s best to go explosive to tap into different muscle fibers.

Very interesting. The slow tempo definitly makes the exercises tougher. I’m still on the “break in” program and it’s kicking my ass!
However, I’m still not sure if Cosgrove really means seconds when he prescribes 311 as the “normal” tempo, not a special slow negative technique. Even in the strength programs the negatives seem really long. Could it be that the numbers are meant to be quick counts to show the relationship between the phases of the lifts?
I have blind faith in Cosgrove’s programs and I’m willing to do them the way they’re written; I just wanna make sure I get it right.

Hi…have you ever read “4 Seconds to Productive Workouts” on the site here or any of Coach Poliquin’s articles…Ian King’s articles or Christian Thibaudeau? All of them have ALWAYS prescribed not only “load” as a percentage of a 1 rep max, but also TEMPO as well as rest periods between sets! Yes…you should be using a stopwatch or whatever can give you feedback on rest between sets.

Christian is the only author I have seen that has seemed to abandoned “tempo” prescriptions in his workout protocols of late and therefore has “dummy downed” an important aspect of program recommendations.
And keep in mind, I really respect Christian as an authority and even bought is “Black Book” of training.

Check a watch - 311 means 5 seconds per rep, that’s a long time! I think including tempo in programs is a great thing; 5 seconds per rep just seems really slow for “normal” tempo. I wanted to know what others think about that.[/quote]

Hi.
“Normal tempo” as compared to what? You have to give some basis or measure of what your perception of “normal” is.

If “normal” is predicated on what you see most people’s lifting and lowering speed; I would question using them as an example.

I have delineated what the best strength and hypertrophy experts in the field have revealed and you persist in asking about a 3110 tempo as compared to “normal”? Am I missing something?

How many of the “normal” speed lifters have any level of appreciable strength and muscle size that would make you take what they say as “gospel”?

Coach Staley once wrote that even really heavily muscled guys have an attitude that includes “I am bigger, so I am right” that many people will swallow hook, line and sinker. Are you one of those?

Maybe you are a complete “newbie”. If so, I can understand you lack of historical reference and understanding of the things I have said the the strength experts I have mentioned.

If you are just wanting the answer that tickles your ears?

Peace,
Don

[quote]CBassBeer wrote:
I recently picked up “The New Rules Of Lifting” with Alwyn Cosgrove’s training programs. His “normal” tempo is “301” - 3 seconds negative, 1 second pause, 1 second positive. This seems really slow to me; my “normal” tempo (and what I mostly see others doing) would be around 101.
What do you consider “normal?” Should I treat those “seconds” more like short counts?[/quote]

Recently I’ve had some great gains with a “slower” tempo. Not necessarily counting like some of the guys are saying. Give it a try, be patient with it.

[quote]CBassBeer wrote:
I recently picked up “The New Rules Of Lifting” with Alwyn Cosgrove’s training programs. His “normal” tempo is “301” - 3 seconds negative, 1 second pause, 1 second positive. This seems really slow to me; my “normal” tempo (and what I mostly see others doing) would be around 101.
What do you consider “normal?” Should I treat those “seconds” more like short counts?[/quote]

Hi CBassBeer,

The concept of a “normal” tempo is, as was suggested earlier, really a subjective one. It also depends heavily on the exercise being performed. For instance if one were performing squats with a 101 tempo, one would have to be pretty much dropping into the bottom position in an uncontrolled manner. However, if one were performing say barbell wrist curls then you could probably perform the eccentric portion of the lift in control and have it take only 1 second. Then you have lifts like the olympic lifts, farmers walks, etc… which have no eccentric portion whatsoever.

As far as what would be the “best” tempo to use. It really depends on your goals, and what you have been doing. If you’re looking for maximal force production, then I wouldn’t suggest focusing on tempo. Just lower the weight under control and explode the weight up. If you really want to negate the plyometric effect then I’d suggest pausing in the bottom position (as TC suggested) rather than worrying about lowering the weight in 3 seconds.

Personally, the only time when I really count my eccentrics are when I’m doing supramaximal exercises (1 arm chins, heavy grippers, etc…). I believe that CW addressed the concept of tempo in one of his articles “Building your Rep part 1”. His reasoning against counting tempo is that it reduces maximal strength, and they generally relate to slower muscle contraction speeds. That’s just the “cliff notes” explanation though.

Good training,

Sentoguy

I don’t really focus that much on tempo, certainly not to the point of counting seconds. I’ve never been a fan of 1-0-1, 3-0-1, etc. Certain lifts need more eccentric control than others.

One of the authors recently used the tempo scheme of 3-0-X or something similar. I prefer my lifts to be explosive on the concentric, which is what the X stands for.

The longer the range of motion for the lift, the longer it’s going to take eccentrically. Obviously if you aren’t controlling the weight at all you are going to run into problems.

I’m not saying that eccentric control isn’t important, it’s just not something I consciously count.