So in my 25 years of lifting (yup, you read that right - I’m now what I would call an old timer), I’ve always tried to be strict with my form (ever since a heavy DB row screwed my back) and have tried to maintain a better than average TuT (Time under Tension).
Then last night, I was downloading some new tunes to the iPod for my workouts this week and thought about the pro’s and what they do when exercising (not entirely sure how this came into my head when the wife was nagging me about cleaning up the laundry).
Back in the day I saw Lee Labrada and when he hit the gym, it was more like throwing the weight around. Whatever it took to get it up (no pun intended). Same with Paul Dillett - this guy was a beast in every way and he too, was focused on getting it up, rather than having super strict form and performing an exercise slowly to maximize TuT.
Then I thought I’d google Branch Warren (I’m a fan of pro’s that are my height) and see if there’s any videos on their workouts. Again, Branch is like the others - push it up no matter what…
Anyways, it just got me thinking - I think there’s something to be said for form, but not to go overkill on it and TuT just might be some hogwash that some “Fitness Trainer” brainwashed the monkeys with.[/quote]
Since you’ve been lifting so long, this ain’t your first rodeo. Nevertheless, there are numerous reasons why I’m not on board with your theory. I won’t list all here.
For every superstar that just throws weights around, there are others who lift in a more controlled manner. And even those in the former category are predisposed for hypertrophy regardless of technique. Is it fair? No. Is life fair? Of course, not.
Furthermore, guys like Branch Warren has had some significant injuries. Is there a correlation with his lifting style? I think so.
The eccentric portion of a lift is where we are at our strongest. You can exploit this by slowing that portion and get more out of less weight. This usually translates to longevity in the gym. This is a bodybuilding forum after all; the amount of weight lifted, although somewhat important, is secondary to how they make the muscles grow.
And if you’re still not sold, another interesting upside to slow eccentric is the positive effects on connective tissue integrity. What good are strong and impressive-looking muscles if their attachments to the bone are questionable…?
The downside of the slow eccentric, as most know, is that it can prolong recovery time. So know there is a cost to everything.
Is there a time for an explosive tempo? Absolutely. Plyos and Oly lifts come to mind.
Is there a time for slow to moderate tempo? Absolutely. Warming up, trying to establish optimal mmc, rehab/prehab, certain maximum pump protocols come to mind. And there are certain movements which DEMAND a controlled tempo (I’ll come back to this later in the post).
Is there a time to combine the two? Absolutely. A slow eccentric to strengthen the connective tissue, get more out of less weight. An explosive (yet precise) concentric to better recruit the fast twitch fibers. Fred Hatfield wrote about this back in the 80s. He called it Compensatory Acceleration Training.
And let’s not forget a common reason why many cannot escape the dreaded plateau is that they do the same type of training over and over again.
Someone who has been training with a slow tempo just may respond favorably to a fast tempo. These folks will need to make sure technique and load selection is on point to prevent injury.
Someone who has been training explosively may respond favorably to a slower tempo - especially the eccentric. In-season athletes and those who have the luxury to train frequently may need to be careful how this effects their recovery.
And you can and should manipulate tempo to suit your goals. To give an example of mixing and matching tempo, the following is a post activation potentiation workout I did Sunday.
Movement 1: One-arm roll outs (holding 12# db in non-working hand) using trx and feet on the floor (no knee contact) 3 second eccentric; 2 seconds pause at “extended position”; 3 seconds concentric; 2 seconds pause in the “inverted v” position; 3-5 reps. 2-3 minutes rest. Movement 2: Med ball slams emphasizing the arm that was used prior in movement 1: 1 second to raise the ball above my head; as soon as the ball is in place, slam the ball as quickly and forcefully as possible; repeat for 3 reps. 2 minute rest and repeat cycle on other side.
Movement 1 DEMANDS control at all times. There is so much volatility in that movement, I would be insane to attempt this using a fast pace. Movement 2 requires that I exploit the stretch-shortening cycle as much as possible. And, yes, for the historians out there, this is inspired after Verkhoshansky’s principles.
I do agree with you in that I’ve seen more than a few Mickey-mouse and Minnie-mouse trainers out there write tempos with zero clue on the ramifications. However, it’s a mistake to use these idiots as an excuse to dismiss tempo as irrelevant.
Ultimately, the mastery of tempo is no different than mastery of exercise selection, technique, and programming. It does have relevance to the task at hand. And like any other tool, it’s only as good as the person using it.