T Nation

Tempo: the forgotten variable?

I was unaware of the importance of tempo until I started reading Charles Poliquin’s work. Now I pay due attention to the tempos of my repetitions all the time, generally taking at least seconds for the eccentric and commonly 5 or 6. Now that I have gained the capacity to control the eccentric at this speed, is there now any reason to perform my reps quicker anymore, like 101 or 201 tempo? Also, since I have begun slowing my eccentrics down, I receive odd looks and stares at my gym. I see no-one else taking anywhere near the time I do to perform the eccentric, with people generally taking only one second to lower the weight, regardless of the exercise! How about you guys, do any of you pay great attention to your tempos and lower at such slow speeds? I seem to be the only one doing it that I have seen!

Of course I pay attention to the tempo of my repst/sets. I feel I know a lot more now since I pay attention to my TUT. Using slow speeds is good and using fast speeds is good. It depends on your goals for which one to use. I suggest you use both to maximize results. When using fast speeds, I recommend controlled eccentrics and always proper form, ie. no bouncing, swaying, etc. Try Poliquin’s Slow Tempo Arm Routine. It is definitely a shock for the tempo manipulation. I recommend doing fast tempos for 3 weeks before it. Good luck!!

Scott (W), man, don’t the idiots in your gym get you down. If they want to stare, let 'em. Imagine how much more they’re going to stare when you continue growing and they don’t.

I think that you may have misunderstood something about tempo and how it fits into a workout, though. It’s not that slow tempos are “better” than fast ones. The idea is (a) to manipulate your Time Under Tension via the use of varied tempos and (b) to have one more variable in your workout that can produce a different CNS response. To take the last point first, just doing your reps slower or faster will give your muscles a different stimulus, which should lead to greater strength, size, etc. But the main thing to consider is TUT per set, between 20-40 seconds for fast-twitch fibers and between 40-70 seconds for slow-twitch. So if you were doing a set of heavy triples, you might use a tempo of 4141, which would give you a total of 30 seconds for the set. But you wouldn’t want to use a 2010, because the total TUT would only be 9 seconds - not enough to (theoretically) stimulate optimal growth. Conversely, you might train a slow-twitch bodypart using higher reps but a faster tempo, like maybe 20 reps at the aforementioned 2010 speed, because this would put you at 60 seconds for the whole set, which is within the time frame you want.

Hope this helps.

Definately pay attention to tempo and fuck anyone who tells you not to. If you periodize your tempos accordingly and eat/sleep well then you’re gonna grow faster than if you didn’t do tempos. Other reasons to slow down the lowering is that when you are lowering the weight, only half the muscles fibers are recruited from when you lift the weight, therefore those fibers are put under twice as much load and to better elicit hypertrophy, the muscle needs to be put under stress longer, you can do this by lowering the weight slowly. There’s the why and here’s the how. The big picture is this: for maximal strength, TUT = 0-20sec; for hypertrophy, TUT = 20-70sec. Probably optimal for hypertrophy would be 30-60sec. But you need to remember to periodize, usually at the beginning of a mass phase you would go for longer TUT and higher reps, not worry about weight so much and emphasize several joint angles. Then as you get to the last phase you’d go for a 201 or 301 tempo and emphasize weight. A good example of this is Ian King’s 12 week programs, check 'em out. So this is when you’d do a faster tempo and also if you were doing Olympic lifts, you’d do a power clean would with a 10* tempo where the * means as fast as possible. But even when you’re emphasizing weight you can do slow tempo, in Poliquin’s Maximal Weight workout he uses slow tempo then whole way through because this gears the workout toward hypertrophy. Hope this helps, don’t hesitate to ask any more questions.

I understand the importance of TUT (time under tension) and that for relative strength gains, a set should last no longer than 40 seconds and for even better strength gains under 20 seconds. I know that slowing down the negative, to say four seconds or more, negates the effect of the stretch shortening cycle, meaning that no momentum is used to perform the eccentric. However, for certain athletes, it is surely beneficial to make use of the stretch shortening cycle and encourage the use of momentum in lifts? I am right in thinking that at Westside Barbell, Simmons has many of his athletes perform speed reps using sub-maximal loads to allow them to accelerate the weight?? It would be good to see an article covering this type of training on T-mag in the future.