T Nation

Tempo?

Ive been trying to come to some conclusions on tempo lately, but haven’t had luck.

I found this article:

Which seemed good at first, but there are many points the author makes that I highly disagree with, so im not too sure as to how applicable the suggestions are.

Also, other methods like CW’s and Westside’s do not completely coincide with those from the article.


The tempo suggestions tend to change based on an individual’s goals. Strength/hypertrophy/endurance, all have different tempo recomendations, but many athletes want strength, hypertrophy, and endurance, so either an athlete must periodize tempo to achieve all three, or there is a tempo that will accomplish all three. Most suggestions should be aimed at recruiting as many MU’s as possible for the duration of the set.

***Also, im against temo recomnedations that suggest specific times, like 4211. Everyone is different, and its not practical to focus that much on tempo.

So heres what im thinking currently:

Strength:

Concentric: ALWAYS accelerate as fast as possible.
Eccentric: For most exercises, most of the time, as fast as possible. As long as your not bouncing the weight off your chest (bench) or bouncing off a box (box squats), the faster the eccentric, the greater the force required to reverse the direction of movement. (Obviously with heavier weights, you cant go too fast, or you wont be able to reverse the movement. Hence “as fast as possible”)

Pause in stretched position: A pause of 2-5 seconds can be beneficial to overide the stretch reflex, for certain movements. (Im not too sure as to the application of this but im guessing that by overiding the stretch reflex, your able to better stimulate strength at the beginning of the movement.

Pause in the contracted position: Im not sure about this one either. I can see why someone might recomend pausing and squeezing at the top of a chinup or a row, but IMO if your able squeeze and hold at the top, then your not using enough weight.


Hypertrophy:

Now I know people have gotten big, with lighter weights, longer durations and slower tempos, but for the sake of this thread lets just we are only concerned with “functional hypertrophy” for a competative athlete.

I often see “bodybuilding” prescriptions of slow tempos both eccentric, and concentric that suggest a “mind muscle connection” and squeezing for maximal contraction throughout the ROM. The only way you can increase muscular tension in the agonist muscles with a less than maximal tempo, is by contracting antagonist muscles. (ex: Squeezing the biceps hard during a submaximal slow bicep curl, means that your triceps are producing force to slow the weight)

It seems to me that this would be counterproductive for an athlete, because decreased antagonist activation and muscular coordination is one of the factors that leads to increased strength.

SO IT SEEMS A MAXIMAL SPEED CONCENTRIC SHOULD BE USED EVEN WHEN AIMING FOR HYPERTROPHY

As for eccentric tempo, im leaning towards one of the two following options:

A) Same as for strength
B) Lockout at the top, and instead of decreasing force to lower the weight, increase antagonistic force to “pull the weight down”. (EX: Lockout shoulder press, and use lats and biceps to slowly pull the weight down)

Lastly, it seems like endurance should be trained similar to the above two protocols. Endurance results from an increased demand for energy and oxygen on muscles. What better way to demand more energy and oxygen than to recruit as many motor units as possible in a repeated manner.


In summary:

Concentric: ALWAYS as fast as possible
Eccentric: Usually as fast as possible, but may be beneficial to do eccenrics of 2-5 seconds, in which you squeeze and pull the weight down.

Pause in stretched position: Beneficial part of the time.
Pause in contraced position: Beneficial part of the time for certain movements, but im not sure as to what the application of this might be.

What do you guys think? The above ideas? or maximal speed on everything all the time, while occasionally using a pause in the stretched position?

I think maximal concentric speed should be used all the time for any goal as long as form is maintained.

For strength-training a controlled but fast eccentric will better ensure a fast, powerful concentric. If you squat down slowly you won’t be able to squat up as fast as if you squat down quickly but in control.

So there’s no question about rep tempo for strength. Even if you don’t move the weight fast, your intent must be fast. Going slow on the concentric of a new 5RM for bench is way different than deliberately slowing down your concentric on some machine chest press for no reason. What’s the difference? The intent of rep speed.

Dante advises slow eccentrics for nearly every exercise but squats when training for hypertrophy. But when Dave Tate started dieting and put out an extensive “Time Under Tension” article about hypertrophy he advised using slow eccentrics some of the time. I think Dave’s approach is the best.

What Dave Tate advised was to focus on how long the set lasts (ideally 30-40 seconds for hypertrophy) instead of focusing on rep tempo.

So if you’re following Dave Tate’s advice, you should find a weight that’s challenging enough to make it so the set lasts 30-40 seconds just because it takes you that long to complete your reps.

So if you do Dumbbell Bench with the 90s and the set takes you about 35 seconds, you’ve selected an ideal weight and you should be more concerned with finishing your reps than with rep tempo.

But what if you picked up the 85s and those were just ever-so-light? Then you slow down your tempo so you’re challenged for 30-40 seconds.

What if you select a weight that’s too heavy?
Then you can use either partial reps, make the set a rest-pause set, only do negatives, do static holds, or do a drop set so that you can still complete a challenging 30-40 second set.

So what’s the best tempo for Hypertrophy?
I think it varies by muscle group and exercise. I think for most compound movements the focus should pretty much always be to have controlled and powerful reps. For chins or rows if you know you’re not going to make the next rep, then you can do a slow negative during your last rep. But doing a slow negative for your last rep is hard to do on pressing movements unless you have a spotter or some way to escape the load pinning you down. Doing slow, 2-count negatives on isolation moves makes sense to me.

Just look at what the most successful bodybuilders do for rep tempo: They go pretty damn fast. Except for arms and shoulder raises I rarely see pro-bodybuilders deliberately controlling their rep tempo and doing super slow negatives…except for guys doing DC Training.

Oh, and for what it’s worth I don’t think tempo is really that big of a deal. Just don’t hurt yourself and go heavy.

[quote]FightingScott wrote:
Oh, and for what it’s worth I don’t think tempo is really that big of a deal. Just don’t hurt yourself and go heavy. [/quote]

I agree with this last statement, and some of what you said. Im not so sure about the 30-45 second thing though. Maybe as a finisher exercise, or late in the workokut after heavier faster sets, but I think hypertrophy could still be accomplished with shorter sets of 10-15 seconds, or however long it takes to do 4-8 reps.

I think CW is right on when he says terminate the set when speed slows. The only problem is its still kinda hard to tell when speed is slowing with a set of 3-4.

If a set is only 3-4 reps, it’s unlikely you’ll slow down to any measurable extent. The set is just over too quickly.

I don’t give a whole lot of thought to tempo, but I think it possibly should be related to frequency of training. If you train a movement or muscle once or twice per week, you should probably use a Waterbury-esque approach. However, if you use more frequent training, such as 4 or more times per week, you should probably focus on submaximal work, and therefore use a moderate tempo.

[quote]dankid wrote:
I agree with this last statement, and some of what you said. Im not so sure about the 30-45 second thing though. Maybe as a finisher exercise, or late in the workokut after heavier faster sets, but I think hypertrophy could still be accomplished with shorter sets of 10-15 seconds, or however long it takes to do 4-8 reps.
[/quote]

If pure hypertrophy is your goal, I think 30-45 seconds is still the best time frame to do your reps. The sets that last shorter, those 5RMs, Triples, and Singles, are included in training for the primary purpose of making strength gains.

But who does Kevin Levrone bench 500lbs just for 3 reps? Why does Ronnie Squat 800X2? Why don’t they just do sets that always last 30-45 seconds? Is it just because they want to pump up their ego by making some big lifts? Of course not. Is it because Doubles and Triples are the best thing to do for hypertrophy? No, it’s not that either.

Even Bodybuilders do fives or triples sometimes because they need to make strength gains so that they can increase their normal training poundages. I doubt Ronnie’s 800X2 Deadlift gave him his thick lats, but by getting that strong, Ronnie was able to handle heavy weight on Barbell Rows, T-Bar Rows, and other exercises that benefit from that kind of back strength but are responsible for his huge lats.

If you’re a bodybuilder, you should occasionally do heavy, short sets to build your strength. Sometimes it may be appropriate to do super-high-rep sets as well to get some growth out of different muscle fibers and get more blood flowing. But most of the time you should train with sets that are 30-45 seconds long because challenging sets that take you 30-45 seconds to complete are the best sets for making the muscles with the greatest potential for growth actually grow.

There aren’t any bodybuilders out there, pro or natural, whose staple program is 10 sets of 3 reps at 85%. You’re more likley to find them doing 85% for a max number of reps. Whose out there doing 10 sets of 3 reps at 85%? Weightlifters. And to their credit, they don’t have very much hypertrophy for their level of strength. That’s the whole point of the way they train. So if you want to be strong, then prioritize short sets and train your CNS. If you just want to be big, then do long sets and train your muscles.

If you want to be big and strong then you should limit all cardio.