Yeah, you looking to build muscle despite having done the same training routine for the last several years and hitting a plateau years ago.
Are you happy with how your training is progressing or would you like to drop a few pounds of fat and gain several pounds of muscle?
Getting in shape is one of the hardest processes in the world, but it can be done if you are willing to put the hard work in.
When it comes down to training variables, you can’t overlook tempo.
In fact, many expert trainers and officials agree that tempo is perhaps the most important variable of all. This is why we’re going to be focussing on tempo training in today’s guide.
If you want to drop fat, build muscle, increase strength, and benefit from insane muscle pumps, the tempo workout could be exactly what you need.
But there’s just one problem – Not many people seem to know what it is.
That’s why we’ve compiled this handy guide.
Below you’ll find out everything there is to know about tempo.
So, sit back, pull up a chair, get comfortable, and prepare to embark on a journey of knowledge into the world of tempo.
Table Of Contents
Starting as we mean to go on, we’ll begin by looking at what tempo is.
Tempo, as you may be aware, is a term used to describe the speed in which a certain movement is performed.
If you jog at a certain speed for a prolonged period of time, for example, you are maintaining a constant tempo.
Now, for gym rats, the only speed needed is ‘INTENSE’!
We know that intensity isn’t generally a term used to describe speed, but we thought it was cool so it’s staying in.
Basically, lifters, often assume that the faster they speed through each rep, set, and workout, the more beneficial their training session will be.
This isn’t necessarily the case.
You see, when you alter the tempo of an exercise you’re performing, you can alter the way in which the muscle is being worked and stimulated.
Varying stimuli placed upon the muscle fibers results in varying levels of muscle hypertrophy.
The next time you’re at the gym, just pay attention to some of the more experienced lifters that are training and take a look at how quickly or how slowly they’re performing each rep.
Some less-experienced lifters when you're doing bench press, for example, will bounce the bar off their chests as quickly as they can, as if they’re trying to break a world record for as many reps as possible performed in just 10 seconds.
Others, however, will slowly lower the bar down to their chests, will pause for a second, and will then explode up.
This is an example of a tempo workout.
Now, to make things even easier to understand, in its most basic form, the tempo is a term used to describe the amount of time a muscle is placed under tension for each rep, measured in 4 unique numbers (all seconds).
Basically, the tempo is rep control and rep speed.
If you speed up the tempo and perform quicker reps, you recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibers, which means that you generate more strength and power.
A slower rep at a slower tempo will result in greater muscle tissue breakdowns and larger rates of muscle hypertrophy.
For best results, you should incorporate fast reps and slower reps to get the best of both worlds.
Now it’s time for us to take a look at exactly how tempo works.
There are basically four phases that make up a movement when describing tempo.
Tempo always begins with the eccentric movement first, which is when the muscle contracts and lengthens.
With tempo for, say, a biceps curl, you could go with a tempo of 2 – 0 -2 – 0.
This might look like a technical math equation, but it basically means that you spend 2 seconds on the eccentric, 0-second pause, 2 seconds on the concentric, and again a 0-second pause.
So, you’d spend 2 seconds lowering the weight, and without pausing, you’d spend 2 seconds raising the weight.
Again, without pausing.
There are many different sports and disciplines in which you can utilize tempo effectively.
Here are a few key examples:
If you are training with strength and power in mind, tempo can provide numerous advantages for your training.
After all, tempo itself is considered to be the foundation of strength and power.
Without tempo during your workouts, you simply won’t make any real progress.
Whether you’re a powerlifter, an Olympic lifter, a strongman, or somebody that just wants to lift some heavyweight, the tempo is vital.
Without it, you’ll quickly plateau.
Tempo will help ensure that you are constantly getting stronger as you are breaking down and building up new muscle fibers.
If your goal is to build strength and power, be sure to utilize tempo training the next time you’re lifting weights.
Calisthenics has been around for a long time.
Reportedly the primary training discipline for Roman soldiers, calisthenics is, at its core, the same as it is has always been.
Calisthenics utilizes your own body weight for resistance, and it is a great way of building muscle strength and size, as long as you are doing it right.
With calisthenics, your weight is the resistance, so unless you quickly gain or lose weight, you can’t really alter the resistance too much.
If you alter the tempo in which you perform the exercises however, you can make vast improvements.
Say, for example, you’re performing push-ups, if you slowly lower yourself down to the floor instead of slamming your chest down quickly, you’re placing the muscles under elevated levels of tension, which will, in turn, elicit greater levels of muscle hypertrophy.
You could even utilize pause reps in which you’ll simply pause at different portions of the movement, which will again help to elicit more muscle mass.
Now that we know the basics when it comes to tempo, we’re going to give you a few handy tips for incorporating tempo into your routine.
There are plenty of ways in which you can utilize tempo to your advantage.
Here are a few ways in which you can perform tempo.
When most people lift weights with muscle growth in mind, generally they tend to follow more basic training principles such as progressive overload training.
This in itself is very useful because it basically means that each time you train you are adding more weight, or are performing more reps.
Now, if you decide to go with a high weight tempo you need to ensure that you’re doing things correctly.
If you are military pressing for example and can press 135lbs for a tempo of 1-0-1-0 if that is all you’re used to then that’s where you’ll plateau.
In order to increase your strength and do more, you need to either add a little more weight at a tempo of 1-0-1-0 or stick with 135lbs and speed things up.
Now your tempo with 135lbs could look something like 3-1-1-0.
So, here you’d be lowering the barbell for 3 seconds, you’d pause for a second, you’d press it for a second and you wouldn’t pause at the top.
Another example of how you can utilize tempo routine to your advantage is by increasing the number of reps that you perform.
You see, not everybody that lifts weight does so with the goal of getting strong and powerful.
Some people that lift weights do so with the goal of building muscle.
If this applies to you, it might be time for you to consider performing more reps instead.
Rep tempo is a great way of making progress.
You see, if you simply perform more reps to failure, you’re placing the muscle under increasing amounts of stress and pressure and will create more damage.
This means that greater levels of hypertrophy will be enjoyed.
As an example, if you can perform 10 reps of biceps curls at a 1-0-1-0 tempo, you may wish to increase the tempo and aim for 10 reps with a tempo of 2-1-2-1 instead.
You’re still doing 10 reps, but because you’re placing the muscle under increasing amounts of stress because of the movements you’re performing, you’ll find you become bigger and stronger.
Though this sounds technical, it really isn’t as complex as you may have thought.
A great way to get more from your training is via accentuated eccentric tempo.
One of the best ways of building muscle is by simply slowing down the negative (eccentric) portion of any exercise.
You see, when you look to build muscle, one of the most effective strategies for hypertrophy is to create more damage to the muscles.
When we lift weights, we create microscopic rips in the muscle fibers.
The body repairs this damage via protein synthesis and builds the fibers up to be bigger and stronger than before, in an attempt to prevent them from suffering further damage.
Studies have found that eccentric training can elicit more damage to the muscles, which means more muscle growth and repair.
An example of this form of training is to perform EZ bar biceps curls, and after curling the weight up to your chest, holding the bar tightly and slowly lowering it back down to your thighs for several seconds.
You’re fighting gravity and are placing the muscle tissue under elevated levels of stress. This results in more damage.
Basically, when you lower the weight down, don’t let gravity do the work for you.
Try to fight gravity and hold it during the eccentric portion of the movement and you’ll be amazed by what a difference it can make.
If you feel as if you’ve hit a plateau, it could be worth trying TUT training.
Time under tension training typically requires a lifter to use half their usual weight for a working set and to double the amount of time under tension they find their muscles in.
So, if you normally find that you have a time under tension tempo of 2-1-2-1, go with a lighter weight and opt for a TUT tempo of 4-2-4-2 instead.
Pause reps may sound easy, but in reality, they’re brutal and will work wonders for anybody looking to pack on more muscle.
It’s painfully simple to explain, but sometimes with training simplicity is the key.
Basically, a pause rep is where you pause at the concentric portion of a movement.
If you’re performing a pull-up, for example, you’d do the pull-ups and would hold yourself at the top of the movement for a second or two before lowering yourself down.
When squatting, you’d pause at the bottom of the squat when your butt is near to the ground.
Hold for a second or two and then explode up.
For muscle hypertrophy and raw power, there really is nothing better.
And with that, we’ll call it a day for today’s guide.
Hopefully, you’ve found this tempo training guide insightful and inspiring and it has inspired you to try the training principles listed above the next time you train.
If you’re looking to make some serious strength and muscle gains, tempo really will take some beating...
Reda is an ACE Certified Nutritionist, Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt and bodybuilder with 11 years of experience. He's been published on many influential websites such as lifehack.org, Wealthy Gorilla, Good Men Project and more.