Today we get to play around with some tempo squats. Might be seeing more variations like this as the weeks go on. Gym’s/coaches go through times where they use tempo regularly and then not so much. All of it has to do with adaptation and the stimulus the coach wants. You also have control over load, volume, time under tension, etc using the tempo method. Don’t know what the tempo method is or why we’d ever use it? Read below!
What is Tempo?
Tempo is the speed of contraction during each phase of the lift allowing you to lower and lift the weights under full control and optimal efficiency for development and progression. This formula was first popularized by a strength coach out of Australia, Ian King and then largely used by a guy you might know, Charles Poliquin.
Before diving in to the basic principles of “TEMPO” lets define some commonly used terms used in describing muscle action during resistance training. These terms will help you better understand how tempo works.
First of all, muscles can only lengthen and shorten by pulling the the bones and joints to move the body as directed from the brain. This lengthening and shortening of the muscles are further defined as eccentric and concentric muscle action when combined with resistance training.
Eccentric Action – Is the lengthening action of a group of muscles. When a weight is being lowered in a controlled manner, the muscles involved are normally lengthening in a controlled manner. Example- The flexors of the arm (biceps) lengthening as your lowering yourself down from a strict chin up or extend your arm in a Dumbbell bicep curl exercise.
Concentric Action- Is the Shortening action of a group of muscles. When a weight is being lifted the muscles involved normally are shortening. Example- The flexors of the arm shorten to assist bringing your chin over the bar.
Why use tempo?
#1- Upgrades training prescription
When writing workouts, one of the first components to prescribing a proper training stimulus based off the athletes goals is rep ranges. The importance of tempo added to the prescription will ensure the athletes are getting the aimed training effect. Lets say two women were to perform 10 repetitions of back squats. One lifts slow and controlled, down in a count of 5 and up in a count of 3 and the other cranks it out as if she was on the dance floor “dropin’ it like its hot”! Wouldn’t you agree that even though they are doing the same number of reps for the same exercise that they would both be getting a different training effect? Yes it would! The speed of the movement is effecting other variables! One way of controlling more pieces of the training prescribed is to implement tempo to the exercise.
#2- Improves Strength Gains
Tempo allows for an improved training stimulus that enhances strength and movement efficiency. Subtle changes in lifting speed can have profound results for athletes who are looking to enhance their lean muscle mass, increase strength and performance. This occurs when the lifter increases intramuscular contraction by working the eccentric phase of the exercise longer. The slow eccentric phase recruits higher motor threshold units that triggers useful strength gains. For example; lowering the bar to your chest slower in the Bench Press and then lifting it as fast as possible has proven to increase strength by recruiting higher motor units. Triggering Higher motor units allows for the development of useful strength and fiber type adaptations.
#3 – Safe and Corrective for Specific Weaknesses in an exercise
Prescribing tempo to a exercise allows the coach to help the athlete focus on a specific phase of the lift. For example; we might prescribe a tempo that has the athlete pause at the bottom of a Back Squat to improve their strength/efficiency at the bottom, so they can hold better position and overcome any plateaus with their squat. Slowing movement down for is also fantastic for beginners because allows for a safer progression when learning new motor patterns via exercises.
When NOT to use Tempo
You should not “tempo” movements that are highly Central Nervous System (CNS) driven. If the training response is to train the CNS to recruit max number of motor units the movement should not have a tempo prescribed to it. For example , the Power Clean. Tempo prescription should also be avoided for dynamic movements that function off of momentum driven components….such as; the kipping pull up, muscle ups, kipping hspu, ctb pull ups, re-bounding box jumps, burpees etc.
*:05 pause in bottom each rep
2 rounds for time:
30 Back Squat 135/95
*13 Min Cap