What is the purpose of tempo in your training?

Coach's Notes

In terms of your training, I believe tempo is one of the most important concepts you need to wrap your head around.

Tempo is the speed with which you move the bar, dumbbells, plates, or your body during a repetition. Tempo:

  • reduces the risk of injury
  • allows for greater stress on the muscles with less stress on your connective tissue
  • controls one of the variables in your training to ensure you progress from week-to-week

Tempo measures the speed of your repetition in four parts:

  1. Eccentric – movement with gravity
  2. Pause
  3. Concentric – movement against gravity
  4. Pause

For most of your training blocks, I don’t vary your tempo much. When I don’t call it out for a specific movement, I usually expect you’re using a tempo of 2010.

Two seconds on the eccentric (lowering the bar on bench, descending toward the floor on squats, allowing the bar to rise on pulldowns), no rest, one second on the concentric (pressing the bar toward the ceiling, standing back up, pulling the bar down).

By using at least a two-second count on the eccentric, it forces you to maintain control throughout the whole range of motion.

ALWAYS REMAIN IN CONTROL OF THE MOVEMENT.

Look around at the gym and you’ll see people swinging, jerking, or flailing weights up and down, thinking that they’ll get stronger simply because they’re using more weight.

To the contrary, they’ll probably end up injured. At best, their ego will get bigger but their body won’t get stronger.

Focusing on tempo every session keeps your ego in check, keeps you in control of the movement, overloads your muscles better, and in the end, gets you better results.

Remember, if I ever happened upon you while you’re in the middle of a set, I should be able to say “FREEZE” and you could immediately stop in whatever position you were at that moment. If you couldn’t do that, you wouldn’t be in control.

Coach’s Notes is a collection of insights, recommendations, and tutorials to help my VIGOR Training member-athletes get more out of the program. Though non-members may find the content to be informative and applicable, I’ve written them as though I’m speaking directly to one of my athletes.

Tom Nikkola

Tom Nikkola

Founder, VIGOR Training

Tom is the founder of VIGOR Training, powerful fitness programs for those committed to getting to the gym. He uses his 20 years of experience, and observation, and education in health and fitness to write, teach, and train men and women to feel, look, and perform better than ever. When he’s not working, you’ll find him hanging out with his wife Vanessa, or playing golf with their grandson Asher.