Tempo is a tool we use in training of strength movements that allows us to add intensity, focus on mechanics and control which enables you, our athletes to progress in training movements and develop strength without additional loads.
Tempo is a method to control the rate at which an exercise is performed by breaking down each movement into four segments and applying a time target to each. This allows us to control how much time under tension a muscle is subjected to in the isometric, eccentric, and concentric elements of the exercise.
First let’s explain these elements
An application of force to a muscle in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction. I.e: The bottom and top of a squat, as well as a plank. Iso translates as “same” so there is no movement but there is tension in the muscle required to hold whatever position you are in
The phase of the exercise where the muscle elongates while under tension due to the load being greater than the force generated by the muscle. I.e: The lowering portion of the squat or deadlift.
The phase of the movement in which the muscle shortens while generating force greater than the external load. I.e: The standing portion of the squat or the lifting of the bar in the deadlift
How to read and execute TEMPO in an exercise programme like SBX BUILD
Tempo is always written using four digits such as 42X1
With each digit the numbers represent seconds typically from 0 up (0 is only used on the isometric components) and the letter X denotes “Explosive” i.e. lift as fast and powerfully as possible
Digit 1 Always represents the Eccentric – in this case 4 seconds – this can be confusing because in a deadlift for example the first part of the movement is concentric i.e. picking the weight off the floor but regardless the first number will always be the lowering phase
Digit 2 Represents the Isometric Bottom of the movement – i.e. the bottom of the squat or the load at the bottom in a deadlift in this example you would be at the bottom of the squat (or deadlift) for 2 seconds
Digit 3 Represents the Concentric i.e. the “lifting” part of the movement standing up in squat or deadlift or even the bringing of hand towards you in a bicep curl. In this example we use “X” to denote “Explosive”! So you would move powerfully and as fast as possible to the top of the movement
Digit 4 Represents the Isometric top i.e. the standing portion of the deadlift or squat or the weight at the the top near your shoulder in a bicep curl in the above example you would stand at the top for 1 second.
The tempo ‘prescription’ changes the intent of the exercise in various ways:
Position and Mechanics – By slowing down the movement we are helping you (the athlete) to develop an awareness of what the body is doing during each phase of the movement or even one specific muscle contraction within the piece.
Metabolic – By increasing the total amount of time under tension, we increase the amount of work required, which in turn increases the metabolic demand of the exercise i.e. if a single complete lift takes 7 seconds there is considerably more work required than a lift that takes 2 seconds
Progression – You can keep the tempo the same for the movement and gradually decrease the amount of time under tension in the sets to force weight progression
Control – Tempo requires the athlete to utilise every muscle in order to meet the demands of the tempo. This forces the athlete to remain in control and develop muscles to maintain it.
You will see tempo employed frequently at StrongBox especially during SBX strength classes like SBX Build. When we suggest a tempo for example a 42X1 kettlebell deadlift we always recommend that you count the time as follows “One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand” so that you get a consistent and accurate timing for the movement phases.
By lifting with increased time under tension and control than usual you may find that lower weights are able to really challenge you and lead to incredible results and develop incredible strength and control with tempo training. Check out our booking page here to sign up for your trial https://strongboxqatar.com/membership/