So, your coach has written 3-1-3-1 on the program and you sit there pondering if these are coordinates or something that relates to your program. Let’s break it down.
This is called Tempo and refers to the amount of time (in seconds) you spend on each phase of a single rep.
The Eccentric Phase
– The first number refers to the eccentric, or lowering phase of the movement, in this case, 3 seconds down.
The Transition from Eccentric to Concentric
– The second is time you spend in between the eccentric and concentric phase of the movement or the pause, i.e. if we are squatting this is the hole of the squat, or benching when the bar is on the chest.
The Concentric Phase
– That’s right the third number is the concentric phase of the movement i.e. the up of the squat
The Top of the rep
– Now the last number is the opposite of the second point, the pause between the concentric and the eccentric.
Most times you’ll see at 0 as the last number, I like to make it a 1 or 2 to allow the lifter a time to pause and reset their position. But I will talk about that further down.
Now that you know what we are referring to you’re probably thinking, ‘I see tempo training everywhere at the moment’, and everyone is doing it and feeling DOMS like never before. Then the bodybuilder in his stringlet yells out, it’s just Time Under Tension, we’ve been doing it for years!!!!
Well look to a point he isn’t wrong but let’s take a deeper look at tempo training and how it can apply in our crazy world of lifting heavy objects.
1 – Better Movement through Tempo
Any athlete beginner or elite can always benefit from slowing down movement and becoming more aware of their body in space. The tempo is a great way to do this. Adding a time frame to certain phases of the reps allows the lifter to begin to understand what their body needs to be doing at which point.
I.e. most lifters who are unaware of their chest collapsing in a bench press would benefit greatly from Tempo and think about keeping their shoulder blades retracted, depressed and lower traps engaged.
2 – Addressing Weak Points
Your mid-back rounds off the floor in a deadlift. Most guys add more weight thinking “oh I just need to lock in against heavier weight”. Wrong. Your back will go again as you don’t have the scapular/lat strength to maintain the position.
Dropping the weight and adding the tempo will dramatically increase its difficulty without the risk of injury but also increase intensity through the upper back, allowing you to understand and strengthen the necessary position.
3 – Increase Conditioning/Work Capacity
This is pretty simple; IT’S FUCKING HARD. Try next time you are training and you will understand what I mean.
4 – Yes, Time Under Tension
Now old mate bodybuilder wasn’t exactly wrong before when he said this. Taking weights through a tempo does place greater intensities on our muscle to increase metabolic stress which drives muscle hypertrophy.
Further, you can manipulate the ratios of tempo to develop certain aspects or match them more to your training phase.
Training for hypertrophy – 5-1-4-1
Power Development – 3-1-0-1
Using tempo training is a very good tool to be used in conjunction with the right timing within a program alongside matching it to correct ratios. It’s much more than time under tension and has varying applicability to our great sport.
Coach – Greco