programs gym photos nutrition videos

Tempo Training in All Its Glory

I admit, sometimes we get you to do seemingly weird things. While some of you don’t feel the need to ask questions, others always like to know WHY. 


Why are you making squatting even harder by making us take 3 seconds to lower and 3 seconds to pause at the bottom?


Today, we’ll tackle this one.


Tempo Training!


Whether it’s tempo squats or tempo pull-ups, the benefits of tempo training are vast. 


Tempo training has been used for a long time in the sport of Olympic weightlifting, as well as in powerlifting and bodybuilding. Well-known strength coaches Charles Poliquin ( and Ian King (, are two big names who popularized the concept of using a variety of tempos during various movements.


What is Tempo?


Tempo is a training protocol which allows us to program and dictate the 'time under tension' for a prescribed movement.  As mentioned earlier in the article, we are just finishing our strength focus on the Front Box Squat in which we prescribed @33X1.

Wait what? 33 sets? 33 reps?  Not so quick.

Let's break that down.  Tempo is written with 4 characters each with a specific designation.

3 - This first number represents the number of seconds spent during the lowering or eccentric portion of your movement (think slowing down the weight or your body as it goes into a 'relaxed' position)

- This second number represents the number of seconds spent at the 'bottom' of the movement-where it transitions from eccentric into concentric. (lowering to ascending)

- This third number (or character) represents the number of seconds spent during the ascending or concentric portion of the lift.  In this case, the character is an 'X' which means there should be an explosive movement.  When weights get heavy or movements get very hard, the movement itself may not be 'fast' but it is the intent how you are trying to move.

- This fourth number represents the number of seconds spent at the 'top' of the movement-where it transitions from concentric to a 'resting' position.  

Counting! - Seems silly to have to put this in here, but when that barbell is heavy we all count VERY fast unless we are thinking about it.  Build the habit during lighter loads to really COUNT, one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand.


Here are just a few reasons why we use tempo training now and again.


Tempo Training to Improve Positioning


One of the big benefits is how it can help you develop better motor patterns and positioning. Often times, your positioning breaks down or feels weak somewhere in a movement. Tempo work, which might have you to take five slow seconds to pull yourself into a squat, for example, will help you develop better control throughout the movement, ultimately helping you achieve more efficient positioning throughout. 


Part of this comes down to improved awareness and conscious control about what your body is doing. What do I mean by this? Have you ever been told the same correction over and over by a coach?


"Keep your arms straight!”


You hear it for the third time that hour and you think, “F off, my arms are straight!" But then you see a video of yourself, and turns out your arms are very bent.



Slowing movements down through tempo training will go a long way in improving this body awareness to bridge the gap between what you think you’re doing and what you're actually doing.


Tempo Training to Improve Strength


Tempo training is an easy way to increase your time under tension, allowing you to increase your relative intensity with submaximal loading. In other words, it's an effective way to build strength safely.


Why is it safe?


In short, your connective tissue takes a long time to adapt to load. So with tempo work, your connective tissues won't be as taxed because you’ll be lifting lighter loads, but the added intensity of the tempo will still allow you to make strength adaptations.



Tempo Training and the Central Nervous System (CNS)


Tempo training allows you to gain strength and control without taxing your CNS as much as maxing out on your lifting does. This means your recovery is likely going to be faster and you're less likely to get injured from being fatigued. 


Longevity is what we’re after! Right?!


Tempo Training and the Brain


Tempo truing is grueling! When it gets super hard, you’ll be tempted to cheat the rep by speeding up the tempo. It requires great discipline to stick to the right tempo and be OK with your body being uncomfortable.


Now you know…

-Coach Terrence