New in the cycle will be applying tempo training to some parts of the workouts.


1 – What is tempo training?

It was first introduced to time under tension (TUT) training through Ian King and Charles Poliquin. And while they may disagree on certain components of the following definitions, here's the basic gist of TUT.

There are four numbers that constitute the tempo of an exercise, so it may look something like this:

  • 3-2-1-0

  • The first number (3) is the eccentric, or lowering, component of the lift.

  • The second number (2) denotes any pause at the midpoint.

  • The third number (1) is the concentric, or lifting, component.

  • Finally, the fourth number (0) denotes any pause at the top.

A 3210 tempo makes perfect sense on lifts that start with an eccentric, or lowering phase, like a squat or bench press. You lower the bar for 3 seconds, there's a pause at the midpoint, and then you return to the starting position. Reset and go again.

However, people get confused with exercises that start with the concentric portion of the lift such as chin-ups. Just remember, the first number is always the eccentric, and the third number is always the concentric, and you'll be good to go.

2 – Who should use tempo training?

Everyone should use tempo training at some point during their workouts.

Everyone can benefit from slower TUT's that focus on the eccentric as this will develop body control, connective tissue strength and, of course, hypertrophy.

3 – When should you use tempo training?

During a workout, it can be argued that tempo training can be included for literally every exercise. It might not be necessary, but it can play a role in creating a broader strength base.

4 – Why should you use tempo training?

There are many reasons to use tempo training. Here's just a brief list:

  • Improved body awareness.

  • Improved control of lifts.

  • Development of connective tissue strength.

  • Improved stability.

  • Focus on muscular elements versus tendinous elements (a slow, controlled motion is going to place more stress on the muscles, whereas a bouncy or ballistic motion will place more stress on the tendons, etc.).

5 – How should you use tempo training?

Here are some common TUT's you'll see in my programs, along with the exercise branches they work best with:

  • Tempo: 2-0-2-0

  • Exercise(s): Any/All

  • Goal: Intermediate Fiber Recruitment

If you read some of the old Eastern Block/Russian literature (i.e. Verkhoshansky), you'll often see "tempo" or continuous training methods.

Tempo training is done to:

  • Improve stability.

  • Develop intermediate muscle fibers.

  • Develop work capacity.

The key  is to not stop or rest at any point during the set. Focus on maintaining continuous motion.

While it's not specifically noted in the other tempos, a zero (0) as the fourth number typically means you can reset in between reps. In the case of 2020 tempos, you can't rest between reps as doing so decreases the training effect.

Furthermore, I'd highly recommend using a metronome app on your smart phone to make sure you're not cheating. Chances are you'll lower over a two count, but raising the bar will get consistently faster and faster as the reps and sets go on. Don't let this happen!