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  • Writer's pictureVince Piraino

Benefits of using Tempo for Building Muscle



Most people begin resistance or weight training with a simple goal in mind; they want to get stronger and build visible muscle. The stereotypical belief is that chasing maximal efforts and lifting the most amount of weight will lead to the best results. We're here to share that unless you’re professionally training in the sport of weightlifting this sort of oversimplified plan can be counterproductive toward your fitness and health goals.


So, if building absolute strength is your only goal, then by all means chase your 1, 2 and 3 rep max reps. But if your goals align with building muscle mass, getting leaner, moving better and generally feeling good to win the long-game, then keep reading.


Let’s talk about building muscle (or muscle hypertrophy training). One of the most important training tools to consider here is the movement tempo for each repetition of the exercise.


Tempo, also known as time under tension, is a way to control the rate at which an exercise is performed. By manipulating the tempo, we will impact how much time the muscle spends under tension and this will directly impact how the body adapts to the training. In other words, influencing hypertrophy and strength gains. Eureka!


Tempo is typically written as a 4 digit prescription, for example, 2021.

Digit 1 - dynamic - eccentric/ “lowering” phase of movement (in our 2021 example, take 2 seconds to lower.)

Digit 2 - static - isometric/ hold at the end of the movement (here, 0 would mean no hold!)

Digit 3 - dynamic - concentric/ “up” phase of the movement (take another 2 seconds to come up)

Digit 4 - static - isometric/ hold at the end of the movement (1 second hold at the top before restarting)

This example is a total of 5 seconds time under tension, for each repetition.


Evidence based research has shown that the most effective tempo for muscle hypertrophy is a slower eccentric “lowering” movement paired with a faster concentric “up” phase of movement.


Slower tempos will require a decrease in the total weight being lifted. However, when pairing a slower tempo with a lighter weight, this can greatly influence effective muscle building and strength gains. In other words, you do not need to lift as much as possible, you just need to move it slower and follow the tempo.


Tempo training is a great tool to help you meet your fitness goals. At Graviton, our training program includes a variety of other variable considerations such as progressive overload, using full ranges of motion and thoughtfully counterbalancing movement patterns into each training day and across the training cycle.


If you’re looking to get stronger, build muscle, feel and look good, our full body resistance training program might be a fit for you. Book your Free Intro Consultation to learn more.


 

References:

Wilk, M., Zajac, A., & Tufano, J. J. (2021). The Influence of Movement Tempo During Resistance Training on Muscular Strength and Hypertrophy Responses: A Review. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 51(8), 1629–1650.

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