The Importance of Tempo Work In Strength Training

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Bodybuilding just ain’t cool anymore. Strength training is gaining momentum, but manscaping is really the new thing. And that saddens me greatly. Hell it’s almost as hard to be a guy these days as it is to be a girl – your appearance, the right vest, short shorts, a pair of Osasuna Tigers and perfectly manicured hair are the basic requirements of manliness these days.

But I digress.

I’ll take this rant on a different track – most strength training programs are shit.

And they’re shit for 3 main reasons;

  1. if you don’t have muscle you can’t lift weights

  2. the progress slower than chewing gum digesting

  3. they lack imagination, and a “what if” strategy

I’m talking about things like stronglifts, starting strength etc etc – sure, they’re great for beginners, but if you just do them and drink milk, you’re getting fat. The overall volume and work in muscle building rep ranges just isn’t there.

So you end up looking like a fat strong lad with massive cans. Not sure if you’re into that or not, but 99% of guys I know wouldn’t be.

There must be a balance right?

Enter… Tempo Training (or more specifically in this article – slowing down the lowering/negative/eccentric portion of the lift).

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Now there’s a ton of benefits to it, but since this is about strength, I’ll outline the relevant ones;

  1. You’re stronger eccentrically than concentrically

  2. Increased eccentric (lowering) strength improves concentric strength (lifting)

  3. It’s great for muscle growth

  4. It will improve tendon and connnective tissue strength

So why’s all that important? We’ll work from the bottom up on that list.

Your tendons connect your muscles to your bones – they’re like the junction that the power has to go thru before going home. They’re slower to adapt, and more at risk of injury. As a result, when your muscles get stronger, sometimes your tendons fail to keep up and you’re at an increased risk of muscle tear.

Doing slowed eccentrics help with that. So there’s your injury prevention.

Here’s a question for you – all things being equal, who’s stronger? The guy with 100kg of muscle, or the guy with 80kg of muscle? It should be obvious. We all know that someones absolute muscle mass isn’t the ONLY indicator of strength (neuromuscular ability to contract that muscle is more important) but the point is, as your muscle grows, your limit strength potentional increases.

And you’ll look better naked.

One of the best things I ever did for my cleans (*gasp* – a POWER movement) was doing slow eccentrics on squats and front squats. The additional time under tension meant that I started to generate rock solid stability under heavy loads – my glutes, hams, lower back and core were all better able to stabilise my body because I’d learned how to tap into the muscles better and activate them at the right time in the right order.

I jumped under my first heavy clean in months and hit a 7.5kg PR off the back of it!!

Finally, you’re up to 1.75x stronger eccentrically than you are concentrically, that means you can handle greater loads which leads to enhance neuromuscular activation, more muscle growth, and better power output.

It’s one of the reasons why the guys over at Westside Barbell use bands, chains and weight releasers as part of their programming.

As a closing thought as well, I want to ask a question.

What’s the best way to progress in training?

The answer is to do the complete opposite of what you have been doing. So if like most people you’re reading this having never tried eccentric training, or any sort of tempo work, it could be a beautiful little addition to your training.

You’ll have to lighten the load, so your joints get a break. But you’ll increase muscular tension, so you send in a new growth stimulus. Remember, your muscle doesn’t know weight, only “tension”. If you can send maximum tension into a muscle using lighter weights, why wouldn’t you??

 

**If you want to find out a bit more about tempo training and how it could work for you, apply now for our free 15 minute coaching call by filling in the form below.**

 

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James Hanley

Strength Coach. Performance Specialist. Dog Lover. Powerlifter. And the guy behind the scenes in RevFit that keeps the plates spinning.