Lifting heavy weights can be hard. Maybe that should go without saying, but I mean it in a different way than you’re thinking. Of course, if you’re lifting a great deal of weight, it’s difficult, but today I’m talking more about technique. Often, you’ll see people in the gym using momentum to lift, throwing their weights around with little control. Not only is this poor form less effective, it often leads to injuries.
That’s where Tempo Training comes in. Like other aspects of lifting, such as how many repetitions to perform, the tempo changes based on the desired outcome. For our purposes right now, the focus is on increasing muscle size. For that, repetitions should last 4-6 seconds. Think of it like this: slow down the reps and speed up the gains.
Here’s how it works. A repetition contains three stages. The technical terms are eccentric, concentric and isometric. Or, to make it easier to remember, you can think of them as the lowering, lifting and holding stages.
The eccentric phase is where the weight is lowered, such as bringing the barbell to your chest during bench presses.
In the concentric stage weight is pushed against gravity. It’s the actual lifting part of the bench press.
Finally, in the isometric stage, the weight is held at the end point of the lift. This is where the barbell is held over the chest.
Many people focus entirely on the lifting / concentric stage. After all, it’s called “lifting weights,” right? Heavy weights are lifted up forcefully, and then brought down with much less control and concentration. This is where a lot of gym injuries occur. It is true that lifting increasingly heavy weights will build up muscle mass, but there’s always a limit to how far you can go before things get shaky. If you’re unable to control the weights during the eccentric and isometric stages, you’re likely missing out on some major benefits.
Tempo Training provides a better way. Slow down the lowering / eccentric portion. The goal should be to lower the weight in about 2-4 seconds. Hold the weight for 2 seconds in the holding / isometric stage. Then lift the weight in the lifting / concentric stage. Those numbers can be remembered easily as (4-2-2) or (2-2-2.) Pick a weight that you can lift in this manner for 6-12 repetitions. Once you’ve gained strength to push past that point, consider more repetitions and/or heavier weights.
Is this approach harder? You bet your biceps it is. Slowing the reps down employs all the muscle fibers. The time the muscles are under tension increases dramatically by doing this. In short, it tears down the muscles quickly, so they can be built back up again. By paying attention to every stage, flaws in form become apparent and easier to correct as well. In addition to creating more muscle trauma, this type of tempo also challenges core strength and stability. Finally, longer sets burn more calories and enhance the body’s conditioning. That’s a win-win-win-win right there!
In short, Tempo Training helps you get the most out of your gym experience, while making injuries less likely. For more on this, and other tips, contact us today. Our certified personal trainers would be happy to help you with form, technique, exercise plans and more!