For those of you who are not familiar with the word tempo in weight training, it refers to the speed at which you perform a repetition of a particular exercise.
Strength coaches and authors use tempo prescriptions in order to help ensure that each set lasts an optimal time under tension for the trainees specific goal.
Time under tension is basically the length of time that a muscle experiences tension from the beginning of a given set to the end.
Sports scientists have stated that for optimal hypertrophy, sets should last between 40-70 seconds.
Because of this recommendation, many experts have advocated using a slower rep speed to ensure that a set will last for the optimal time under tension.
However, I happen to know many strong and jacked dudes who have never performed a set lasting anywhere near 40-70 seconds. The question is, would these jacked trainees have gotten an even greater hypertrophy response if they slowed down their rep speed and were in the scientific hypertrophy sweet spot?
The speed at which you perform a repetition determines many different things. Among them are the amount of tension developed, the load, and thus the overall training effect.
Thus, you will not be surprised to learn that Im not a big advocate of using super slow reps.
Not only do slow reps necessarily lessen the speed of muscle contraction, but they also tend to decrease the load.
To be honest, Ive tried super slow reps on myself and with many different test subjects for many years and I think its nothing but a waste of time, at least when it comes to size and strength training.
Here is my simple tempo prescription:
Lowering the weight (eccentric)- Just use control during this phase. This takes between 1-2 seconds. The exception to the rule is during Olympic lifts. Just drop these to the ground with no regards to a controlled eccentric.
Pausing in the bottom (stretched) position- Quite frankly, I rarely use pauses. When I do prescribe them, they last for one second and would only be done during a pure hypertrophy phase. For maximal strength, dont pause.
Lifting the weight (concentric)- This should be done explosively. In other words, try to accelerate the weight during this phase.
Pause in the top (contracted) position- Again, an intentional pause in this range is rarely prescribed. For pure hypertrophy, an occasional pause in the contracted position can be justified during lighter phases. If you choose to experiment with this, do not let the pause exceed 1 second.
In my opinion, training speed has become over complicated in recent years, to the detriment of trainees.
Despite whatever fancy new scientific studies are quoted by some strength coaches, I personally know for a fact that a set does not and should not last 40-70 seconds to elicit a great hypertrophy response.
As a matter of fact, after reviewing my training programs, youll find that at least 95% of the exercises I prescribe last less than 40 seconds. Dont get suckered by the tempo proponents.
Instead, stick to simple and explosive tempos, get strong and get jacked!