Repetition tempo is something we’ve been using in our training for a number of years now. This is also the reason why it has always been a large part of the BodyHunters online training routine. Today’s article will introduce you to all the important aspects of the tempo of repetition and show you why you should include it into your training routine too.
Most of you surely already know all the basic elements of strength training – like the number of sets and repetitions, how long a break should be, the number of training days etc. How many of you do truly understand the tempo of repetition though – and could correctly include it into their own training?
The tempo is how fast a single repetition is done. Specifically, it represents its eccentric and concentric phases + the final exercise phase. Repetition tempo was first added into bodybuilding and powerlifting by the legendary Australian weightlifting expert Ian King whose basic description was made up out of three digits. This was further elaborated upon by Charles Poliquin who enlarged the repetition tempo from three to four digits (2010, 3110 etc.) Each digit representing the number of seconds each phase of an exercise should take.
For example, a squat with a barbell should be done at the tempo of 4110. After lifting the weight up one is to sink downward towards the ground for four seconds (4) after which they stop in the squat for one second (1). Following this one is to lift the weight up – which is a dynamic act coming up to only a single second (1). There is no stop in the upper (starting) position (0) and the entire exercise is repeated immediately after. The overall time spent on a squat at the 4110 tempo should then be precisely 6 seconds.
If one multiplies the tempo of the exercise by the amount of repetition, the resulting number is the time needed for the duration of the whole set – in other words, TUT (Time Under Tension). This is the time a muscle needs to overcome a certain load and is thus experiencing tension. A muscle must be made to withstand this tension for a specific amount of time to stimulate its growth. Each person, however, has a different exercise tempo and while some might be able to complete a set of 10 repetitions in 15 seconds, others might take up to 50. When two trainees were made to complete exactly the same training according to the training manual, each of them was actually (subconsciously) adapting the training for different types of muscle fibers. As such, it is simply not enough to do 10 repetitions but one must also adapt the tempo and number of these repetitions (TUT) according to their set goals. It is only thanks to this that one can truly adapt the exercise to a specific type of a muscle fiber.
For example: When one takes a set containing 8 squats at the 4110 tempo, with one repetition taking 6 seconds, and multiplies it by 8 repetitions (6 x 8= 48), the resulting 48 seconds represents the TUT of the set.
Is adding repetition tempo into your training routine right for you?
Anyone can reap the benefits of introducing TUT into their training. For example every sprinter knows they should focus on sets adding up to 40 seconds because their main focus are the fast twitch muscle fibers type II b. Trainees focusing on endurance will then primarily add sets going above 70 seconds. For bodybuilders, athletes and the majority of others, however, it is best to combine all of the muscle type training. As far as the growth of muscle in mass (hypertrophy) is concerned, it is best to choose sets that last about 40 seconds.
It is actually possible to add repetition rate to virtually any and all exercises, as it also oftentimes leads to not only a better technique but also to a better control of the lifted weights.
This article was written to highlight an often overlooked training factor, namely, the repetition tempo. A lot of trainees use a steady unchanging rate without knowing about its vast possibilities. While adding repetition tempo into your training routine might not be the easiest of tasks, the combination of repetition tempo with other aspects of strength training may noticeably increase your training effectivity and bring much faster results.
1. Fry, AC. The role of resistance exercise intensity on muscle fibre adaptations. Sport Med 34: 663–679, 2004.
2. Rathleff, M. S., Thorborg, K., & Bandholm, T. (2013). Concentric and Eccentric Time-Under-Tension during Strengthening Exercises: Validity and Reliability of Stretch-Sensor Recordings from an Elastic Exercise-Band. Retrieved July 31, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3692465/
3. Rep Tempo: What's The Best Weight Lifting Tempo? (n.d.). Retrieved July 1, 2018, from https://www.builtlean.com/2013/10/14/rep-tempo/
4. Rep Tempo: What's The Best Weight Lifting Tempo? (n.d.). Retrieved July 1, 2018, from https://www.builtlean.com/2013/10/14/rep-tempo/
5. Westcott WL, Winett RA, Anderson ES, Wojcik JR, Loud RL, Clegett E, Glover S. Effects of regular and slow speed resistance training on muscle strength. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2001 Jun; 41(2): 154-8.
6. Wilk, M., Golas, A., Stastny, P., Nawrocka, M., Krzysztofik, M., & Zajac, A. (2018, June 13). Does Tempo of Resistance Exercise Impact Training Volume? Retrieved July 1, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29922395
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