What Is Tempo In Exercise?

26 Feb


The reason why, we as coaches, use tempo is to specifically control the athlete. Tempo is an important tool, which can not only help the athlete learn the movement, but also develop appropriate motor patterns and body control.


A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO TEMPO FOR EXERCISE, WEIGHTLIFTING, BODYBUILDING, AND POWERLIFTING

Tempo, also known as time under tension, is a programming tool which allows the coach to specifically alter and target specific results in an athletes program. Tempo can be use to work the athlete’s position, mechanics, movement progression, metabolism, control, and absolute strength.

WHAT IS TEMPO?

Tempo is the rate or pace in which an exercise is performed. Essentially, tempo and the way it is prescribed, represents how long the muscle or group of muscles is under load or tension. Manipulating tempo can change the complete intent of the training program. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you understand this concept. Tempo is part of the foundation of how Big Dawgs Coaches write programs and if you're a Big Dawgs athlete, you will encounter tempo often in your programming.

Before we discuss tempo ‘prescription’ you'll need to understand the different types of muscle contractions.

TEMPO AND THE THREE TYPES OF MUSCLE CONTRACTIONS:

ISOMETRIC

An application of force to a muscle in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction. i.e: The bottom and top of a squat, as well as a plank.

ECCENTRIC

A contraction where the muscle elongates while under tension due to opposing force being greater than the force generated by the muscle. i.e: The lowering portion of the squat.

CONCENTRIC

A type of muscle contraction in which the muscle shortens while generating force greater than the external load. i.e: The standing portion of the squat.

HOW TO READ TEMPO IN AN EXERCISE PROGRAM

Now that we understand the definitions of the various contractions. Let’s take a look at how to write/read a tempo. Tempo should always be written as a 4 digit prescription like the example below. @42X1

You may be scratching your head at what exactly that means. But let’s break it down.

Digit 1 Represents the Eccentric (4)
Digit 2 Represents the Isometric Bottom (2)
Digit 3 Represents the Concentric (X - or as fast as possible)
Digit 4 Represents the Isometric Top (1)

The way in which and the amount of time the tempo ‘prescription’ is written changes the intent of the piece. There are four main categories of intent that change depending on the tempo:

  1. Position/Mechanics  By slowing down the movement, you are forcing the athlete to develop an awareness of what the body is doing and should be doing in each muscle contraction or even one specific muscle contraction within the piece.
  2. Metabolic –  If you increase the total amount of time under tension, you increase the amount of work required, which in turn increases the metabolic demand of the actual contraction. (I.e. @7530 is a significant amount of time under tension as compared to @21X2.)
  3. Progression  You can keep the tempo the same for the movement and gradually decrease the amount of time under tension in the sets to force weight progression and advancement.  (An example of this would be @4010 to @3010, @2010.) Learn how adaptation effects progression in this course.
  4. Control –  Tempo requires the athlete to utilize every muscle in order to meet the demands of the tempo. This forces the athlete to remain in control and develop muscles to maintain it.

Tempo plays a critical role in the success and effectiveness of an individualized program. However, there is much more than just tempo that goes into designing an individualized program. Experience our method of individualized coaching by scheduling a call with our coaching advisor today!


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