When it comes to transforming our bodies, we often think we need to go to extreme measures to see results. We put ourselves on a radical diet or go from barely exercising to signing up for 10 CrossFit classes in a row. But sometimes, it’s the smaller tweaks to our exercise regimes that can actually be the most powerful. It could be using the rule of twos to up your weights at the gym in small increments or even swapping out some of your HIIT sessions with a cortisol-conscious workout. Like creating any new habit, it’s about layering micro-changes on top of each other to see major results. Now, the latest exercise hack to help you get more of your workouts is tempo training.
As the name suggests, tempo training has to do with the speed at which you perform a movement. “Tempo training is another way of saying training where you change the speed during the movement at hand,” Elena Moffa CPT, trainer at NEOU tells Well+Good. It can be applied to almost any type of weight-training exercise, whether that’s squats, deadlifts or benchpress.
Now, you don’t have to be an exercise scientist to know that squats are going to burn a helluva lot more if you hold them at the bottom. By tempo training isn’t just about pausing, it’s about manipulating the speed of the movement at various points. Generally, the tempo is broken down in four phases:
1. The seconds down (the eccentric portion)
2. The seconds paused at the bottom (the isometric hold)
3. The seconds up (the concentric portion)
4. The seconds paused at the top
So, the traditional tempo of a bodyweight squat might be 2-3-2-1: 2 seconds down, 3 seconds hold at the bottom, 2 seconds up and 1 second hold at the top. But with tempo training, you could change it up to 4-2-1-0, 1-3-1-1 or infinite other versions!
Tempo training is an excellent way to take your strength training to the next level without having to reinvent the wheel. It means your muscles are under tension for longer, which helps lead to those strength gains. It allows you to target the muscles at different angles, which is particularly great for exercises that target the glutes—as there are so many different parts to them. It’s also great for people who are trying to master bodyweight pull-ups, as eccentric pull-ups (where you jump up and slowly pull yourself down) can help build up your strength
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Tempo training also forces you to pay more attention to the movement, which can help improve your form and reduce your risk of injury. “You can’t rush when you tempo train. By slowing down each movement, you boost your body control and awareness, and improve your stability,” Melody Scharff, trainer at Fhitting Room in NYC tells Well+Good. Bodybuilders also often use tempo training to help identify weaknesses within each movement and tweak accordingly.
We guess slow and steady really does win the race!