Mechanoreceptors within the joints, connective tissue, and the muscles themselves monitor the type, range, and specific motions but also the speed of motion. The four-digit method of expressing tempo is as follows. The first digit represents the eccentric phase of the exercise, that is when the primary movers lengthen and the resistance is typically being lowered. For example, lowering the barbell to the chest on a bench press movement. The second digit represents the eccentric-isometric phase, which is the changeover point between eccentric and concentric muscle action. This would be considered the length of pause, if any, at the points of range of motion. In other words, the length of time the barbell is held at the chest level before starting to return to its original position on a bench press movement. This digit is key for achieving various strength adaptations and accomplishing different training goals. The third digit represents the speed of the concentric phase, where the weight is typically lifted and the primary muscle is shortened. This would be the “lifting” part of the bench press where the barbell is moved from the chest to a full extension of the arms. The fourth digit represents the return to the beginning position where time can be accumulated.

The term “time under tension” is associated with the tempo of a movement. It’s obvious to state that time under tension is the time that a muscle is under tension. The muscle is under tension during the whole cadence of tempo until it the lift is over.

The muscle recruits more muscle fibers to maintain this tension. A fast movement on the concentric movement can utilize momentum, while a fast drop during the eccentric movement can use gravity as an aid. Controlling the weight leads to a greater build up of lactic acid. Lactic acid build-up results in increased growth hormone and in turn enhances protein synthesis.

There hasn’t been a tempo that has been identified as the ideal for any specific strength adaptations, although certain tempos are better than others.

Lower eccentric, faster concentric movements are adopted by strength and power training programs while hypertrophy and endurance adopt a slower eccentric, slower concentric movement. Research has shown majority of the benefit comes from the eccentric movement, not the concentric movement.

Tempo is an important variable used in any type of resistance training. It’s effects are well documented and often lead to safer lifts, stronger bodies, and greater stabilization. Take what you’ve learned here and become conscious of your own tempo during your weight lifting.

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