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Building Strength and Resilience with Tempo Training

Slowing down to get up to speed!


It’s not just the coolest Ford model of the mid 90s, it’s not just the thing your snobbishly hipster friend talks about with respect to new bands they’ll listen to- it’s also the speed of the actions of an exercise. 

Let’s break it down.

You have 4 phases of an exercise in most standard executions: 

  • The concentric ie. shortening (think of a bicep curl where you bend the elbow to bring the weight up and flex the bicep.) 
  • The eccentric ie. lengthening (think of returning to the starting position of the previous example of the bicep curl.)
  • The 1st isometric (the pause at the top in this example)
  • And the 2nd isometric (the pause at the bottom.)

Let’s continue to use the example of a bicep curl and break down the movement of this invitation to the gun show… 

That first movement from the bottom where you actually move the weight from the hip to the shoulder is where we get the work done on this movement, right? Pretty obvious when you feel that burn! This is the concentric movement where the targeted muscles are shortening, and it’s the thing we always think about when we’re working out. The classically ‘focused on’ part of the exercise. 

Then you squeeze at the top maybe for just a second before returning the weight and hand down to the original position. That downward movement is the eccentric movement, where the targeted muscles are lengthening, and it can be, maybe surprisingly, more important than the concentric. When we add a tempo to the eccentric movement it not only teaches control, but can actually benefit your training by making you more mindful through your movements. That control can lead to better gains and reduce injury, so really it’s an easy way to add benefit to your exercise. 

So what about the isometric pauses at the top and bottom? And what if isometrics could be added to various points along a movement path? (Would we do that? Coach Jess would do that. And so will you in May FitSchool!) Isometric pauses can help to address positional weakness along a movement path of an exercise. Going back to the example of the bicep curl, you may find that when your arm is at 90º on the concentric movement you struggle or notice your neck starting to get tight. Adding a pause there with a lighter weight can help to create strength at that area of opportunity. 

And if you really want to boost those benefits, adding more time to the isometric pauses will actually increase the amount of fibres recruited during the isometric phase, helping with hypertrophy (muscle growth).   

But all phases of the exercise benefit from tempo training – because it increases your time under tension. Just that extra bit of control and time can make a big difference in the set that you’re doing.

You’re more focused on form, you can’t cheat the movements (like using momentum), and you’ll most likely improve the overall ‘burn’. This can work well for athletic performance and body composition changes, whether that be fat loss or muscle gain.  

So, you’ll definitely see some instructions on tempo in this month’s FitSchool program, and you may even see a tempo recommended in the notes section of your 3Wave program. Now you know why!

(It’s because we care enough to torture you just that little bit extra.)

Wanna have fun with tempo? Join our next round of FitSchool starting May 2nd! Click here to sign up.

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