Sunday, February 25, 2007

Timing is everything with Rep Tempo

Some people may ask themselves, "how fast should I be doing this?" while going through the motions of a certain exercise. More often than not, some don't even think about it. You can spot these people in the gym very easily. They're the ones doing bicep curls like they're shoveling coal into a steam engine.

Repetition tempo refers to the speed with which each repetition is performed. This is an important variable that can be changed to achieve specific training goals such as power, size, stability and endurance.

Repetition Tempo Spectrum
Training Phase Rep Tempo (eccentric/isometric/concentric)
  • Power = explosive (x/x/x)
  • Strength = moderate (2/0/2)
  • Stabilization = slow (4/2/1)
The amount of time that a muscle is under tension produces a specific result (time under tension). For example, the best tempo for muscle gain is about 20-70 seconds per set (8-10 reps with a tempo between 4/2/1 and 2/0/2). By focusing eccentric and isometric muscle actions at slower motions during stabilization phases of training, the connective tissue (as well as the stabilizing muscles) work harder and it prepares the body for more specific forms of strength and power training that will follow.

So what does all of this scientific mumbo-jumbo mean? By incorporating rep tempo into your workout routine, you can maximize your desired fitness goal (like getting "toned" opposed to increasing size) while decreasing your risk of injury. This is a great focus for circuit training for that very purpose.

The best way to remember the differences in eccentric, concentric and isometric contractions and when to go at a slower pace; concentric is similar to "contraction", or flexing. Eccentric is similar to accelerate, like if you let gravity or the machine do the work, it accelerates your motion. An even more simple method is to think about the force in the workout. Whenever you feel like it would be easy for gravity or the machine to do the work for you, slow it down.

Lets do a few exercises with the rep tempo spectrum...


Triceps- Cable Press
Stabilization Phase 4/2/1-2: Extending down (concentric) 2 second motion. Hold (isometric) 2 seconds. Returning to starting position (eccentric) 4 seconds.

Strength Phase 2/0/2: Down (concentric) 2 seconds. No hold (isometric). Up (eccentric) 2 seconds.

Ab Floor Crunch
Stabilization Phase 4/2/2: Crunch up 2 seconds. Hold 2 seconds. Back down 4 seconds.

Strength Phase 2/0/2: Up 2seconds. No hold. Down 2 seconds.


You can see how just the slightest difference in technique can produce a completely different result. By using the appropriate tempo that compliments your fitness goal, you can notice a world of difference when you look in the mirror.

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