Changing the Tempo

In music, the tempo is the speed or pace of an arrangement.  In resistance exercise, the training tempo of a repetition is the speed at which you perform the repetition.  For example, for a bench press, the training tempo is the time during which the weight is lowered (eccentric contraction), how long it’s held at the bottom of the movement, how fast it’s lifted (concentric contraction), and how long it’s held at the top before being lowered again.  Each of the four phases of the rep is measured in seconds. Varying the training tempo will vary the stimulation to the muscles being worked, and elicit different responses.  It’s also a terrific way to keep your training fresh, and you’ll find it throughout the Alpha Wave Basic training program. In fact, we’ve done all the work of creating a sophisticated system of varied training tempos (we’ve thought it all out, so you don’t have to!). 

Let’s use the bench press example again.  For a training tempo of 3-0-1-0, you should:

  • Lower the bar to your chest over a span of 3 seconds,
  • Begin lifting the bar without a discernable pause at the bottom,
  • Lift the bar over a 1-second span,
  • Begin lowering the bar again without a discernable pause at the top.

Recognize that some exercises start by lowering a weight (e.g., squats, leg press, bench press, flies) and some start by raising it (leg curls, shoulder press, biceps curl, pec deck). The first number always corresponds to the eccentric contraction in any movement, regardless of which phase typically starts that exercise.

Be mindful that slower rep tempos (e.g., 3-0-3-0) will be much harder than more traditional tempos (i.e., 1-0-1-0) using the same weights. We’ve inserted slower rep tempos in just the right places of our program to maximize your training progress and results.  There’ll be some trial and error at first to find just the right poundages to make you struggle to finish each set of your workout while maintaining good form and remaining injury-free. But the results will be a symphony of outstanding gains!

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