One of the many things I stress as a professional personal trainer is the speed or tempo at which you perform an exercise. Very often, I need to tell clients to slow down, stop jerking and to feel the movement. This cannot happen when your pace is basically momentum with no regard for muscle development.
Tempo is definitely one of the most often ignored parts of a workout routine. Many lifters are more concerned with how much they are lifting rather than how they are lifting. When you slow down and focus on your tempo, you will not be able to lift as much weight as you would if you utilized momentum. Weight lifting at a quicker tempo builds speed, strength, and power, but produces less muscle tension overall so your muscle size won’t increase dramatically. At a slower tempo, there is higher tension in the muscle, which is key to building bigger muscle size (hypertrophy).
While researching for this article, I found it fascinating at the variety and scope of tempos created by professional trainers and other experts in the fitness arena. During a workout, it can be argued that tempo training can be included for literally every exercise. It might not be necessary, but it can play a role.
There are many reasons to use tempo training. Here’s just a brief list:
• Improved body awareness
• Improved control of lifts
•Development of connective tissue strength
•Focus on muscular elements versus tendinous elements (a slow, controlled motion is going to place more stress on the muscles, whereas a bouncy or ballistic motion will place more stress on the tendons, etc.)
Without getting too technical, the most important thing to remember with regards to tempo is that you never want to train at a rate that does not allow you to lift with a smooth and controlled motion, which is critical to your weight training success.
Lifting too fast will force momentum to become a major player and will not sufficiently work the muscles.
But, most importantly, lifting too fast will lead to jerky motions that can lead to injuries. It is important to note that tempo is not the only major factor that can derail form. Lifting at a slower rate, but at a weight that is too heavy, can also lead to bad motion and bad injuries.
Controlling your tempo will help you improve control, create hypertrophy and help you push past strength plateaus. So, next time you’re in the gym, slow down, breathe and feel the muscles working with you. Remember, you workout because you love your body, not because you hate it.