When we first start lifting weights, many of us haven’t received any proper guidance or training partners, so we simply stick to the basic movements using the heaviest weights we feel we can lift. However, what science has shown us is that when it comes down to weight lifting to build strength and increase lean muscle tissue, the amount of weight we are controlling is irrelevant towards muscle growth.
In fact, the only thing we really need to worry about for proper growth is:
1. Increase in muscle stimulation in order to break down fibers more effectively
2. Proper intake of nutrients to help repair the damaged muscle tissue after being trained properly.
With these 2 basic principles, one should see muscle growth. So why is rep tempo important and what does it have to do with this? Rep tempo is one of the best ways to learn to control the weight in order to properly increase muscle stimulation during and exercise to break down more muscle fibers.
What is Rep Tempo?
Rep tempo is simply the rate at which the activity or exercise we are doing is being performed. Although the rep tempo for a workout can be written in many different ways since the tempo can vary greatly depending on the workout program, its generally labeled in a form such as “4:0:1:0” or “4-0-1-0”. Both of these tempos are the same and represent the time in which the exercise should be performed.
So for the one listed, “4:0:1:0”, this mean you will have a 4 second on the eccentric movement or the lowering/negative part. The 0 is the pause at the top or bottom of that lift. The next 1 is the concentric part of the lift. And the final 0 would be the pause again at either the top or bottom of the lift.
Rep Tempo Training
So how does this look for an exercise? Let’s use a common exercise, the flat bench press also using the same “4:0:1:0” tempo. Starting with the bar at the top or at rest, you will begin by slowly lowering the bar down to your chest using 4 seconds rep tempo for that negative motion. This means from the time you begin to lower the bar, it should take 4 seconds until the bar touches your chest.
Now that the bar is on your chest, you will pause, and for this pause it’s a 0 second pause on the contraction so you wont pause at all. After this you will perform a 1 second concentric movement or 1 second to push the bar up off of your chest and back to its starting position. This would be an explosive push to the top.
Finally we have our last 0 second pause at the top of the movement, so you will not pause, but instead you will slowly begin to lower the weight back down on the same 4 second negative as you just performed until you have completed the number or reps in your particular set.
Advantages of Rep Tempo
Although rep tempo has been something that’s been used in bodybuilding since the 70’s Golden Age, its been proven that by varying the speed at which you lift your weights can help increase muscle growth or hypertrophy. What rep tempo ultimately does is it increase the overall time under tension (TUT) that we place on our muscles in order to increase blood flow and growth. Rep tempo is something everyone can benefit from and can be incorporated into 90% of lifts, if not even all of them.
The advantages that rep tempo provides over traditional weight lifting is that it can:
1. Increase muscle stimulation for an overall greater amount of time
2. Increases blood flow to the muscle regions
3. Helps with overall control of the weights and movement for proper training methods
Take Home Message
There you have it, rep tempo explained and why it is important to incorporate into everyone’s workout routines. When used properly, rep tempo can be a great way to change up your workouts while helping you control the weights correctly, create muscle hypertrophy, and even help you push past weight/strength plateaus in the gym.