Tempo in strength training is the intended time taken for the eccentric and concentric (up and down… or relaxed and contracted) portion of an exercise. Here at JoeToPro, we’ve been talking a lot about tempo recently. Everyone has their favorite method of training, and tends to train mostly with their favorite tempos… but is it better to lift with a fast, moderate, or slow tempo? What effect does tempo really have on training?
The truth is; no one tempo is best. Of course, each tempo has its own pros and cons, but for the best results no matter what your goal- you should change tempo in your training regularly. Think of changing tempos as one more way to add variety to your workout. Instead of adding weight or increasing volume to bust through your next plateau, try varying tempo!
Slower, more controlled tempos have been shown to have the greatest effect on body composition, because they increase time under tension and promote growth hormone production; a hormone that contributes to muscle growth and fat loss.
Faster, more ballistic tempos are more effective when training for athletic performance and increased speed. Lifting with a fast eccentric movement can increase ground reaction force and/or allow a trainee to take better advantage of the stretch shortening cycle. This will produce greater gains in speed and power than lifting with a slow tempo. However, periods of lifting (and/or certain movements) with a slower tempo are still important for developing certain qualities of strength. This will help create a complete athlete.
So, no matter what your goals are, take care to train with the appropriate tempo. Then, make sure to vary tempo periodically to keep your body adapting, and get results!
Bentley, J., Amonette, W., et al. Effect of Different Lifting Cadences on Ground Reaction Forces during the Squat Exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2010. 24(5). 1414-1420.