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Little Known Ways to Do Weight Training with Tempo

May 23rd, 2008 · 7 Comments ·


Routine weight training regimen can be boring occasionally. One great way to add variety to your training is to use tempo. Some people like to lift the weight upwards at fast speed and drop them just as fast. Others prefer to do slow with controlled movements.

Tempo refers to the rate at which you move the weights. Tempo has 3 and possibly 4 numbers like 3,2,1 or 4,2,1,2


  • The first number is for the negative or eccentric phase. In other words, when you are lowering the weight or when you are moving in a direction opposite to the muscle contraction. For a squat and a bench press, this would mean lowering the weight.
  • The second number is the pause after the first phase is completed. For example, in the bench press, a pause as the weight is held stationary just above the chest.
  • The third number refers to the concentric or positive phase – the contraction. For a bench press, this would be driving the bar upwards.
  • The fourth number is usually left out, but if present, is the pause at the top of the movement


A number of 1 here typically means, “explode” – in other words, you may do it faster than 1 second.

In the example of 4,2,1,2, you would do this on a bench press:

  1. Take 4 second to lower the bar to your chest.
  2. Pause for 2 seconds with the bar held just above your chest.
  3. Take 1 seconds to drive the bar upwards.
  4. Pause for 2 seconds at the top.

Note the above is just an example, not a recommendation.

That would be one repetition (rep), and that rep will take about 9 seconds.

If your training program is 3 sets of 10 reps, that would mean you would spend 3 x 10 x 9 = 270 seconds or 4.5 minutes moving weight. Add to that your rest time (between 30 to 90 seconds each set), and you can estimate the length of your workouts.

It is well known that the negative or lowering phase of a lift causes the most micro trauma or “damage” to your muscle tissue. Performing slow negatives for a few training sessions in a cycle may be beneficial for muscle growth. So every 3 or 4 training sessions, you might change to a 4,2,2 tempo. If you are very bold, a 6,1,2 tempo (6 seconds to lower you on a wide-grip pull-up or weighted dip is a great way to load those muscles with tension and elicit some major growth).


Some people have the weak point to pause at the bottom or at the top. Say, your bench press fails at the bottom rather than the top, you might consider a 2,3,1 tempo to improve – take 2 seconds to lower the bar, and then pause for 3 seconds and explode up with 1 second. The pause on the bottom forces your muscle contracts in this case, but the resistance is not moved.

In short, tempo can be a very powerful tool when designing training programs. The idea behind tempo is to ensure you control your movement. Try out different tempo to see the result.



Category: Weight Training

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7 responses so far ↓
  • Jubby // May 23, 2008 at 4:51 PM

    hey man, great tips again =)

  • Kirksman // May 24, 2008 at 4:53 PM

    One question, is there a purpose to holding a lift for 3 seconds apart from ripping the muscle fibers?

    According to some journals and readings, a 1 second isometric hold completely eliminates the stretch reflex of the muscles and uses pure strength to execute the concentric portion of the lift.

    In essence, that’s about all you need for strength. What is a longer hold recommended for apart from ripping more muscle?

  • sylvesteR // May 24, 2008 at 9:05 PM

    Any noticeable difference when doing weight training with tempo? I though it’s the same as normal weight training.

  • Jonz // May 27, 2008 at 7:23 AM

    I personally thinks its beneficial. When your on a normal weight training routine you’ll probably have the same tempo throughout – bear in mind once you reach >85% intensity you’ll be having a hard time completing those 10 reps routine.

    If you apply the tempo training to your normal routine, perhaps just lengthen the time it takes for you to lower the weight (in the case of a bench press lets say) you will put more strain on your muscles and I believe that will spur muscle growth. Am I right to say this?

    Well, ain’t ripping the muscle fibers promotes muscle growth? – is this correct?

  • trey // May 30, 2008 at 3:17 PM

    muscle stimulation instead of annihilation my friends..

    “tearing up” your muscles “more” is just what it is. Growth and improvement comes from proper diet, rest and a consistant effort over period of time.

  • ray // Apr 22, 2009 at 1:00 AM

    The reason your muscles give out and you get stuck on the bottem instead of the top is because of the endurance in which your muscle fibers have. Holding the weight longer will produce those fast twitch muscles….the explosive ones. Tearing the muscles is the sole purpose of getting stronger, larger muscles. For example: You lift heavy weights for your body, and your muscles get all torn and sore, your body interprets this as needing more muscle to be able to lift that weight more comfortably next time. This is the reason people train with nitric oxide, it tears your muscles up even more, while providing your body a better way of absorbing nutrients, which means your body will build stronger more enduranced muscles.

  • Ashish // Jul 10, 2011 at 5:09 AM

    Thanks a lot
    One of the most useful information out there :D

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