In training, “tempo” refers to how quickly we lower the weight (eccentric), how long we pause under tension (isometric), and how fast we lift the weight (concentric).
While Olympic lifting is fast and explosive, most strength training should be more slow and controlled.
Why? A slower tempo allows for:
- Better mind-muscle connection
- Better muscle activation of target muscles in a particular exercise
- Good control of the weight
- Greater control over technique
- Reinforcement of proper movement patterns
These tempos are often fairly intuitive, but we see some athletes who are used to going “for time” that lift very quickly, missing out on the benefits listed above.
As a rule of thumb, the concentric and eccentric take a few seconds each. So, depending on the lift, a repetition can last as much as five seconds.
This also goes for midline movements. We often see people gaining a lot of momentum and/or flopping down on the eccentric (lowering). In doing so, you aren’t getting the full benefit of the exercise.
So, next time you are lifting, really FEEL the muscles you are using. Connect to the weight, control it and don’t mindlessly pump out reps. You will be better off for it!