What is Tempo?
3 min read

What is Tempo?

Everfit Team
Jul 21, 2021 3 min read
Tempo is a critical component of exercise prescription. Effective use of tempo can lead to desired adaptations. Trevor outlines what tempo is and how to use it. 

Key takeaways:

  • Tempo can increase or manipulate time under tension
  • Tempo gives more depth to exercise prescription
  • Tempo gives athletes a sense of focus and specificity. 

In this series, you will learn about:

  • Introduction: “Essentials of Program Design” Overview (Link)
  • Lesson 1: The Comprehensive Assessment and Need Analysis (Link)
  • Lesson 2: Measuring Muscular Strength, Repetition Maximum (RM), 1RM and Repetition Maximum prediction method (Link)
  • Lesson 3: FITT – VP Principles of Exercises Rx (Intensity, Total volume, Aerobic program design, Rest-time) (Link)
  • Lesson 4: How to prescribe Rest Time (Link)
  • Lesson 5: Ancillary Topics in Exercises Rx (Set progression, Tempo, Set types, Progression/Regression and Alternate Exercises, Other set types) (Link)
  • Lesson 6: What is Tempo? (Link)
  • Lesson 7: What are Warm-up set, Drop set, Failure set, superset & Giant set (Link)
  • Lesson 8: Exercises Rx for Conditioning (Link)
  • Full Course: Essentials of Program Design for Fitness Coaches (Link)

Instructor bio

Trevor Short is an exercise physiologist at the University of Hawaii, previous coach to NFL / Olympic athletes, & previous COO of a multi-million dollar training studios. Now he’s teaching you the essential concepts of designing a fitness program. You’ll learn how to perform a needs analysis & a comprehensive assessment, the foundational principle of designing a fitness program, and ancillary topics in exercise prescription. Learn the essentials of programming to the next level with these key considerations.


Alright, and then tempo. So tempo is something that’s gaining a lot of popularity in the training realm. So tempo, what is tempo? So, and why would we use tempo is another good question as well. So, tempo, tempo just basically manipulates the speed of which you move throughout different portions of a lift. So the first number in tempo, here, this represents the eccentric phase. So this is the lowering phase, or as the muscle is lengthening. So let’s use a squat, for example, at twice lowering would be a three second eccentric lowering. Okay, so three seconds down three, two, one, you’re now at the bottom of the squat. Okay, the second number is a pause at the sticking point, you can think about this as the 90 degree joint flexion point. But this basically is the bottom of the movement. Wherever this individual bottoms out or end-range, there is the pause. So a second number is a pause. So this is a one second pause. Third number is the concentric or muscle shortening, this would be the way up from a barbell back squat. And the fourth number is a pause at the top of a lift. So what tempo does is it provides a lot of instruction into how the athlete should move. So a lot of, a lot of people when they lift and train would just go through the motions aka, okay, I’ve set of 10, down and up, down and up, down and up, and so on. But if you manipulate tempo, so tempo can increase or manipulate the time under tension that an individual has. And it also can add purpose to power as well. So to add some specificity and purpose to train, so you can see the x here, the third, third variable in the sequence. So the x stands for move as fast as you can. So this individual in this, in this specific tempo, would be lowering themselves slowly for three seconds, pausing for a second at the bottom, and then having an all out acceleration to back to the top of the lift, and immediately going back into another eccentric portion, three seconds down and back up, let’s hit for five repetitions. So what we know about muscle hypertrophy, there’s really three ways to stimulate muscular hypertrophy in a general sense. You can either apply a lot of tension to the muscle, aka a lot of shear tension strength training, you can increase an individual’s time under tension or their volume, or you can imply a bioenergetic stress and demand. Okay? So what you can do with tempo is you can really manipulate the time under tension. You can, for example, this set that a person would do if they did five repetitions here, with three segments down one second pause at the bottom, and let’s say it takes another second for them to get to the top. That’s a five second repetition, whereas if somebody’s just going down and up, right, maybe it’s two seconds, one second down, one second up, and so on. So you can manipulate the time under tension to improve the hypertrophic adaptation and improve someone’s muscle size through tempo training.</span></span></p>

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