Effect of Tempo on Resistance Training by Abhinav Malhotra Top Personal Trainer of Dubai UAE

What is Tempo & Its Effects on Resistance Training?

Tempo Scheme by Abhinav Malhotra Top Personal Trainer of Dubai UAE

What is Tempo?

Tempo is the rate at which an exercise is performed. In resistance training, tempo is the rhythm at which weight is raised and lowered. This includes the rest time at the top of the lift and at the return of the weight to the starting position.

Exercise volume and its intensity are the basic components of training loads. Exercise volume during resistance training has been conventionally evaluated as a total number of repetitions performed in each set. Tempo in resistance exercise impacts training volume, both in terms of repetitions and total time under tension. It refers to how much time the muscle spends under tension in the isometric, eccentric, and concentric portions of the exercise. Manipulating tempo can change the complete intent of the training program.

3 Types of Contractions

To understand the effect of tempo on resistance training it is important to understand the three types of muscle contractions: isometric, eccentric, and concentric.

Isometric Contractions: A contraction in which the length of the muscle does not change.

Isometric Contractions - Abhinav Malhotra Personal Trainer and Nutritionist in Dubai UAE

Isometric contractions generate force without changing the length of the muscle which is common in the muscles of the hand and forearm responsible for grip. Muscle contraction required to grip but not move a heavy object prior to lifting would be isometric. Isometric contractions are frequently used to maintain posture.

Eccentric Contractions: A contraction in which the muscle lengthens.

Eccentric Contractions - Abhinav Malhotra Personal Trainer and Nutritionist in Dubai UAE

An eccentric contraction results in the elongation of a muscle while the muscle is still generating force. In effect, the resistance is greater than force generated. Eccentric contractions can be both voluntary and involuntary. For example, a voluntary eccentric contraction would be the controlled lowering of the heavy weight raised during the above concentric contraction. An involuntary eccentric contraction may occur when a weight is too great for a muscle to bear and so it is slowly lowered while under tension.

Concentric Contractions: A contraction in which the muscle shortens.

Concentric Contractions - Abhinav Malhotra Personal Trainer and Nutritionist in Dubai UAE

A concentric contraction is a type of muscle contraction in which the muscles shorten while generating force, overcoming resistance. For example, when lifting a heavy weight, a concentric contraction of the biceps would cause the arm to bend at the elbow, lifting the weight towards the shoulder.

Tempo Prescription

Tempo prescription uses a 4-digit numeric scheme to describe the different phases of an exercise. For example, 3011 in a bicep curl is:

  • The First Number “3” is the 3 seconds eccentric (lowering) phase. It is the time in seconds to lower the weight after reaching the top of the lift.
  • The Second Number “0” is the 0 second pause at the bottom. It is the time in seconds to pause between the eccentric and the concentric phases of the exercise. For the curl, it is when the weight is at its lowered (bottom) position.
  • The Third Number “1” is the 1 second concentric (coming up) phase. It is the time in seconds to lift the weight from the lowered position to the top.
  • The Fourth Number “1” is the 1 second pause at the top.
  • However, if the Tempo prescription was 30×1 then everything else remaining the same, the concentric phase becomes EXPLOSIVE

The way in which the amount of time is written in the tempo prescription changes with the intent. There are four main categories of intent that change depending on the tempo.

  1. Position/Mechanics With slowing down of movement, an awareness develops of what the body is doing and should be doing in each muscle contraction or even one specific muscle contraction within the piece.
  2. Metabolic – If the total amount of time under tension is increased, the amount of work required increases which in turn increases the metabolic demand of the actual contraction.
  3. Progression Tempo is kept the same for the movement and the amount of time is gradually decreased under tension in the sets to force weight progression and advancement.
  4. Control – Utilize every muscle in order to meet the demands of the tempo. This forces the person to remain in control and develop muscles to maintain it.

Thus, tempo can play a critical role in the success and effectiveness of an individualized exercise program.

In resistance training, seeing results for a while from a well-designed program that one follows properly is relatively easy. However, after a while, the gains can become less apparent and with time one may even cease to see any proper results. This is referred to as a “plateau”. This can happen when one is training without proper knowledge or without a good personal trainer.

A well-experienced personal trainer can keep updating your workout programming including the tempo so that you can keep varying your training as required for achieving your goals.

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About Author

Abhinav Malhotra

Abhinav Malhotra is an award-winning personal trainer, coach and sports nutritionist in Dubai, UAE. He also offers online services to clients around the world. A personal trainer par excellence, Abhi has worked with the world’s leading fitness chains, supplement brands and founded his own fitness academy in India. He has achieved successes for many clients from all backgrounds and has trained the Indian Army Rugby Team. He is the first International Kettlebell Sport athlete from India.

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