Stuck in a rut or hit a plateau with your training? Altering your time under tension or the eccentric part of a lift can light a fire in your muscles and push your training to another level.
What is lifting tempo and time under tension?
The tempo of a lift refers to the amount of time it takes the muscle to go through the concentric (the muscle contracting) and eccentric (the muscle elongating) phases,
as well as how long you hold the rep for at the end of the movement. This can change for different lifts, styles of training and training goals.
Time under tension is a common phrase in the fitness industry which refers to the amount of time the muscle is having to control the weight on any of the phases of the
Lifting tempo makes sure we are keeping control throughout the lift and not just allowing the weights to drop and then using the momentum to “bounce” the weight
back up. Controlling the rep tempo can help to build more strength and muscle by increasing muscle tension.
What is eccentric training?
Eccentric training focuses on the lowering portion of a lift. This is done through the use of bands, training partners or your friendly fitness team. Take the bench press for
example, you would select a weight that’s 110% of your 1 rep max, you then control the weight on the way down (the eccentric phase) for a count of 6 seconds, once the
bar reaches the chest, your training partner helps lift the weight back up to start again.
This allows the muscle to take a heavier load, meaning we will be using the stronger portion of the lift to help break through plateaus, boost the intensity of your lifts or boost
the weight you can use.
Taking advantage of these training methods
To use the tempo of a lift to your advantage, it is important firstly to make sure you understand what it is you want from your lift. For example, if you are trying to
increase muscle hypertrophy, one simple tempo range would be as follows:
• Lower the weight for around 3 seconds under control
• Pause the weight for 0-1 seconds at the end of the lowering phase
• Take 2-3 seconds on the way back up
• Pause the weight for 0-1 seconds at the end of the pushing phase
The added time under tension would promote blood flow to the working muscle and increase hypertrophy. This would be referred to as 3030 tempo.
Tempo is one of the most overlooked areas of training intensity (second to rest periods which we’ll discuss in another article). Utilising it can take your training to another level and should always be monitored and adjusted so that you don’t allow the body to settle into a training pattern.