Respect The Tempo

Hello Detour community!

In an effort to consistently provide you with unique perspectives and detailed insight into your training experience, I thought it would be valuable to write a little post about the benefits of tempo training.

Let’s begin by answering a likely question many of you have… “What is tempo training?”
Tempo training is the execution of movements at specified speeds based on a desired stimulus or goal. As an example, if we were doing bench press inside of a class setting, and the programmed “tempo” for the movement was a “5-count descent, 2-count pause, fast up, 1-count pause” you would complete each rep at that controlled speed. Lower the bar to your chest while counting to 5. Pause with the bar at your chest for a 2-count. Move the bar as fast as possible off your chest, and take a 1-count pause at lock out. We, as coaches, have the ability to implement desired tempos into just about any and every movement we utilize during strength training.

Now that we know what tempo training is, let’s look at three benefits that come from this pursuit.

  1. Increased mind-body connection: Perhaps one of the most undervalued elements of a functional fitness program is the ability for participants to take full ownership of how they move their body through space. While moving your body through space against weight (strength training) will help get you stronger and likely lead to muscle mass development. Strength training with a tempo can increase your ability to connect the brain to the body, and gain more motor control through challenging ranges of motion. One of the best examples of this is gaining full motor control of the bottom of a squat. Without full motor control, there is an increased risk for injury in athletes who are squatting too deep for their own good. If we are working on squatting with tempos, use the time to improve your body awareness and decrease the chance of injury down the road. Remember, heavier is not always better.—
  2. Muscle growth without the joint stress: As part of your participation in the Detour community, it is likely that you are pursuing this program in the hopes of seeing a little more leanness or muscle definition. This desire necessitates time spent strength training. While strength training can be an intimidating pursuit for some, the feeling of accomplishment and pride that comes from the pursuit is immeasurable and is always worth the effort. While the value of strength training is unquestioned, the requirement to consider potential risk is certainly worth noting, particularly for our aging population. Tempo training allows us as coaches to put a tremendous amount of stress on the muscle fibers in your body (leading to growth), without the joint stress that comes from heavy lifting. If tempos are written into your daily workout, please understand that we are considering your long-term sustainability in this pursuit in addition to your short-term goals of muscle mass accumulation.—
  3. Increased metabolic demand: There is a high likelihood that if you are reading this article, you have experienced the shortness of breath that comes from something like a heavy set of 3, 4 or 5 back squats. Most forms of strength training demand some baseline capacity to breathe heavy. However, the inclusion of tempo training might have a surprisingly profound impact on your ability to breathe and gain capacity in two arenas at once. To best understand this, let’s consider the following. You show up to class today and see that back squats are programmed for strength work; however, you notice a subtle difference for the squats today. Rather than doing 5 sets of 5, you are asked to complete 4 sets of 12 reps, each rep done with a tempo of 3-seconds on the way down and 3-seconds on the way up. You do some quick math and realize that each set of 12 reps is going to take you close to 1:00 – 1:15 to complete if the tempos are held correctly. This amount of time under tension is going to demand that you be able to breathe while maintaining movement. You get done with your first set, and quickly realize that you are much more “winded” than normal. Understand that just because the weight on the bar might be a little less than a heavy set of 3, 4 or 5 reps, it doesn’t mean you aren’t getting stronger. In fact, given enough time training with tempos, you may be surprised to find increases in both strength and muscular stamina.—

As you can likely gather from this post, I am a big fan of tempo training and you should expect to see quite a bit of it over the next few months. If I could leave you with any one piece of advice, it would be this… If you feel that you could lift heavier weights without following the prescribed tempo, don’t do it. Respect the tempo, let it work it’s magic, and know that there is a time and a place for lifting without tempos as well.

Keep showing up, and keep putting in the work.
-Coach Mitch


Previous Post: