Tempo training: What is it and how to apply it in your training

Tempo training is adding a set tempo or speed into your training to help you build more muscle, improve strength and aid fat loss. This essentially means that you have another factor added into your training, which is the speed at which you perform your reps.

I like to think of it as it’s not just the what you’re doing but how you’re doing it. Next time you go the gym and train weights, ask yourself, how fast or slow you’re performing your rep, and are you working the speed to your advantage?

Aside from helping you to build more muscle, increase strength and aid with your fat loss goals, it has a few great extra benefits that I think you should know about. First of all it helps you improve your technique. I find a much higher correlation between rushed movements and technique error. Secondly, tempo helps you to identify where your weak links are within your movements, as very often our stronger muscles overpower our weaker muscles when we move faster.

Finally, tempo training can help build eccentric strength which is brilliant for injury prevention, so I think it’s a method that is worth considering incorporating into your training.

Understanding time under tension

When it comes to tempo training, it’s important to understand what ‘Time under tension’
(or TUT) is. Time under tension can be defined is the time that given muscles or muscle groups are subject to a load during an exercise set. Different times under tension elicit slightly different results. For example, if your goal is to build muscle mass then as a rule of thumb the TUT you would want to aim for is sets lasting 30-40 seconds, regardless of the number of reps you’re doing. However if you’re goal is to lose fat, then you would want to aims for a TUT between 45-75 seconds.

How can I add it to my Weights routine?

The golden rule here is what I mentioned earlier about time under tension. The optimal TUT will change depending on your desired goal.

If your goal is to build muscle mass then you would want to aim for sets lasting around 30-40 seconds. In comparison to tempo training for fat loss, training for strength or building muscle mass usually falls within a smaller rep range which would mean you are more likely to have a longer time under tension. Say for example you are training 5 reps in your set of squats. To hit this ideal tempo range, you can use the following tempo: 4020. This essentially means it would take you 6 seconds to perform 1 rep, and 30 seconds to complete a set, which is within the 30-40 second window.

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