Tempo Training Gains & “The Chief”

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Tempo Training Gains

How do we get stronger? Am I going to lose my gains during the lockdown? Let’s talk.

Muscle strength is the ability to apply or resist force. Strength is separate from hypertrophy, which can be defined as muscle growth and size. They are correlated, but not the same thing. Three of the classical main pillars of strength are load, intensity, and volume. Since load has largely been removed from our abilities with at-home workouts, we have to increase both volume and intensity if we wish to continue to build muscle and strength.

There is a way to modulate intensity and volume to reap huge gains with little equipment. This mode of training will be extremely relevant during these times, and that’s tempo. If you’re looking for a way to get fit without a lot of gear and make light weights feel quite heavy, this is the way, keep reading. The benefits of tempo training are numerous!

We have three muscle actions: concentric, isometric, and eccentric. Adding tempo to your training implies intentionally slowing down each portion of the lift. For example, a squat with a three second descent, a three second hold, followed by a three second ascent.

Eccentric – the muscle is lengthening under load.

Isometric – the muscle is still under load.

Concentric – the muscle is shortening under load.

Makes You Bigger (or “toned”)

According to Chief Sport Scientist Dr. Mike Israetel of Renaissance Periodization and countless others, time under tension (TUT) is the main driver of muscular growth and strength. Tempo work increases time under tension by definition, so you should have a pretty good shot at building some strength!

Improves Your Technique

Generally, beginners perform best when you instruct them with tempo. I don’t make it too complex, I just say “slow on the way down, slow on the way up,” and this usually produces a three or four second eccentric and concentric. This allows for total muscle control throughout the entire range of motion. 

Adding tempo will also make you stronger by developing your neurological conditioning for the movement you’re performing. Practice until you can’t do it wrong. Elite weightlifters who can squat well over 700lbs still practice slow, controlled reps with light weights. 

Improves Flexibility

Remember last time when I said some stress is a good thing? The SAID principle defines this, arguing that external stressors can have a positive effect on the body. In this case, simply put, time spent in the bottom of a deep squat will improve your ability to squat deep, and that’s exactly what we want. Try adding a two second pause at the bottom of your squats, especially if you experience tightness in the front of your hips. Flexibility is a science that is poorly understood, but that is what we know.

Lessens Your Chance of Injury

Consider a classic fault during a squat. The athlete sits down, but as they stand up, their knees dive in and wobble about like a leaf in a hurricane. This is due to a loss of muscular control. If we slow down the movement, we can ensure a higher chance of focused contraction throughout the entire movement. This reduces strain on tendons and joints, reducing your likelihood of injury.

Therefore, by intentionally slowing down (adding tempo) to movements you have already begun to master, you get more strength, more muscle, more calories burned, and more fitness.

Ten Thousand Hours of Practice

Now, when the gym opens back up, you’ll have your ten thousand reps, and you can use less cognitive brain muscle focusing on technique. I eat heavy squats for breakfast. It’s no coincidence that the strongest men and women in the world also have the best technique.

The basics work well: squat a backpack, push-ups with perfect technique, deadlift a bag of rice. The list is short, but highly effective.

How Do I Put This Into Effect?

If you struggle with a particular movement, be it technical movement or flexibility, start with a three-count on the way up and down. Think squats, push-ups, sit-ups, rows, deadlifts. Control your breathing: inhale during the eccentric, exhale during the concentric. This should help you maintain muscular control.

Beware! Tempo training is very challenging and can kick your behind proper. Start with few repetitions and add slowly over the weeks.

That’s it for now.

Coach Steve

Warm Up
2 Rounds
30 High Knees
20 Butt Kickers
10 Star Jumps
10 Cossack Squat Right
10 Cossack Squat Left
Rest 1 Minute

Tempo Pause Bulgarian Split Squat
3-2-1 Descent
Hold 5 seconds at the bottom and then stand

Odd- Left Side 3 Reps
Even- Right Side 3 Reps

“The Chief”
5 Rounds
3 Minute AMRAP
3 Power Cleans 135|95*
6 Push-ups
9 Air Squats

Rest 1 Minute between Rounds

*Your score is the total rounds complete over the course of the 5 intervals. Partial Rounds do not count. Hustle and complete the round within the 3 mins or welcome the additional rest and push for the extra round the next interval.

*Bent over Rows can be subbed for power cleans. If performing a single arm – do 3 on each side.

Extra Work
100 V-Ups
Every time you break 5 Strict HSPUs*

Scale # of v-ups to complete in no more than 10 sets. Scale HSPUs as necessary to inverted on the box, strict press or push ups.