Tempo Is the speed at which you perform a rep. Which is short for repetition. A rep is a single lowering and raising of the weight. But the question you might be wondering is what weightlifting tempo should I use?
The answer is very simple. Don’t overthink your weightlifting tempo. Just lift the damn weight.
Let me elaborate.
Popular Weightlifting Tempos
A popular weightlifting tempo is 2/0/2 this means an eccentric or lowering part of the rep lasting 2 seconds. Then a 0-second pause. And then a 2 second concentric or driving up part of the rep.
Most people refer to rep tempo like this 2/0/2 the first number is always the lowering portion of the rep, for instance squatting into the hole, the middle number is the middle part of the rep, for example, the bottom of a squat when you’re in the hole, and the last number is the concentric part the exercise, for instance, squatting out of the hole or exploding the bar off your chest in the bench press.
The Problem With A Weightlifting Tempo Recommendation
If your goal is to get as strong as possible. And it should be if you’re a natural weightlifter. Then using an excessively slow rep tempo will actually diminish your ability to lift as much weight as possible.
In this one study there were two groups who were put through different rep tempo protocols on the bench press.
One group used a 4/0/2 tempo 4 second eccentric, 0-second pause and 2 second concentric.
The other group used a faster lifting tempo of 2/0/2 that is to say a 2 second eccentric, 0-second pause and 2 second concentric explosive part of the rep.
The group that used a quicker lifting tempo could perform more total reps than the group who performed a slower lifting tempo.
And because the slower tempo group couldn’t do as many reps as the faster rep tempo group could, this resulted in less total work done and less total volume than the quick rep tempo group.
If you don’t know what volume is it’s equal to hard sets. And if you perform more reps in a given set, that means that you’ve done more total volume.
The volume of your workout routine can also be thought of as sets x reps x weight lifted.
What Does This Mean?
Don’t overcomplicate your rep speed by slowing it down. Because by doing so, you reduce your ability to lift as much weight for as many total reps.
Resulting in your workouts being less effective than they could be. And more complicated because if you’ve ever lifted heavyweights (80% or more of your one-rep max). You’ll know that those sets are hard and you need to give them all you’ve got.
And this is why I think it makes no sense to count 2-4 seconds on the way down or on the way up. When you should be solely focusing on giving that set all you’ve got using proper form.
Weightlifting Tempo : The Load Dictates The Speed Of The Rep
Have you ever tested your 1 rep max? or worked with a weight very close to failure testing your strength? Well if you have. You’ll know that when you’re working with heavy loads, that final 1 or 2 reps move slowly. Most of the time, that last rep is a grinder.
Just look at some of the top powerlifters in competition. You’ll notice because of the sheer amount of weight on the bar. Their absolute 1 rep max will move quite slowly. Especially on the concentric part of the rep.
If you’re not aware of the weightlifting jargon “grinder”. It means a very hard and slow rep at the limit of your strength ability.
The Squat, Bench Press, Press And Deadlift Are Called Slow Lifts For A Reason
These lifts are called slow lifts for a reason. They test your absolute strength, which is defined as your bodies ability to generate force.
And like I said when you test how strong you are at these exercises (1RM) the rep is bound to be slow and a grinder.
This holds true for even a hard set.
The final few reps are going to move slower than the first few reps of any set.
Do a hard set of 8-10 reps on the bench press with a decently heavy weight and you’ll see this to be true.
If You Intentionally Slow Down The Speed Of The Rep, Your Strength Will Be Compromised
This one study proves the statement I alluded to earlier on in this text, that slowing down rep speed reduces the total amount of work done and the total amount of reps you can perform.
In this study there were 4 test groups using 4 different protocols.
The groups were as follows:
1st group doing 1 set using a fast weightlifting tempo.
2nd group doing 3 sets using a fast weightlifting tempo.
3rd group doing 1 set using a slow weightlifting tempo.
4th group doing 3 sets using a slow weightlifting tempo.
What Weightlifting Tempo Was More Effective?
Training using a faster tempo resulted in better strength gains than slow training.
A Fast Weighltifing Tempo Is Best
You’re probably wanting to know the specifics for a practical weightlifting tempo. And if you’re looking for a recommendation a 1/1/1 tempo is best. Most importantly just try to lift the weight with proper form through a full range of motion while controlling the weight. And if you do this your tempo will be correct.
It’s Not Tempo That Injures People It’s Bad Form
Tempo Never hurt anyone its bad form that does. And a quick lifting tempo with bad form is almost certainly a recipe for disaster.
On the other hand, Olympic weightlifters use a very fast weightlifting tempo with colossal weights, just look at them lifting weights on youtube and look at the sheer amount of weight that they’re squatting.
Just Focus On Getting As Strong As Possible While Controlling The Weight
Although I’m an advocate of a quick weightlifting tempo I don’t mean just go as fast as possible. Try to think of controlling the weight on the eccentric portion of the rep and exploding it up on the concentric portion.
For example on the squat, you’d focus on controlling the weight into the hole (the bottom position of a squat) and then focus on exploding out of this position with correct form ensuring that the bar is over your midfoot.
If you want a specific tempo then aim for a 1/1/1 tempo this would mean you control the weight on the eccentric part of the lift for 1 second then a 1 second or less pause and then explode the bar up from your chest lasting 1 second or less.
The Bottom Line On What Weightlifting Tempo Should You Use?
- Don’t overly complicate lifting weights. Just lift the damn weight. A quick weightlifting tempo is more effective for increasing your strength and strength is highly correlated with the amount of muscle you have. For example, the strongest men and women in your gym will almost certainly be the biggest.
- A quick rep tempo isn’t an excuse to use bad form. Make sure you use good exercise form with a quick rep tempo to maximise your muscle and strength gains.
- If you want to maximise your muscle and strength, intentionally slowing the weight down is actually decreasing your performance and the effectiveness of your workouts.
Thanks for reading and if you want to put this article into action with a push, pull legs workout plan, click below to get my free ebook.
This article was written by Henry Paget who is a personal trainer from Washington, in the United Kingdom. He enjoys writing, lifting weights and helping people become fitter and healthier versions of themselves. Shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.