Resistance training consists of two main movements, concentric and eccentric. Concentric movement is when the muscle shortens whilst producing force, an example of this is the pushing phase of a bench press. Eccentric movement is the lengthening of a muscle whilst under tension, this occurs on the lowering of a bench press. More often than not a resistance training program will focus on the concentric portion of the lift as this is known to be the ‘best’ way to increase muscle size and strength. However, recent studies have shown that if your main goal is to increase overall muscle size and strength, then eccentric training may be more beneficial. There are several ways a program can implement eccentric training, the most common and widely used variation is tempo.
Tempo is used to alter the speed in which a movement is performed putting particular focus into the eccentric portion, resulting in a greater time under tension (TUT). Along with other variables, TUT is important for promoting a greater stimulus which increases both muscle strength and size. Depending on experience level and current training phase, the tempo used will change accordingly. When focusing on muscular endurance the eccentric phase of exercise is ideally between 2-6 seconds (s). However, if your goal is more focused toward hypertrophy or strength the eccentric portion is between 2-4s and 1-2s respectively (P.Mcall, 2019).
Interpreting tempo is very simple, more often than not it will be written in a four-figure configuration. The first number of the sequence represents the first movement pattern of the exercise. For example: 3/2/X/1 in a squat will be a 3s lowering phase, 2s pause, X (explosive) upward phase and a 1s reset before the next repetition. However, if this same tempo was to be implemented into a deadlift due to the different starting movement the tempo will be interpreted slightly differently. For example: 3/2/2/1 where 3s is the upward phase, 2s pause, 2s lowering phase, and a 1s reset.
Implementing tempo into your training program is an effective way to progressively overload a muscle fibre without having to add extra weight. Next time you hit a plateau try giving tempo a go, alternatively, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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G, Dudley., P, Tesch., B, Miller., & P, Buchanan. 2016. Importance of eccentric actions in performance adaptations to resistance training. Journal of European Medicine, 62(6).
Brandenbrug, J., & Docherty, D. (2002). The effects of accentuated eccentric loading on strength, muscle hypertrophy, and neural adaptations in trained individuals. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 16(1), 25-32.
Vogt, M., & Hoppeler, H. (2014). Eccentric exercise: mechanics and effects when used as training regime. Journal of Applied Physiology.
McCall, P. (2014). Weightlifting tempo and amp: sets: how to select the right tempo counts. American Council on Exercise.