The Definition of Tempo in Exercise - Proper Speed of Movements

Exercise Tempo

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You might have heard the word "tempo" thrown around a lot when it comes to bodybuilding training. But the question becomes then, what exactly is tempo and how does this terms relate to bodybuilding? Good question. I know a lot of bodybuilders just like you who are confused with the whole concept of tempo as it relates to training. I'm only too happy to shed some light on this topic for you.

In bodybuilding terms, tempo simply means the speed of movement for any resistance-training exercise. Tempo is commonly expressed in a three-number format (e.g., 3-0-1) with each number representing seconds of time for a specific portion of the lift. In the example above, the number 3 would represent 3 seconds, the number 0 would represent no stop in movement, and the number 1 would represent 1 second. Confused? Don't be, because I am now going to explain which part of the lift each number represents. The first number represents the eccentric part of the lift - the lowering portion of the movement, commonly referred to as the negative. The second number represents the pause or midpoint of the lift. The third number represents the concentric part of the lift - the raising portion of the movement, commonly referred to as the positive.

To help you grasp this concept even further, let's use the bench press as an example using our 3-0-1 tempo protocol. In this case, 3 seconds is the amount of time it should take you to lower the bar to your chest. The amount of time the bar should touch your chest during the movement is 0 seconds (in other words, there's no pause). The amount of time it should take you to push the bar up is 1 second. Hopefully, this explanation gives you a good overview of what exactly tempo is in a workout program.

On a final note, if you ever see tempo expressed in a four-number format, the fourth number represents the peak of the concentric part of the lift (e.g., arms fully extended and the bar at the top during the bench press). Also, if you ever see an "X" in a tempo protocol, then that would mean as fast as possible. Keep in mind, though, that the four-number tempo format and use of an "X" are almost always seen in power-type programs as opposed to bodybuilding programs. Still, I thought you should be made aware in case you ever come across them.

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