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Maximising Muscle Growth: The Power of Exercise Tempo

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Introduction:


In the world of fitness and strength training, one crucial aspect that often goes unnoticed is the tempo of an exercise. Tempo refers to the speed at which we perform each part of a repetition. Understanding how tempo affects our workouts can unlock significant benefits in muscle growth and overall performance. In this blog post, we'll delve into the four parts of a repetition, explore the impact of different tempos on muscle building, and provide a practical rule of thumb for optimizing your workouts.

The Four Parts of a Repetition:


Each repetition consists of four distinct phases, each of which plays a vital role in the overall effectiveness of an exercise:

  1. The Lowering (Eccentric) Phase: This is the initial phase where you lower the weight or your body against gravity. It involves controlled lengthening of the muscles.

  2. The Pause Between Lowering and Lifting Phases: After the eccentric phase, there's a brief pause before transitioning to the concentric phase. This moment of stillness allows you to prepare for the next movement.

  3. The Lifting (Concentric) Phase: In this phase, you lift the weight or push against gravity. It involves the shortening of the muscles.

  4. The Pause Between Lifting and Lowering Phases: Similar to the previous pause, this brief moment of stillness separates the concentric phase from the following eccentric phase.

The Impact of Lifting Tempo on Muscle Building:


Research indicates that the lifting tempo, or the speed at which you perform the concentric and eccentric phases, may not significantly affect muscle building. However, certain findings suggest that longer lower tempos can be beneficial.


The Power of Slow, Controlled Lengthening Tempos:


To enhance muscle growth, consider incorporating slow, controlled lengthening tempos into your workouts. By doing so, you increase the total time your muscles are exposed to tension during each repetition. This extended time under tension can effectively stimulate muscle growth and development.


The Advantage of the Lowering (Eccentric) Phase:


Unlike the lifting phase, the lowering phase allows for increased time under tension without reducing motor unit recruitment levels. Additionally, the lowering phase offers high levels of fatigue resistance, making it an ideal way to increase time under tension without compromising the number of stimulating repetitions.


A Practical Rule of Thumb for Tempo:


Based on experience and expert recommendations, a useful rule of thumb for optimising exercise tempo is as follows:

  • Concentric Phase: 2 seconds

  • Pause between phases: 1 second

  • Eccentric Phase: 3 to 4 seconds

  • Pause between phases: 1 second

By following this tempo pattern, you ensure controlled movements, proper muscle activation, and maximum time under tension, all contributing to improved muscle growth.


Conclusion:


The tempo of your exercises can significantly impact your muscle-building journey. While lifting tempo may not be a primary factor, incorporating slow, controlled lengthening tempos during the eccentric phase can maximise muscle growth. Remember the rule of thumb – 2:1:3-4:1 – for a well-balanced and effective workout routine. So, the next time you hit the gym or exercise at home, pay attention to your tempo and unlock the full potential of your workouts. Happy training!


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