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You Probably Don’t Use This Style of Training But You Should

You Probably Don’t Use This Style of Training But You Should

In this article you will learn…

  1. What tempo training is.
  2. How and why to utilize it.
  3. Mistakes and corrections in the application of it.

Tempo Training: “The Break Down”

In simple terms, coming from a musician, tempo is defined as the speed or pace of a given “piece”. In a fitness sense, it’s the speed or pace of a given “exercise”.  Although every movement we perform has a specific tempo naturally and without thinking, manipulating and/or paying attention to it is something you may benefit from.

What do the numbers mean?

This is how the parameters of an exercise are usually set up. Today we’re looking at the italicized tempo portion.

Exercise: Back squats
Sets: 5
Reps: 3
Rest time: 120-180 seconds
Tempo: 6-3-2-2

The first number (6) is the eccentric or lowering portion of the exercise: Here the muscle is lengthening while its getting worked. For example, this would be the lowering of a bar during a bench press, or the straightening of your arm while performing a biceps curl.

The second number (2) represents the pause in between the lowering and lifting portion of the exercise. This pause usually happens between the eccentric (lowering) phase and the concentric (lifting) phase of a repetition. An example would be when the bar is nearest your chest in the bench press, or when the arm is fully extended during a bicep curl.

The third number (3) is the concentric, or lifting portion of the exercise: The concentric contraction occurs when the muscle is shortening. Examples of this would be the pushing movement of the bar during a bench press, or the flexing (bending) of your elbow during a biceps curl.

The fourth number (2) explains the pause at the top, if you choose to include that: The contraction happens at the end of your concentric (lifting) portion. Examples would be at the top or lockout position with the arms straight at the top of the bench press, or when your elbow is fully bent at the top of a biceps curl.


  • If you want to use, or see someone uses an (X) it means to perform that phase of the movement as fast as possible.
  • If you want to use, or see someone uses a (0) it means you spend no time pausing at either the top or bottom of the exercise.

Tempo training can be implemented to achieve all types of goals. You can use it too…

Increase your strength and power

Increase muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth)

You can manipulate tempo to increase things like metabolic stress (the burning feeling when you train), mechanical tension (in simple terms using the heaviest loads you can handle) and or to increase muscle damage (by using a long eccentric contraction or unfamiliar movements).

Identify weaknesses, correct poor technique, or help with problem areas throughout an exercise. 

By using different tempo’s (whether they are fast, paused, or slow) it enables you to see and feel certain positions and problem areas throughout the four phases of an exercise. This way you can gain better awareness of your body in space.

Improve body control, technique, and quality of movement.

For example if you struggle keeping a neutral spine near the bottom of a stiff legged deadlift, I could change the tempo so that you spend more time there to either create more confidence, strength, or familiarity in that position. I can even do it to give you a greater return of proper technique for the future.

Be aware of counting too fast.

Being a drummer my whole life I like to think I have a great sense of time and tempo. What I often notice is that because using slower tempos is challenging, people count inconsistently, and quicker than they think they are.

So how do you fix this?

  1. You can look at or listen to a stopwatch or metronome, which sometimes can get annoying.
  2. Have someone count for you, which will require a partner.
  3. Count slower with one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand.

Or what I have also seen work great is…

  1. Check and re-check an actual stopwatch from time to time, to make certain you are accurately counting the number of seconds properly.
  2. Double the amount of time you want to perform, to ensure you’re counting slow enough.

The ways you can use tempo training are endless.

Here are a couple videos of me applying some different tempos.

Tempo training will give you a greater appreciation of an exercise, especially if you are getting bored and need to step out of some old habits. Pick a primary goal and execute numbers appropriately. If you need help with something specific, feel free to comment or message me.

About Justin Rivelli

Justin Rivelli has been training clients online and in-person at his private gym in Berkshire County, Massachusetts for over 15 years. He specializes in helping 35 to 65 year old adults improve their body composition with well-rounded fitness plans that suit their needs, wants, and lifestyle. You can find out more about him at


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