Want to Make the Most of your At-Home Workouts? Do This…

Want to Make the Most of your At-Home Workouts? Do This…

The missing variable in your workout: Tempo

With our new normal of staying home, our workouts can no longer happen in a gym. There’s tons of programming online – “10 minute abs” or “Quick At-Home Circuits” – but it’s safe to say that, while it’s good to get some sort of movement in, these workouts, when done week after week, won’t give your body the results you’re looking for if you want to strengthen your body without the ability to lift weights.

Luckily, there’s one small thing you can add to your at-home workouts that will change everything – tempo.

Assigning tempo to an exercise assists dictates the elicited neuromuscular or metabolic adaptation. AKA it completely changes your muscles’ reaction to the movement… making the movement more impactful! By simply putting your workout movements to a tempo, you can ensure that your body gets more out of your workout!

What is tempo?

Tempo is the speed at which you complete 1 repetition of an exercise. This was popularized by the late Charles Poliquin and is easy to apply to almost any movement.

There are four ways to apply tempo to your movement:

1. The first is how many seconds it takes to lower the weight. For example: If you are completing a squat, take 4 seconds to lower from the standing position to the bottom on the squat- hamstrings completely covering the calves. If you are completing a chin up or lat pulldown, take 4 seconds to lower the weight from the collar bone to a dead hang with the arms completely straightened. 

2. The second is the length of the pause at the end of the eccentric (lowering) phase. Using the the tempo above and the squat for our exercise; the trainee would pause at the bottom of the squat for 2 seconds.

So… lower 4… 3… 2… 1… and pause at the bottom 1… 2… then stand back up.

Doing this makes the movement require more brute strength. Pausing at the bottom of the movement (the end of the eccentric portion) is mechanically disadvantageous (it’s harder). When muscle fibers are completely lengthened, this results in fewer sites to form cross-bridge attachments (AKA, you can’t use momentum or bounce to get yourself back up.) Try it out for yourself with the squat:

*Complete 10 reps of a squat with a 2 second pause at the bottom, then 10 reps without tempo (no pause at the bottom or top of the squat) and feel the difference for yourself. 

3. The third is within the concentric phase of the exercise. This is when the muscle is shortening. In the squat the concentric portion is returning to the standing position… this means  you’ll be counting down as you stand back up. 

4. The fourth is with the pause after the end portion of the lift and before movement begins again (the eccentric portion). This would mean that there would be no pause at the top of the squat and you’d immediately go back into a tempo’ed lower again. Using our squat example, after the trainee takes 1 second to stand up, there is no pause, rather once the trainee returns to the top immediately begin to lower for 4 seconds to begin the next rep.

So… Here’s the entire movement:

Lower 4… 3… 2… 1
Pause at the bottom 1… 2…
Stand back up quickly
Repeat immediately

Why should you care about tempo training? 

  1. It is safer to learn an exercise at a slow speed. By slowing down the exercise, you’re able to concentrate on your posture throughout the exercise. Try doing a squat with a 5050 tempo. (You’ll lower for 5 seconds, no pause at the bottom, then take 5 seconds to return to the top of the lift, no pause at the top and complete the movement again) while watching your body in a mirror. This is a great way to focus on your technique. Your first and last rep should be carbon copies of each other. If they’re not, take away weight.
  2. It is easier to gain strength at slow speeds. Everyone is stronger during the eccentric portion (the lowering of the squat) by about 30%, sometimes more. By slowing down the eccentric portion of a movement more tension is generated on the muscle fibers, which in turn elicits greater biological adaptation. AKA – Slowing down the eccentric portion (the lowering) is the best way to get stronger faster. 

You can apply tempo to any movement:
-Curls of any kind (hamstrings, biceps…)
-Ab work (leg lowers, hip raises)

Check back next week for a post on how to manipulate tempo training to aid with fat loss. This will be especially helpful for your at-home workouts over the next month!

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