Time under tension, the Tempo Factor

By on April 10, 2013

Tempo TrainingHi Guys

Just wanted to talk to you today about a training principle, which not many people use. Now I don’t know if that is because they have not heard of it, or that it is challenging and they would rather now use it because it is too hard.

You are missing out if you don’t apply this to your training arsenal. It is simple to use, but can be very challenging!

What I am talking about is tempo training. When going for maximum recruitment of muscle fibres, nothing else comes close to slowing that shit down and really working the muscles.

I use this principle with my clients to really make them work, but also to understand that by slowing down you actually get more out. You don’t always have to go full tilt!

Time under Tension

By working exercises slower in a tempo you are keeping the muscles under tension for longer.

The result is that the body has to recruit more and more muscle fibres to perform the exercise and your body has to adapt accordingly.

It also helps with movement patterns and muscle memory. By slowing everything down you actually focus on the muscles worked and make a deeper connection with your brain, which is very important.

If you are using this protocol with weights you will most probably have to drop the poundages to what you are used to. Control becomes paramount and is much kinder on your joints!

Neural Efficiency

When you do any exercise, your brain wants to perform it as efficiently as possible. It wants to be neurally efficient. It wants to use the least amount of nerve recruitment and the least amount of energy to perform a movement.

This is why when you perform a new exercise e.g. a squat, It is important that you get the movement pattern correct. It takes about 300-400 reps of an exercise performed correctly for it to be ingrained in your head. But if you perform it incorrectly it can take up to 4000 reps to undo the pattern before you can correct it!

This is why it is majorly important that you get it right at the start!

You can use this in a number of ways, from bodyweight training to lifting dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells etc.

You can also change and vary the tempo depending on the training session goal or who is using it.

For example. a perfectly valid temp is 4-0-1-0, using this with a squat:

4 seconds – Eccentric (lowering)

0 seconds  – no pause at the bottom

1 second –  Concentric (rising)

0 second – No Pause at the top

This allows the muscles to be working under tension and no rest for the entire duration of the exercise.

You can change it by adding in pauses slowing down other parts. The combinations are endless and you can determine them by knowing what you want to achieve.





the list goes on and on.

The training…

Here is a training session I did today using minimal equipment, I used the 5-0-1-0 tempo on odd rounds and 1-0-5-0  tempo on even rounds to fully utilise this protocol on eccentric and concentric parts.  Each exercise  was done for time, in this case 40 seconds work and 20 seconds rest.

You can also do it for reps too, there are infinite possibilities. Make sure it is balls to the wall challenging. You must make it difficult!

I went for a number of rounds in this case 6. The number of rounds you do depends on your fitness levels. I also went for 45-60 seconds rest in between rounds, you can adjust that again by your fitness level.

Depth Push Ups

Db Split Squat (Left) Db Split Squat (Right)

DB Renegade Rows

DB Squat (Tempo) to press (explosive)


Adding burpees at the end really taxes your conditioning.

If you have no equipment you could just drop everything and simply go for

Push Ups

Split squat (left)

split squat (Right)

renegade rows


Burpees/squat jumps/ high knee sprints.

Have a play around with it and let me know what you think.

Yours in strength and health



About Dean Coulson

• International Best Selling Author of the Fit Formula • Feature writer on Nutrition for the Uk’s biggest selling Martial arts magazine – Martial Arts Illustrated • Presenter & speaker - Tour the UK with Bafta Award Winning writer Geoff Thompson. (www.geofthompsoninspired.com ) • Owner and Performance coach at Assert Fitness Ltd. Taking our clients Dreams and makes them a reality, through the realms of coaching all aspects of health and fitness to busy professionals. • www.assert-fitness.co.uk , www.deancoulson.co.uk

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