Tweaking the Training Tempo to Get Results



When the desired or expected results aren’t happening it’s time to try something different. Especially if someone is working maximally. More is not always the answer.

For any seasoned weightlifter, there is going to come a time when falling prey to a “comfort zone” leads to a halt in one’s progress.  For our clients, even our novice and recreational strength-trainers, this soon becomes a potential pitfall.

It May Be Time For a Change

It has often been said that timing is everything in life. The fitness arena is no exception. Every now and then, a plateau can be overcome simply by introducing a change in the tempo of each move. Consider the following protocols when a muscle group has “hit the wall”:

Mind-Muscle Tempo

Have your clients mentioned having a tough time “feeling” a certain muscle during workouts?

Offer a new way of waking up stubborn muscle groups with this tip: cut the weight load in half while doubling the amount of time spent under tension.

Here is an example: take 4 seconds to perform the concentric phase of an exercise, 2 seconds to hold in that position, then 4 seconds for the eccentric phase followed by another 2-second hold to finish the repetition. Try to continue in this fashion for a total of 2 minutes. Allow your body a sufficient rest period before repeating the sequence. By activating the muscles in this manner, your client will most assuredly “feel that burn”!

Pause Tempo

The same pause at the top of an exercise, as discussed above in regard to mind-muscle tempo, can be expanded upon for a powerful way to kick-start a dormant muscle’s growth. Some examples of this include pausing for a full 4-5 seconds at the bottom of a squat or holding the top of a pull-up.

We always try to discourage clients from utilizing momentum during a set of curls. Similarly, if one relies solely on the elasticity of joints and connective tissues to get through a tough set, the opportunity to master the movement has been lost.

It is only by learning to maintain the most challenging position of any exercise while not compromising form that such mastery can be achieved. Think of this as getting comfortable with an uncomfortable condition; while those 4-5 seconds may feel like an eternity, the gratification of seeing the growth in lean muscle mass soon overrides any pain!

Have you had any successful inspirations — and success — in terms of altering your exercise tempo?

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Cathleen Kronemer is an NFPT CEC writer and a member of the NFPT Certification Council Board. Cathleen is an AFAA-Certified Group Exercise Instructor, NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, ACE-Certified Health Coach, former competitive bodybuilder and freelance writer. She is employed at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, MO. Cathleen has been involved in the fitness industry for over three decades. Feel free to contact her at She welcomes your feedback and your comments!
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