“Tempo? Like in Middle School music class?” Kind of, but more in terms of movement. Tempo is the rate or speed of motion of the movement that we are working on that day. While in class and working on squats, you may hear your coach say, “take 3 seconds to travel to the bottom of the squat, hold the bottom for 2 seconds, stand up as fast as possible and hold the top of the squat for 2 seconds before starting on the next rep. That’s a movement tempo!
We use Tempos to build foundations and groove strong movement patterns. If we move to fast or too slow through movements we can miss out on a lot of the benefits and gains. Tempos force us to get the desired effect of the movement.
Just like our secret acronym language we have for our WODs (TTB, CTB Pull Up, HPC, HSPU…ect) We have a shortened language for Tempos.
Lets say we have some Front Squats programmed for the day with a tempo. It would like this on the board:
Every 3 minutes x 5 sets do:
4 Front Squats @3213, (Use 60-70%)
So we know that we are doing 5 sets of 4 Front squats and we will start a set on every 3rd minute and we will be working within 60-70% of our known 1 rep max (1RM) Back Squat
Those other numbers (@3213) is the Tempo.
Each of the 4 numbers correlates to a different portion of the movement.
@ just means “at this tempo”
The first number represents how long it will take for the eccentric or negative portion of the movement (going down from the top of the movement to reach the bottom of the squat), 3 seconds.
The second number represents how long to pause in the bottom of the movement. In our case, it is a 2 second pause before starting the concentric or contraction portion of the movement (standing up from the bottom).
The third number represents how long standing up (concentric) will take! In our case it says 1 second to stand up. If it says 1 second you are to stand up as fast as possible, and if it takes you longer than 1 second to stand up, the weight is TOO HEAVY!
However, we may put an X in the third spot at times. An X means stand up, no matter how long it takes (with no break down in form).
The fourth number represents how long you hold the top of the movement, in our case 3 seconds is how long you wait before starting to go down into the next rep. You will reset your breathing here and keep focus on an engaged min-line (butt and abs).
There you have it! We are doing 5 sets of 4 Front Squats between 60-70% 1RM and will take 3 second to reach the bottom of each squat, hold the bottom for 2 seconds, stand up as fast as possible and hold the top of the squat for 3 seconds before going into the next rep.
It can get a little confusing with other movements though, like gymnastics for example. Lets look at Strict Pull ups.
Lets use a different tempo as well, we are going to do:
5 sets x 2 Strict Pull ups @41X2
The first number is always the eccentric portion of the movement, meaning going down. So we would start our tempos at the top of the pull up (when your chin is over the bar)
So we are doing 5 sets of 2 pull ups with 4 seconds to reach full extension of our arms from the top of the pull up, staying in the bottom of the pull up (arms extended) for 1 second, then pulling ourselves up (however long it takes, X) and holding the top of the pull up (chin over bar) for 2 seconds.
There you have it! Be sure to pay attention to the tempos we assign in class and play with some by yourself on your own weakness work!
As always, we are here for questions.