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Slow Tempo Weight Training

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Bodybuilding and Fitness Newsletter 10/24/2018

Best Lifting Tempo for Hypertrophy

The Influence of Tempo

by Matt Fish

Most people involved with weight training use a very quick lifting speed. This is done primarily to handle a heavier load. When you lower a weight quickly and immediately reverse direction, you utilize stored energy from the stretching of tendons and ligaments. Stimulation of the muscle spindles also causes a more powerful contraction of the muscle fibers (called the stretch reflex). However, this increased muscular tension only lasts for the first few inches of movement. Momentum then reduces the stress on the involved muscles through the mid-range. Finally, the tension must be reduced further to slow the weight at the finish. This is a great way to demonstrate strength, but it is not ideal for developing strength and stimulating muscle hypertrophy. It also causes a great deal of stress on the joints and can lead to sprains and strains very quickly, or arthritic joints over many years of abuse.

While one may argue that it is beneficial to condition the stretch reflex for improved sports performance, ballistic lifting should not be used exclusively. It is not the external weight that is important for stimulating growth, but the amount of tension and metabolic work within the muscle. Both of which are increased using a slow tempo. However, ego and lack of knowledge tend to prevent most individuals from ever using a slow rep speed. Which is the best lifting tempo for hypertrophy.

I prefer the use of slow speeds exclusively, however, even occasional use will increase productivity. If you want to begin implementing slow speeds in your workouts, follow these guidelines:

Begin with 50% of your normal workload

Lower the weight in 4-5 seconds

Slowly and deliberately reverse direction

Raise the weight in 2-5 seconds

Perform 6-12 repetitions to or near muscular failure - adjust weight as needed

Although the weight used will initially be lower than you're used to, you will progress at a much faster pace if you have a well-balanced workout. This type of work is also much more demanding mentally due to the greater metabolic work and lactic acid production.

Focus is very important. No matter how you choose to train, lack of effort = lack of results.

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