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What is Tempo Training?

Have you heard of it? Tempo training, once popular in the weight lifting circuit, took a back seat for a while and now is back in serious strength-training and coaching circles. Tempo training is not a new concept. It’s basically controlling and varying the speed and rhythm of each repetition of a set of strength training exercises.

Tempo Training: Basic Components

There are two essential ‘main phases’ to strength training exercises and, of course, to tempo training, the eccentric and concentric phases. The eccentric phase involves lowering a weight whereas the concentric phase involves lifting the weight (contracting the target muscle). If you use momentum to ‘hoist’ up your weight and then rapidly drop it, you are minimizing benefits, wasting time and risking injury. Two other components of tempo training are isometric ‘holds’ or short pauses that should be included when the weight is down/stretched and when the weight is ‘up’ or the muscle is contracted.

With tempo training, you are purposefully using different speeds or ‘counts’ for each main phase depending upon your fitness goals how you wish to effectively target your muscles. Generally speaking, it’s best to work with a certified personal trainer to develop a basic routine, customized for you while perfecting your form. Mix and match cadences (tempos) to create multiple lifting variations.

Imagine biceps curls. You start with straight arms. Consider curling up on a count of two, pausing for one second, lowering on a count of four and pausing for another second. As you lower the weight, you are engaging both target and ‘helper’ muscles, maximizing results. That’s tempo training! Always avoid using momentum or ‘swinging’ to help you hoist up the weights. If you can’t lift in a controlled manner, try using lighter weights.

Tempo Training and Muscle Fiber Engagement

There are two categories of muscle fibers: type I and type II. The speed or tempo you adopt when performing strength training exercises determines which type of muscle fibers are most engaged. Type I or slow-twitch fibers are working during low-intensity, sustained activities whereas type II or fast-twitch fibers are engaged during short, high-intensity bursts of activity.

Lift a weight in a slow and controlled manner during the concentric phase and you’ll target mainly type I muscle fibers. Fast, powerful concentric phases, like a quick push (pushing weight away from your body) stimulates (and grows) type II muscle fibers.

In general, super-fast concentric phases aren’t appropriate for most strength-training exercises. Increasing the speed increases the likelihood that you’ll use proper form, taking the work emphasis off of the target muscle and potentially placing undue stress on tendons and ligaments. Think of going from slow and to faster…but always very controlled.

Tempo Training: Next Steps

You’ll want to switch up your cadence, or tempo, depending upon your training goals, desired results; even the exercises you choose. In an upcoming post, I’ll delve further into the three main ‘cadences’ in tempo training: slow, normal and fast and list specific exercises appropriate for each category.


Body Weight Exercises for Legs

Body Weight Exercises for Legs: Significance

Let’s move on to your lower body, specifically, to exercises for legs. We will cover body weight exercises for the hips, buttocks and core separately. Alternate upper– and lower-body moves to minimize rest periods, keep your heart rate elevated throughout your workout and save time. Engaging in resistance training and doing body weight exercises for legs regularly makes performing activities of daily living easier. General recommendations call for choosing effective exercises in a meaningful sequence (work largest muscles first). Working toward developing balanced strength amongst major leg muscles (quads and hamstrings, for example) may protect you from common injuries, such as pulled muscles.

There are dozens of effective body weight exercises for legs, for maximum efficiency, choose compound moves or those that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Best results come from working out smarter, not necessarily longer.

Body Weight Exercises for Legs: Specifics

You don’t need exercise equipment to get an effective, tough workout, even if you are already in great shape. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), squats, step-ups/downs, split squats/lunges and hamstring curls (standing or on all fours) are among the most effective body weight exercises for legs, in fact, for your whole lower body. First…squats. Start with a basic squat and build from there. Deep squats, self-assisted squats, one-legged squats, walking lunges and squats – the variations are virtually endless.

Always challenge yourself and vary your exercise choices. Advanced exercisers may progress to plyometrics, power exercises that involve explosive but controlled jumping movements. Golden rule for standing leg work: Never extend your knees beyond your toes, keep your weight mainly over your heels.

Don’t neglect your calves when performing exercises for legs. Best choice: calf raises (2-legged or 1-legged, balancing or assisted). Remember, if you are relying on body weight alone (for resistance), you must concentrate on really contracting the target muscle, imagining you are trying to move against resistance, such as water.

Exercises for Legs: Last Words…

Warnings: avoid over-training and using inconsistent, poor form. Always stop if you are experiencing unusual or sharp pain. Do not rely on exercise ‘lists.’ Watch them performed by a professional on or YouTube to read descriptions and view proper form through the full range of motion (video). Do step-ups on a box of an appropriate and realistic height. Step-up from behind a box/bench or from the side. Always push through the heel of your working leg to lift your body upwards while contracting your butt. Last word: don’t forget to do a warm-up and post-workout stretch!

Body Weight Exercises for Back

Body Weight Exercises for Back: Significance

Your back takes a beating every day – and deserves your care and attention. A strong back is a healthy back. Aesthetics aside, there are many small back muscles that support your spine and those that play a role in proper posture. You can work those at the same time as you are training the larger muscles with body weight exercises and/or isolate them with specific exercises that also involve your core, such as bird-dogs.

While there are dozens of effective body weight exercises to work your upper, mid and lower back muscles, you don’t want to spend your whole workout concentrating on one area of the body. Workout smarter and harder, not necessarily longer, for best results.

Body Weight Exercises for Back: Specifics

Bodmodified supermany weight exercises give you opportunity to work multiple muscle groups at the same time. Work your upper back by squeezing your shoulder blades together during slow incline push ups, or the muscles that line your spine by doing alternating leg raises while performing a plank. Or alternate a standard plank with a superman.

For the following body weight exercises, you’ll need access to a bar, railing or even the jungle-gym at your local park. Be creative. Today’s jungle-gyms have platforms of varying heights, for more flexibility with your exercise choices. Performing a standard pull up (all variations) is an excellent exercise, but very difficult for most women that at first (without assistance and/or a partner). What do you do if you are working out alone or do not have a band to off-set some of your body weight? Try a self-assisted pull-up or a body row (technically an inverted row) instead. The emphasis is on your posterior deltoids and latissimus dorsi (upper back). The greater the incliStretch carefully after doing body weight back exercisesne or the less assistance you allow yourself, the harder the body weight exercises will be.