Slow down . . . it might be your key to avoiding injury and getting stronger. Tempo training is not just for bodybuilders. Olympic caliber athletes from all over the world use tempo training to become stronger, faster and more powerful. The benefits of tempo training have been touted for years by the likes of Bulgarian Olympians and their coaches to internationally renowned strength coaches Ian King and Charles Poliquin. I was introduced to the benefits of tempo training by my coach and mentor, James Fitzgerald, who uses it very effectively to train many of the top CrossFit competitors.
What Does 30X0 Mean?
Tempo prescriptions come in a series of four "numbers" representing the times in which it should take to complete four stages of the lift. In a workout, the tempo prescription will follow the assigned number of reps, such as: Front Squat x 2-3 reps @ 30X0
The First Number – The first number refers to the lowering (eccentric) phase of the lift. Using our front squat example, the 3 will represent the amount of time (in seconds) that it should take you to descend to the bottom of the squat. (The first number always refers to the lowering/eccentric phase, even if the movement begins with the ascending/concentric phase, such as in a pull-up.)
The Second Number – The second number refers to the amount of time spent in the bottom position of the lift – the point in which the lift transitions from lowering to ascending. In our front squat example, the prescribed 0 means that the athlete should reach the bottom position and immediately begin their ascent. If, however, the prescription was 32X0, the athlete would be expected to pause for 2 seconds at the bottom position.
The Third Number – The third number refers to ascending (concentric) phase of the lift – the amount of time it takes you to get to the top of the lift. Yes, I am aware that X is not a number. The X signifies that the athlete should EXPLODE the weight up as quickly as possible. In many cases, this will not be very fast, but it is the intent that counts – try to accelerate the weight as fast as you can. If the third number is a 2, it should take the athlete 2 seconds to get the lift to the top regardless of whether they are capable of moving it faster.
The Fourth Number – The fourth number refers to how long you should pause at the top of the lift. Take, for example, a weighted pull-up prescription of 20X2, the athlete would be expected to hold his or her chin over the bar for two seconds before beginning to come down.
Counting – It seems silly to even mention how to count seconds, but I have heard many clients audibly count to 4 in less than one second while under a heavy load. So, to ensure that your 4 second count and mine are the same, use “one thousands,” as in: 1-one thousand, 2-one thousand, 3-one thousand, 4-one thousand.
Got it? If you need more practice, think about how you would perform the following:
Push-Up x 15 reps @ 2111
Bulgarian Split Squat x 6-8 reps @ 41X1
Pull-Up x 81X2
For many of you, just understanding how to read the prescription will suffice. Others will wonder why they have to follow the tempo prescription. Find out Why I Like Tempo Training...And You Should Too!