Rep speed probably isn’t something you think about too much.

We’ve all got our inbuilt velocity monitors, and for most of us, we tend to lift in a relatively explosive manner, then lower under control. Sure, we probably change things around a bit by powering through our warm-up sets and lifting quickly, and likewise, when we’re grinding out reps or working with a higher percentage of 1 rep max, the bar’s going to slow down.

Everyone’s experimented with tempo to some degree, and probably tried out super slow training to “feel the burn” from time to time, but more often than not, we’re focused on the weight on the bar, and the total number of sets and reps.

Is tempo something we need to look at a little closer though? And could using tempo as another variable in your training be an effective way to bring about greater gains in hypertrophy and strength?


Rep Speed Basics

Tempo refers to how quickly you perform each section of an exercise.

You’ll usually see rep speed laid out as – X:X:X:X

The first number is the eccentric (lowering) phase, the second is the pause, the third is the concentric (lifting) phase and the final number is the break or the contraction before performing the next rep.

For example, a leg press with a 3:2:1:1 tempo would mean you take 3 seconds to lower the weight, pause for 2 seconds, lift for 1 second and pause for a second at the top. Occasionally you’ll see “X” listed which means no specific tempo, or indicates you should be explosive.

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