Every lift is performed with three different phases.
The first phase is eccentric or the down portion of the lift, second is the concentric or the up portion, and last is the isometric also known as the pause (no movement). Within the process of the lift, each phase has a defined tempo and for good reason. Tempo execution is crucial because it dictates what changes are going to be made in the body.
A lift follows a four digit sequence and each digit represents a unique part of the lift. Let’s use the common sequence of “4-0-1-0” to explain how tempo works. The first number (4) is the eccentric or lowering phase, the second number is the pause at the bottom (0), the third number is the concentric or return (1), and the fourth number is the pause before you go into the next rep (0).
Based on your goals, we utilize four unique adaptations to create specific results in the body:
- Relative Strength: Here we focus primarily on gains in overall strength. With this adaptation we keep Time Under Tension (TUT) between 0-20 seconds and use a lower rep range of 1-5.
- Example: A1) Squat: 1-5 reps: 2-0-1-0: This means 5 reps are performed at 3 seconds under tension bringing the Total TUT to 15 seconds.
- Functional Hypertrophy: Here we focus on gains in both strength and muscle mass. With this adaptation we keep Total TUT within 20-40 seconds and target 6-8 reps.
- Example: A1) Squat: 6-8 reps: 4-0-1-0: This means 8 reps are performed at 5 seconds under tension bringing Total TUT to 40 seconds, which would be the highest amount of time for functional hypertrophy.
- Hypertrophy: Here we focus primarily on gains in muscle mass. With this adaptation we are keep Total TUT within 40-60 seconds and target 9-12 reps.
- Example: A1) Squat: 9-12 reps: 3-0-1-0: This means 12 reps are performed at 4 seconds under tension bringing Total TUT to 48 seconds.
- Endurance: Here we focus primarily on muscle endurance. With this adaptation we are keep Total TUT above 60 seconds and target 13 reps or more.
- Example: A1) Squat: 13-15 reps: 4-0-1-0: This means 15 reps are performed at 5 seconds under tension bringing Total TUT to 75 seconds.
So, does it make a difference if you don’t quite stick to the tempo? Yes, in the long run, it does.
For example, let’s say you are working for hypertrophy with a 4-0-1-0 tempo, and TUT is programmed for 60 seconds. If you end up following 5-0-1- 0 instead of 4-0-1-0, then you have gone into endurance. The reason this is important not to do is because your body needs to have consistency for about 6-8 workouts to try and learn what is happening. After 6-8 workouts, your body fully adapts, and it’s time to shock the body again with a new workout. If you were supposed to be in hypertrophy in your first workout, but you were in endurance and endurance is programmed in your next workout, your body will become stagnant.
I would strongly advise you to stick to the tempo programmed, keeping in mind that a second above or below your programmed TUT may hinder your results.