Tempo Lifting


Things You Need to Know

What we will quickly cover:

— What is Tempo Lifting?

— Benefits of Tempo Lifting

— Where You Shouldn’t Use Tempo Lifting

I am not going to lie, I hate tempo lifting. Why? Because is sucks. It takes concentration, it’s difficult, and can take some of the “fun” out of training.

But it’s worth it!

What is tempo lifting?

Tempo lifting is simply lifting to a “tempo”, or different times spent in the eccentric, concentric, and isometric portions of a lift (or muscle contraction).

Think of it as going slow down, pausing, then exploding upwards, then pausing again. But we will be doing it in a very defined manner.

Now, remember, this update is NOT comprehensive information on tempo lifting.

I am giving you a protocol that has WORKED for athletes I have coached. At the end of this update, I will challenge you to be your own coach and programmer and experiment with tempo lifting beyond the scope of what we cover.

Benefits of Tempo Lifting

— A very safe way to expand your training

— Increase Time Under Tension for Continued Strength Gains

— Corrective in nature (fixes what you suck at)

— Improved Barbell Mechanics

— Reduced risk of injury

— Works for the beginner all the way to advanced

— Has a great metabolic response (makes you fitter)

Where You Shouldn’t Use Tempo Lifting

Tempo lifting is great but should not be used everywhere. Tempo training should not be used in lifts that are more dynamic in nature. Like a wall ball shots, muscle up, snatch, etc. It should also not be used as you gear up for any sort of competition or event. When you are gearing up for an event or competition, you need to “practice how you play”. Look at tempo training as something that makes you better at practice where you can get better at playing. But should not be used, or overused, for direct transfer to your sport.


In this section we will cover:

— Using Tempo

— Tempo - Sets - Reps - Rest

— The Prescription

Using Tempo

If you have never seen a tempo prescription written, let me start there, as it can be confusing.

Tempo Example:

This is a tempo prescription 4010

Each number represents time (in seconds).

  • 4 seconds - Eccentric (down) Lengthening
  • 0 seconds - Pause (isometric hold)
  • 1 seconds - Concentric (up) Shortening
  • 0 seconds- Pause (isometric hold)

It could also be 4111

  • 4 seconds - Eccentric (down) Lengthening
  • 1 second - Pause (isometric hold)
  • 1 second - Concentric (up) Shortening
  • 1 second- Pause (isometric hold)

Don’t get confused about concentric, eccentric, isometric, etc.


Here’s an easy way to look at it, but keep in mind, this is a “guideline” and not a perfect way to look at things in EVERY lift, but it helps most of the time. Since I know it won’t only be programming nerds and coaches reading this, here’s how you can think of it:

Eccentric part of lift — This is where the muscle lengthens, but that’s confusing, so think of the eccentric part of the lift as the part of the lift no one cares about

In the squat does anyone care how you go down or do they only care if you got it up?

Got it up, right?

So the eccentric in the squat is the down (no one cares about this on Instagram) …

For a pull-up, does anyone really care if you can lower yourself down really slowly?? No! Because if you can’t pull your chin over the bar, it’s not a pull-up.

So the eccentric in the pull-up would be lowering your body down from the bar.

I hope this is making sense. Often times, you can also say the eccentric portion of the lift is when weight moves toward the ground, while this is not always true, it is more often than not and REALLY simplifies it.

If you understand the eccentric being the part of a lift “no one cares about” then concentric should be very easy to understand.

Concentric is the part people care about or shortening of the muscle.

  • The way up on a squat (standing it up)
  • They way up on a deadlift (locking it out)
  • The chin over the bar on a pull-up (a successful rep)

You get it.

The last thing you need to understand is the isometric portions of the lift, or where you would pause. So the top of the squat, or pausing at the bottom of the squat. That one is easy.

I know that was a long-winded explanation, but this probably makes a lot more sense now:

  • 4 seconds - Eccentric (down) Lengthening
  • 0 seconds - Pause (isometric hold)
  • 1 seconds - Concentric (up) Shortening
  • 0 seconds- Pause (isometric hold)

Now I don’t need to explain what the eccentric and concentric is on EVERY lift, because you get the concept.

Squat 4111 Example:

  • 4 seconds taking the weight down
  • 1-second pause in the bottom
  • 1 second to stand it up
  • 1-second pause at the top (standing)

Look, you’re an expert now!

Tempo - Sets - Reps - Rest

Remember, this is only for 1 rep 4010

So when written it looks like this…

4010, 5 Sets, 5 Reps, 3 min rest

Seeing this, you know you would be doing 5 sets of 5 reps and every rep would follow a 4 second eccentric, no pause, a 1 second concentric, no pause, etc.

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!!

To becoming better!