Rep Tempo Posted on 10 Apr 20:54 , 0 comments
By Todd Lee M.D.
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Rep tempo or lifting cadence is the speed and rhythm you lift weights at. You could have excellent form, range of motion, and could be using the right weight at the right rep range and missing the boat to swole island because you're not firing the muscles the right way. There are 4 phases of a lift: concentric, contraction, eccentric, and stretch. All are necessary for the best results.
0 seconds (or the limit as x approaches 1/infinity)
This is the positive portion of the rep. If you're pulling your bringing the object closer to you (open chain), or you closer to the object (closed chain). If you're pushing your moving the object away from you or you away from an object. This phase should be as fast as possible. Force = mass x velocity squared. So the speed you move the weight has more relevance to your muscle strain than the weight you are using. By moving the weight as fast as possible you make every rep valuable, not just the final rep. This is why powerlifters do speed work, they know that the fast twitch fibers respond to speed as well as Load. This allows their joints to recover while still training their central nervous system and fast fibers to fire with 100% neuromuscular precision.
This phase also called the “Top” of the rep is when your primary muscles are as contracted as possible, like your chest on a pec fly, or your quads on a hack squat, or your lats on a pulldown. This contraction and concentrating on the pain is believed to facilitate definition by etching in detail. It's more likely that the contraction starves the tissue of oxygen momentarily and increases the ability of the muscle to get a pump to compensate for this starvation. This pump releases factors which make the muscle fibers grow and split and thus the muscle gets more defined because it gets bigger. To provide the nutrients necessary for the best possible pump use a pre-workout that has the correct ingredients. I designed my preworkouts ToddLeeMD.com Pre Workout and Fenris' Fury to be the best pump products on the market! They are the same ingredients just different labels and flavors .
This is the negative portion of the rep. It's when you're lowering yourself from a pull up or lowering the bar in a bench press. Many novices skip this phase and just relax, using this portion of the rep to recover some energy. The strange thing is: this is when your strongest, and can handle the most weight. It's important to go slow, 3-6 seconds on this phase. Going slow and struggling on the eccentric does the most damage to the muscle and through the inflammation pathway initiates muscle growth. It's what makes you sore, and a good recovery product is important to minimize the time it takes to recover from strenuous negative reps. A negative is when you use a weight heavier than you can lift, and a partner helps you by spotting you through the positive part of the rep. At the top of the rep, your partner either lets gravity do its job, or actually pushes down on the bar adding to the difficulty and you have to fight the negative, try to keep the barbel in place as it slowly creeps downward. Either adding 3 of these at the end of a normal set or an all negative set of 6 reps like this is plenty of muscle damage for growth.
Omega-6 fatty acids, the ones they say are bad for you, are necessary for this muscle repair. First the omega 6 is converted to arachidonic acid. From there it is converted to prostaglandin E2 and that causes the muscle repair. Some people may have heard that pregnant girls cant grow muscle. This is the reason. Prostaglandin, I believe E2, is what causes the mucus plug at the cervix to disintegrate in labor. So if a pregnant woman was to make this it would eat up that plug and she would lose the baby in the second trimester likely. So the body doesn't make this prostaglandin when you lift. The solution is to use 20 reps, only focusing on the pump mentioned above, never on actual muscle damage to grow muscle while pregnant. (personal theory based on deduction and reason:)
Oh, and pain killers like acetaminophen and aspirin and ibuprofen stop this E2 from forming. So to those macho men who take pain killers to lift more the jokes on you, you can't grow on them! Opiates do not have a contradicting effect so that's why Norcos are so popular with Bodybuilders.
This is a very overlooked phase. In the stretch phase it creates passive tension on the muscle, priming it to contract, and not supporting muscles. Bouncing off the bottom of the range of motion is like using your tendons as slingshots. A solid 1 second pause is ideal for getting the most muscle strain and growth out of a set, and least amount of damage. If you're having joint issues, you may want to include a joint support and make sure your stretching before using an inflamed or damaged joint.
There you have it, each set should have a 0-1-3-1 tempo or maybe even longer contraction and negative phases. This tempo will maximize strength, muscle growth, definition, and flexibility and joint health. Just rapidly pumping away may build strength and size, but may be traumatic to the joints. While it is safe to go super slow all the time, you will advance slowly if not plateau.
Nothing in this article or on this site should be considered medical advice or as an endorsement to violate any law of the country in which you reside. The information given is for fun and entertainment purposes only. All claims are 100% dependent upon proper diet and exercise. Please consult a medical practitioner prior to any diet and exercise program.