Vary Your Workout Tempo at the Gym

When you start an exercise program at the gym it’s a good idea to vary the tempo (speed) of the different exercises you’re performing. If you want to build a healthy body and your goal is to improve your overall fitness level, it will be to your advantage to vary the tempo of movement to better achieve your goal.  A typical gym workout should be as follows. Warm up with a medium tempo of movement. Then when you switch over to resistance training, perform at a relatively slow tempo. Thereafter, end the workout with some type of explosive movement,  at a fast speed.

If you watch my video How to Warm-up Before a Workout you will see me lunging, squatting and rotating in all three plains of motion with a medicine ball moving at medium speed. The goal is to increase your body temperature and gradually get your body ready for more strenuous work. You don’t want to move too fast because you’re just warming up and you don’t want to move too slow and turn it into a resistance exercise.

The resistance portion of your gym workout should be performed slowly. You want to keep continuous tension on the desired muscles and slowly move the weight. I like a 4 second eccentric contraction followed by a one second pause and then a 2 second concentric contraction. For example, if you are doing a push-up, slowly lower (eccentric contraction) your body for 5 seconds then pause for one second and slowly raise (concentric contraction) your body for 3 seconds. Your rep cadence would be 7 seconds. If you did 10 reps of push-ups your time under load would be 70 seconds. To build muscular strength and endurance it makes sense to move the weight relatively slowly to prevent injury and  properly close the muscle down to momentary muscle  failure. Most people injure themselves at the  point of transformation. The transformation point  is when you change direction from lowering to raising the weight. By going slowly you minimize the force in the joint at the point of transformation.

You can end the workout with some type of  explosive movement  performed at top speed. You want to be able to move fast if you have to so it’s important to incorporate some explosive movement into the workout as well.  A few sprints or jumping drills at top speed can take care of that. Moving at top speed builds aerobic and anaerobic power at the same time.

Keep in mind, even though your warming-up, resistance training and using explosive movements,  keep it relatively short. No more than 45 minutes. Just pick some basic exercises and do your best.

Let me know if you have any questions on how to incorporate different tempos into your workout.

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Best – Mike Cola


About Mike Cola

Mike Cola has well over 50,000 hours of hands-on personal training experience. He started his own personal training studio in1989, Mike Cola Fitness, which is located in New York.Connect with Mike @ Google+

3 Responses to “Vary Your Workout Tempo at the Gym”

  1. Great post. It makes sense, because every muscle can be trained for different purposes – strength, endurance, explosiveness…
    To achieve different goals one needs to train with different methods.

    I really like what you said about the healthy body, because in my opinion strictly following one routine or always training at the same tempo doesn’t lead to long term health.

  2. Great information! I just started going to the gym but i have found that i am really sore . I think maybe some of it is because i dont warmup before i exercise. i will look it the warmup video you have suggested.

  3. You’re right, gym sessions really don’t need to be any longer than 45 minutes, especially if you’re just starting out. In my opinion, if someone wants to spend more than 45 minutes in the gym, they may need to up the intensity of their session.