Does Tempo of Resistance Exercise Impact Training Volume?

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As I just finished the final microcycle of my modified Triphasic Training program, I have been particularly interested in the effect of various training tempos. After working through this program/book, the methods defined by Cal Dietz and Ben Peterson seem to make a lot of sense to me. I wanted to find a paper that observed a few different tempo schemes, and this study seemed to cover a nice range.

Introduction:

At the most basic level, strength and conditioning professionals manipulate a training program based on the exercise selection, volume, and intensity. Ironically, research has shown that “…external load ranging from 30% 1RM to 95% 1RM results in similar hypertrophy (Burd et al., 2010; Fry, 2004; Mitchell et al., 2012; Wernbom et al., 2007).” This is an extraordinarily large range, calling for the observation of different variables, such as movement speed (tempo) and rest duration, and their effect on training adaptations.

“Cadence is most often defined by means of several digits which correspond to particular movement phases. For example, 4/0/2/0 denotes a 4-second eccentric phase, no break in the transition phase, a 2-second concentric phase and no rest before the next repetition (King, 2002).” “A slower movement cadence has been often used to stimulate muscle hypertrophy (Gumucio et al., 2015), since faster uncontrolled speeds are typically employed to develop strength and muscle power (Bird et al., 2005).”

“The number of repetitions performed at a specific tempo impacts total time under tension in a set (TUTset). TUT provides accurate information about the duration of resistance effort for a set, and in the whole training session (TUTsum).” More repetitions does not necessitate more TUT.

“Studies have found that the lower the movement speed, the more dynamic decline in maximal muscle force (Hutchins, 1993; Kraemer et al., 2002; Westcott et al., 2001).” This makes sense, as Force=Mass*Acceleration, the mass is remaining constant and the acceleration is of lower magnitude with longer training tempos. “Similar observations concern the number of repetitions. Sakamoto and Sinclair (2006) demonstrated that faster movement speeds helped perform more repetitions with a specific %RM load.” This intuitively works since researchers observed the contrary in those subjects who performed lesser volumes (from lesser repetitions), but slower tempos saw larger decrements in power and reporter greater levels of fatigue.

The purpose of this paper was to observe the effect of varied tempos (REG= 2/0/2/0, MED= 5/0/3/0, SLO= 6/0/4/0) during resistance exercise on training volume based on the total number of performed repetitions (REPsum1-5) and time under tension (TUTsum1-5).

Methods:

Subjects: 42 men (age: 20-37 years, body mass: 75.9 ± 7.7 kg, bench press 1RM: 112.4 ± 5.5 kg) were recruited for this study with a minimum of one year of strength training experience (3.2 ± 0.87 years). Subjects were required to have the requisite strength to perform a bench press of at least 120% of current body weight to be considered. Although dietary measures were not included, subjects were instructed to retain “normal dietary habits over the entire study period” and “not use any dietary supplements or stimulants for the duration of the study”.

Procedures: Each subject was allotted a session to reassess movement/tempo familiarization and testing of the 1RM bench press. The experimental sessions called for 5 sets of bench press using 70% 1RM at either REG, MED, or SLO tempo until the subject reached volitional fatigue. Between each set, 3 minutes rest was allotted for each subject. The subjects were verbally encouraged by the data collectors, while also instructed to not bounce the bar on their chest or lift their back from the bench.

Results:

Significant differences in TUT were found in each of the five sets, for all three tempo groups (p < 0.001). Also, the number of repetitions performed per set were significantly different as well (p < 0.001). TUT for each set, as well as the TUTsum was significantly higher for the SLO and MOD tempo, when compared to the REG tempo (p < 0.001). Similarly, the total repetitions were greater per set for the REG tempo compared to the MOD and SLO tempo groups (p < 0.001).

 

Takeaway:

It is undeniable from the data collected in this study that the tempo of movement has a large impact on training volume- in terms of TUT as well as repetitions performed. The highest work volumes were seen in the SLO tempo (6/0/4/0) group and the lowest volumes were seen in the REG tempo (2/0/2/0) group, despite using the same percentages. “The results of the study indicated that even a small (few seconds) modification in terms of tempo or cadence of particular movement phases can impact maximal REP, time under tension and, importantly, exercise volume in a set and in the whole training session.” If TUT increases, the volume of work increases regardless of the volume of repetitions performed.

These findings are consistent with previous papers as well:

“…Wilk et al. (2018), who documented higher post-exercise changes in testosterone, cortisol, CK and LA levels using the 6/0/2/0 tempo compared to the 2/0/2/0. Similarly, Antonutto and Prampero (1995) found significantly higher post-exercise blood lactate (BL) levels using a slow movement tempo.”

“Hatfield et al. (2006) demonstrated that athletes who used slow movement tempos had, despite performing a smaller number of repetitions (and consequently lower exercise volume), greater post-exercise declines in generated muscle power compared to subjects who used a faster tempo.”

“Extending the duration of the eccentric phase of the movement is likely to be beneficial to skeletal muscle hypertrophy (Bird et al., 2005; Gumucio et al., 2015; Roig et al., 2009; Schoenfeld et al., 2017).”

“Some authors provided evidence that lower speed during the eccentric phase led to increased muscle tension (Golas et al., 2018), and had a beneficial effect on muscle hypertrophy (Bird et al., 2005; Burd et al., 2011; Gehlert et al., 2015), whereas extended duration of muscle tension stimulated protein synthesis (Burd et al., 2010).”

*Essentially, more TUT = less repetitions performed prior to fatigue, poor utilization of elasticity from eccentric to concentric phases, more metabolic/mechanical work, more muscle tension, more muscle damage, elevated hormonal responses, more muscle protein synthesis, and an increased hypertrophic response (gainz).

 

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Thanks, 
AJ

 

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