A lot of scientific research has gone into maximizing results from fitness training. This research has shown that tempo manipulation is one of the best ways to develop lean tissue.
What is tempo manipulation?
Tempo manipulation is the process of controlling the speed (tempo) of each repetition in a workout. Proper tempo manipulation creates more precise results from workouts. Altering tempo allows you to gain more mass and become more athletic.
There are four phases in a repetition: stretched, concentric, contracted and eccentric. Each phase has its own purpose in muscle development. As such, tempo manipulation regimens have you spend specific amounts of time in each phase (example: 4 seconds eccentric, 0 seconds stretched, 4 seconds concentric, 0 seconds contracted).
When lowering the weight, you are in the eccentric phase. If you've read even a scrap of bodybuilding text or spoken to a single online fitness trainer, then you know there is a lot of emphasis on slowing this phase down. Slowing it down to 3-4 seconds yields huge mass gains. Oftentimes, eccentric-only workouts are done to maximize this phase's benefits.
You can also manipulate this phase for other benefits. If you are an athlete, shortening the eccentric phase to 1-2 seconds allows you to recruit additional fast twitch muscle fibers, thereby enhancing your ability to move with power and speed.
Eccentric phases also place a stretch on your muscles that can cause delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). By controlling your eccentric phase, you can train your muscles to adjust to the strain, and subsequently, DOMS.
The stretch phase is when you hold the weight before lifting. An example is when the bar is lowered during a bench press. Those unaware of tempo manipulation ignore this phase, and thus, receive none of its benefits.
The elastic energy created while approaching the stretch phase can be used to bounce the weight up so that you can lift more weight and do more repetitions. This makes you look strong, but it has no muscle building benefits. Controlling the tempo with a 1-2 second pause forces muscles to work harder; this yields more mass.
Although shortening stretch phases serves no benefits regarding mass gains, it is helpful for athletes. Zero stretch phases during certain workouts train muscles to maximize the benefits of elastic energy, allowing you to jump higher and run faster.
This is where you lift the weight. As with other phases, the way you execute this phase causes results to vary greatly.
Slowing the concentric phase down to 3-4 seconds increases the resultant hypertrophy (growth in muscle tissue size). If size is your only goal, then this is the way to go.
If you want to gain strength, on the other hand, thrusting the weight up with more force (1-2 seconds) yields better results.
Due to its benign appearance, even tempo manipulating fitness know-it-alls often ignore the contracted phase. However, controlling this phase is important as well. Both the length and the actual location of the phase will define your results.
A short 1-2 second pause with a full lockout extension in the contracted phase gives muscles the opportunity to recover for extra repetitions. This helps build strength.
If mass gain is your goal, shortening reps increases muscle tension and results in greater hypertrophy.
Adding tempo manipulation to your workout will result in explosive gains, regardless of your goals.