Jackie Wright: Movement tempo during strength training
July 31, 2014
Observing is a fundamental component for every trainer working in the personal training profession. During every aspect of our training relationship with each client (i.e. assessing, researching, designing, teaching, coaching and training), we are closely observing each of the movement patterns the client performs continually identifying possible imbalances that may lead us to designing corrective exercise or modifications addressing their limitations.
Corrective exercises, adjustments and modifications of movement patterns are designed to help our clients achieve their desired goals/objectives. However, regardless how well we train our clients, occasionally they may increase the tempo of the movement when performing an exercise. More specifically, during the eccentric phase of the pattern, some clients will actually accelerate during this segment of the exercise potentially leading to an ineffective and unsafe outcome.
The muscle must be under tension (i.e. T.U.T. – time under tension) long enough to elicit change in the muscle size (i.e. hypertrophy – an increase in muscle size). Without the proper tempo, particularly with heavy weights or other forms of external resistance, the muscle is not stressed long enough to effectively strengthen.
I observe and offer corrective direction to all of our clients on our fitness floor; however, a few may not pay heed to this expert advice and because they "have always done it that way," they continue down an unproductive path. Consequently, this week I am encouraging you to slow down, and concentrate on controlled repetitions, particularly during the eccentric phase of the contraction (i.e. during a biceps curl, the eccentric phase is the downward phase of the exercise).
The muscle, during the eccentric phase of the contraction, is attempting to lengthen against gravitational pull. This is an essential segment of each repetition. Many clients perform a decent tempo during the concentric phase of a contraction, only to release the resistance against gravity allowing the body part to "fall out of the repetition" during the eccentric phase.
Keeping the tempo controlled, perhaps even slower on the eccentric phase, has many benefits. The client is much more likely to reach momentary muscle failure within a reasonable number of repetitions, safely, efficiently and effectively when tempo is controlled throughout the exercise.
When the client utilizes the mass times the velocity (i.e. momentum) of a movement to "do the work" for them, there is little benefit when we are discussing true muscular strength training. Taking the body into an extreme position to compensate for lack of true strength, then utilizing momentum to move the external resistance through space, is unlikely to adequately train the muscle for strength.
Positioning the body properly, setting up the exact line of pull, being acutely aware of the ground forces acting against the body and choosing the correct amount of external resistance (or body weight where applicable), are all essential for producing the right ingredients to increase muscle mass and musculature strength. This approach enables you to perform with a full range of motion training the muscle from origin to insertion.
So, if you are currently performing your muscular strength training with a fast, uncontrolled tempo, or momentum, today is the day to rethink the way you are training and slow down, position the body properly, choose the correct amount of resistance and begin benefitting from every moment you are training.
Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness, LLC located in Granby, Colorado. She may be reached at her website at http://www.MTNLifeFitness.com, her email at firstname.lastname@example.org and her Facebook page at Mountain Life Fitness.