It’s a new year! And while we at Violet Community CrossFit are not reinventing the workout wheel, the season of fresh starts does lend to some new initiatives. Coming up, we are excited to have a fair bit of tempo work. If you are newer to lifting weights or working out in general, “tempo” might be a new term. So let’s break it down.
Tempo refers to the speed of the movement (similar to music). When you see numbers such as “3020” in the programming it designates, respectively, how long you are lowering the weight (eccentric contraction), how long you pause at the bottom, how long it takes to raise the weight (concentric contraction), and how long you pause at the top of the movement before starting the next rep.
There are as many combinations of tempo as there are coaches, and part of the brilliance of tempo work is that it can be done with nearly any movement. Any movement worth doing in the gym (or garage or basement or living room) is worth doing well and tempo is a fantastic way to practice that.
So what are the benefits of tempo work? Why are we excited to be playing with it as we start 2020?
When we learn something new, we go slowly. Whether it’s baking a pie, cursive handwriting, a dance routine, our taxes, lyrics to a song, dissecting a pig in lab, a math procedure … we are very deliberate as we practice an unfamiliar skill. The reason is we want to ingrain the proper technique and not make any mistakes. The same thing applies in the gym.
Deceased Risk For Injury
Speaking of making mistakes, not all errors are created equal. If you mess up learning cursive, your cost is a new piece of paper. If you screw up song lyrics, the results can be hilarious. If you make a mistake in the gym, it can be painful and potentially limit your physical ability for years. You only get one body and, by practicing things slowly, we significantly lower our chance for injury and the severity of those potential injuries.
Increased Positional Awareness
No matter how much we’d like to live slowly and deliberately, life can come at you fast. And when we do things fast, mistakes and bad habits inevitably occur. Going back to the basics and really concentrating on each individual piece of the movement gives us a tremendous opportunity to identify bad habits that have inevitably come with speed. Correcting our positioning, learning what muscles actually move and when, locating where our body is in space … all of these will have a terrific impact on our movement in the future.
A huge bonus of tempo work is it can be done anywhere. Anywhere you move, you can move slower and more deliberately. It also can be effective with nearly any type of movement. Deadlifts, pull-ups, any type of squats, bench press, lunges, the list goes on. A third versatility is that ANY person can benefit from it. No matter if you are new to movement or have been doing it your whole life, you will see results by truly taking time to slow down and move effectively.
I know I know: This is one you won’t see if you google “benefits of tempo training.” But it strikes me every time we do it. TIME is a great equalizer. Normally in athletics and CrossFit we are trying to do our movements quickly and efficiently, trying to be better than the next guy. But 3 second pause is a 3 second pause. Not even Mat Fraser or Chuck Norris can speed up time. So tempo work is a great time to enjoy your workout buddies, since you are all in the same boat together. There is also a lot of camaraderie in encouraging each other to “Count faster!” or lively debates about “one Mississippi” vs “one one thousand”.
So here’s to facing some new challenges that will bring on healthier bodies, stronger minds, lower risk of injury, a few laughs and, ultimately, gains. Which in turn leads to an increased ability to enjoy a high-quality life with people you love. And THAT is what we are all about.
“Raising the Bar (slowly), because Life Matters”.