Tempo

Hadley Allen

The Ultimatum Your Body Craves!  

By Hadley Allen

First of all, welcome back from your (and my) holiday time off! I used the break to refresh and recharge…and bring you some more informative content on fitness. So here we go!  We all know that most of us want to get the workout over with as soon as possible, and so the faster you push out those reps the better. Right? Hmmm no …I say if results are on the agenda don’t do that anymore.  

This week I’m tackling tempo. Physiologists have terminology to describe what is going on when you lift weights fast or slow. For example, physiologists use terms like “eccentric action,” “concentric action,” “total impulse,” and “total power.” You can research those, but for now, I want to try to simplify it and explain why tempo is important.

One term I do want to focus on is called “time under tension.” Time under tension is just what it sounds like: it refers to the amount of time you put your muscle fibers under tension. The more time under tension, the more muscle growth you have. It works something like this. When your muscles are under tension, they scream for help (metaphorically of course). This is why you get tired after a certain number of repetitions. When muscle fibers scream for help, other muscle fibers are recruited to come to the rescue. “Muscle fiber recruitment” is not something I made up. It’s another term that physiologists use to describe this phenomenon. The key to growing muscles is to engage as many muscle fibers as you can. Hence, the need for muscle fiber recruitment. Hence, the need for the best training stimulus for increasing the weight and creating tempo training.

Now another clarification. Doing a rep slowly doesn’t mean you do the whole movement slowly. This is where tempo comes in. It typically means you do the action to engage the weight explosively (this is the concentric movement), but you hold the weight there and return to the stability position (the eccentric movement) slowly. So, for example, if you do a pull-up, you explode into the pull-up and get your chin above the bar (the concentric movement), but now instead of releasing the tension and letting yourself drop, you hold for a count or two (or three or four depending on your level), then lower yourself—slowly—to full extension (the eccentric movement). Rest for one count (for example), then explode again into the next rep. You will do fewer reps this way, but you will increase the value of each rep by increasing time under tension and training your neural system to recruit additional muscle fibers for all that time under tension during the hold and descending movements.

Another simple exercise I see all the time that people lose out on by not considering tempo are step-ups. The concept of the step-up is simple. You simply step up onto a platform with one leg at a time. Properly done, this exercise works all the leg muscles. But most people explode up (often using their off leg to push off the ground instead of lifting with the stepped leg on the platform), then release the tension to let gravity just have them fall straight down, and quickly explode back up again.

But what if you try to use tempo? Once you explode up (using the elevated leg on the platform for lift), don’t just let gravity bring you down. Hold that other leg out and lower yourself—slowly—trying to keep from planting that off leg onto the ground. This will take practice—and balance!! But that slow descent will recruit additional muscle fibers in your stepping leg, which is key to building strength.

The great thing about using tempo to increase time under tension is that it applies to all kinds of resistance training, whether you are lifting weights, or lifting yourself. The effect is the same. Increased time under tension by using specific and articulated tempo recruits more muscle fibers, which is the key to muscle growth.

And of course, if you want to know what the ideal tempo is for different exercises, you can do it with trainer like me who will coach you through the perfect rep to get the most efficient workout from your time spent.

**** January, I’m offering special discounts. Call me at (312) 550-7033, e-mail me at hadleyallenfitness@gmail.com, or visit my web page at www.hadleyallenfitness.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hadleyallenfitness. And if you want to support Hadley Allen Fitness reach more people like you to bring more of these kinds of articles on line, with videos and streaming content, visit my GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/hadleyallenfitness.***

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Up, Up and Away! The Best Upper Body Exercise You Can Do

I may sound like a broken record, but I can’t emphasize enough how important a healthy back is to your overall health.  Besides the constant discomfort, a bad back can lead to a cascade of pain and injuries in your hips, knees, feet and limbs as a result of compensation.  That’s why I cringe when I walk into a gym and see people compromising their form when they’re lifting.  The desire to build that strong chest, broad shoulders and bulging biceps often leads people to attempt too much weight, or break down their form as they try to lift that one last rep.  The next time I see someone doing a standing biceps curl with a barbell and arch his back way back to finish off a rep will be one time too many.  

The fact is, there is an exercise you can, and should, be doing that will work out that entire upper body: chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps—and back!  It’s the good old fashioned chin-up, and its cousin, the pull-up.  Properly done, the chin-up and pull-up exercise more muscle groups than isolated presses, curls or lifts.  And, importantly, the chin-up and pull-up are the best exercises you can do to strengthen your upper back.

Your upper torso involves many muscle groups.  Chin-ups and Pull-ups recruit just about all of them.  And, the more muscle groups you can recruit, the more balanced and more effective your particular exercise will be.  That major muscle system recruitment is one of the reasons why chin-ups and pull-ups give so much bang for your buck.

So, let’s dig in a little deeper.  First, terminology: the chin-up is done with palms facing you, and a pull-up is done with palms facing out.  Both are excellent upper body workouts, but each will stress slightly different muscle groups a little more.  Chin-ups work the chest a little more, while pull-ups recruit more heavily in the lower trapezius and shoulder muscles.  Second, let’s not fool ourselves.  Both chin-ups and pull-ups are HARD!  For most of us, especially beginners, we don’t have enough upper body strength to lift ourselves over the bar from a dead hang.  That’s ok though.  The chin-up and pull-up can be effective exercises by working our muscles on the way DOWN, rather than focusing on the way up.

If you have access to a machine that can take some of the weight off to help you, you may be able to do the traditional chin-ups and pull-ups from a dead hang because the machine can be set to take off some of your body weight.  If you are going to use this method, you are going to still want to use the right tempo.  From a dead hang, explode up until your chin is over the bar, the hold for a count while you squeeze your shoulders together, then lower yourself SLOWLY back to a dead hang.  Remember to lower yourself slowly.  When you hit the dead hang, explode up again and repeat.  Try to do three sets of ten.  The dead hang is critical.  That explosion up from the dead hang and slow descent to full extension is what will recruit those upper back muscles.  

If you don’t have a machine and are just using a traditional bar, no worries.  Instead of lifting from a dead hang, position yourself under the bar, perhaps with a step or stool beneath you.  While holding the bar, jump up to a starting position with your chin over the bar.  Hold for a count, then lower yourself to a dead hang as SLOWLY as you can.  You may want to bend your knees so you can get all the way to a complete extension without landing on the floor.  Take a LONG time to go down.  Try to take at least eight seconds going down.  As you progress, slow it down even further.  Do three sets of five reps.  If you are able to master the slow descent, you will build enough strength to eventually do a traditional chin-up or pull-up from a dead hang.  But it will take time!

You can alternate the chin-up or pull-up in different workouts since both provide slightly different benefits.  But both will do what those isolated curls and presses will do—strengthen the arms, shoulders, and chest—while at the same time providing needed strengthening of critical back muscles.  If you can only do one upper body exercise, these are the ones you should be doing.

For more information and to schedule a training session with a personal trainer who will bring out your best and promises to alleviate your back pain PERMANENTLY, call me at (312) 550-7033 or e-mail me at hadleyallenfitness@gmail.com.  Check out my web site at www.hadleyallenfitness.com for special offers, and keep liking and especially SHARING my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/hadleyallenfitness.  And if you think this kind of content is valuable enough to share more broadly, go to my GoFundMe page, www.gofundme.com/hadleyallenfitness and help me grow the Hadley Allen Fitness brand and reach more people like you!

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