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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Three Components to Weight Management

All the diet fads, all the lose weight quick workout routines, all the magic pills, are simple…but unhelpful to most people in losing weight. The real truth is also simple: If you take in more calories than you expend, your body will store it as fat and you will gain weight. If you expend more calories than you take in, your body will burn fat, and you will lose weight. This is so simple and true that it is a fundamental law of physics: the First Law of Thermodynamics, also known as the Law of Conservation of Energy. Energy can never be created or destroyed—it just changes forms. Incidentally, a “calorie” on a food label is nothing more than a metric unit of energy. It’s the amount of energy it takes to raise one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. Because it’s a measure of energy, therefore, calories don’t go away. They get converted to energy when you move, or get stored in fat to be used later. (This is why fat has 9 calories per gram, as opposed to proteins and carbohydrates which have 4 calories per gram. Fats are much more efficient energy stores. That’s why the body creates fat to store its extra calories).

        So why does it seem so complicated?  Well, for a number of reasons.  We all manage our caloric intake differently, and we all have different activity levels. So let’s look at some basics.

       You might have heard that someone has a “fast” metabolism, or that your metabolism “slows down” as you age. Metabolism refers to the efficiency with which your body uses energy. Someone with a “fast” metabolism burns more energy (or uses up more calories) than someone with a slower metabolism. Their body runs “fast” (think of it like an engine on a car that’s always idling). Those people continue to burn calories even in their resting state. Because they are burning more calories, they don’t gain weight as quickly, even with the same caloric intake as someone whose metabolism runs more slowly. So, obviously, if you can burn calories—even when you aren’t “doing” anything—you’re going to drastically improve your weight management.

      There are a few proven ways to do it. First, exercise increases your metabolic rate. Here’s something you probably didn’t realize though—exercise increases your metabolism for a period even AFTER you finish exercising. And more, weight training to the hard, burning limit you can tolerate (also known as the “lactate threshold,” a topic I’ve written on before), will extend that ramped up metabolism for DAYS after your session! Even long cardio work will only keep your metabolism ramped up for a few hours. I have worked with diabetics who have to monitor their blood glucose levels for days after a session to avoid having their blood glucose levels drop too low—their metabolism is still working overtime long after our session has ended. (If you are a diabetic working with a trainer who doesn’t know the metabolic effects of weight training versus other types of exercise, you might be putting yourself at risk).

Weight training to build muscle also increases your metabolism in permanent ways because muscle is a heavy tissue (heavier than fat), and it takes your body more energy to sustain muscle than to sustain fat. Just building muscle will increase your metabolism (although, it’s important to note, it may not cause you to lose weight because, as noted above, muscle weighs more than fat).

Beyond the right exercise, eating properly kick-starts your metabolism. It’s a topic for another article, but just know that starving yourself to lose weight is not a long term, or healthy, solution. The less you eat, the slower your metabolism acts. It goes into survival mode and burns fewer calories so as not to use up the nourishment that you are depriving your body of. Steady small meals, not skipped meals, help boost your metabolism. Eating a smarter, balanced diet, without added calories and without starving yourself, is history’s most reliable diet “fad.”

        Finally, working out creates a rush of hormones and chemicals (such as insulin and HGH) that cause fat to break down or that cause muscle to build up. These hormones are part of the complicated equilibrium that makes up your metabolism.

        So remember, weight management has three components:

1)  Calories (energy) in – this is the diet component

2)  Calories (energy) used – this is the exercise component

3)  How efficiently the calories in are used – this is the metabolism component

The good thing is, you can affect all three. 

I bring awareness of all three components to my clients. To learn more about making positive changes in your life with a personal trainer who will boost your metabolism, boost your activity levels, and work with you on proper nutrition, contact Hadley Allen at hadleytraining@gmail.com, visit www.hadleyallenfitness.comwww.facebook.com/hadleyallenfitness, or call me at (312) 550-7033.

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