People often talk about rep tempo and lifting speed when it comes to gaining strength or adding muscle. What about fat loss when it comes to lifting speed? About 10 years ago I started using lower reps to increase muscle definition. I also slowed down the speed of each lift to really focus hard on increasing the tension in the lifts. This type of lifting quickly made a difference to my physique. I reached the best shape of my life lifting with sets of 5 reps at a slow pace. I didn’t realize this at the time, but the slow lifting speed I was using may have contributed to reaching a low body fat percentage as well.
[No need to use a timer or stopwatch to time the speed of lifting and lowering your weights during a set. The “1 Mississippi…2 Mississippi” or “1 Alligator…2 Alligator” methods are just as accurate. Kids have been using this scientific counting method for “Hide and Seek” for centuries.]
An Interesting Study That Inspired This Post
I cruise the internet on a daily basis trying to find useful info that isn’t just “cookie cutter” generic fitness tips found on hundreds of other sites. It gets a little tough at times because I have written 300+ articles on this site now. No doubt I will continue to find useful info for years to come, it just takes a little longer than it used to. Every once in a while I find a study or an article that takes me by surprise and look at something in a way I have never thought about.
The Rep Tempo and Metabolism Study
So —> here is a link to an abstract of a great study. I couldn’t find the entire document online, but the abstract gives enough info for a good discussion. This study examined the effects of slow eccentric contractions (slowly lowering the weight) on metabolism. Pretty interesting findings…
“The main finding of this investigation is that full-body resistance training with an eccentric concentration significantly increased REE up to 72 hours postexercise…“
They Used a “1 Second Up and 3 Seconds Down” Rep Tempo
So I am not writing this to convince you that this is the magical tempo that boosts your metabolism the most. What I am saying is that rep tempo affects not only muscle size and strength, but the amount of calories you burn after your workout as well. What is funny is that I have always been my leanest when following a slow tempo. I can’t say that tempo was the only reason behind getting lean, because I also diet a little harder and do more HIIT when I’m doing lower reps slowly…but I do think the slow tempo contributed to losing body fat.
Harder to Use a Slower Tempo In Higher Rep Ranges
I find that lifting at a slow tempo works best in the lower rep ranges, like 6 reps or less. The participants in this study were doing sets of 6 reps. It is tougher to use this slow tempo on higher rep sets, because each set will then last for days. I actually believe that higher rep “fatigue training” is better suited for building muscle. Save the slower tempo for lower reps for when you are looking to lose body fat while increasing definition and density.
The Speed of the Concentric (Lifting) Part of the Rep
I typically recommend going slow when lifting heavy for both the positive and negative portion of each rep. The people in this study used slow going down and a fast tempo on the lifting part of the movement. When used strategically this can work very well. Doing the positive portion at a fast rate increases power and can get you through a sticking point…but the potential for injury is higher than if you lift the positive portion of the rep at a slower rate. So use this tempo for 4-6 weeks at a time when you reach a sticking point…then go back to the safer tempo where you do the positive portion of the rep at a slower pace.
Experiment With “3 Seconds Down” If You Haven’t Tried This
There are many benefits of going slow during the negative portion of the lift. For example, lowering the weight slowly will give you time to build up the tension and use Pavel’s “irradiation” concept to generate maximum tension and muscle recruitment into the lift. How fast you do the positive portion of the lift is up to you. Since I have been using the slow tempo up and down, I’m switching over to “1 second up” for the next month to mix things up. Most of the time I would suggest a medium to slow pace on the positive portion of the lift to be safe. If you plan on lifting for a lifetime, I just feel you need to weigh the risk vs reward of more explosive lifting.
Note: So this is just another variable you can tweak to get better results in your workouts. What is cool about this is that it applies to just about any type of resistance training.
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