Most trainees don’t think much about their training tempo – the speed at which they lower and raise the weight. In all honesty, most of us just lift at the pace that we find most comfortable, or the pace that fits the exercise best. A heavy single rep in the squat will take several seconds to move from top to bottom and back again, while a heavy single rep in the snatch will be almost instantaneous (or it won’t move at all). Previous studies have examined the myth that lowering a weight more slowly will increase the hypertrophic (muscle enlarging) process. And this more recent study seems to indicate that a faster lifting tempo will both produce more IGF-1 and allow heavier loads to be used.
To me, that’s a pretty good reason to speed up the tempo:
(note: for this study, tempo denoted as follows – the first number represents the time, in seconds, needed to lower the weight, the second number is the pause, and the final number is the speed of the concentric, or lifting, portion)
J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Feb;25(2):406-13.
Effects of lifting tempo on one repetition maximum and hormonal responses to a bench press protocol.
Headley SA, Henry K, Nindl BC, Thompson BA, Kraemer WJ, Jones MT.
Department of Exercise Science & Sport Studies, Springfield College, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA.
This study was carried out in 2 parts: part 1 was designed to measure the 1 repetition maximum (1RM) bench press with 2 different moderate-velocity tempos (2/0/2) vs. (2/0/4) in male lifters while part 2 compared the hormonal responses at the same tempos as described in part 1. In both parts 1 and 2, the 1RMs (lbs) were higher on the 2/0/2 tempo than on the 2/0/4 tempo. The change in plasma volume (PV) was greater after the 2/0/4 tempo (-5.7 ± 1.7% vs. 0.96 ± 1.2%, p < 0.05). All blood parameters were significantly (p < 0.05) higher post-exercise compared with baseline. With PV corrected, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) (ng·mL?¹) was higher with the 2/0/2 tempo only (pre-exercise: 277.4 ± 21.8, post-exercise: 308.1 ± 22.9; 2/0/4 tempo pre-exercise: 277.2 ± 17.6, post-exercise: 284.8 ± 21.2). In conclusion, heavier loads can be lifted and more total work can be performed using a (2/0/2) tempo compared with a slower (2/0/4) tempo, but with the exception of IGF-1, the hormonal responses are similar. Individuals may get the same metabolic responses to training by using different tempos, but they will need to use less weight at a slower tempo. PMID: 20351575 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]