What Does 33X0 Mean when we write it on the board next to some movements?
Tempo prescriptions come in a series of four numbers representing the times in which it should take to complete the four stages of the lift. The tempo prescription will follow the assigned number of reps, such as:
Front Squat 5 X 5 @ 75% with tempo 33X0
The First Number
The first number refers to the lowering (eccentric) phase of the lift. Using our front squat example, the 3 will represent the amount of time (in seconds) that it should take you to descend to the bottom of the squat. (The first number always refers to the lowering/eccentric phase)
The Second Number
The second number refers to the amount of time spent in the bottom position of the lift – the point in which the lift transitions from lowering to ascending. In our front squat example, the prescribed 3 means that the athlete should reach the bottom position and hold for 3 seconds before they begin their ascent. If, however, the prescription was 32X0, the athlete would be expected to pause for 2 seconds at the bottom position.
The Third Number
The third number refers to ascending (concentric) phase of the lift – the amount of time it takes you to get to the top of the lift. Yes, I am aware that X is not a number. The X signifies that the athlete should EXPLODE the weight up as quickly as possible. In many cases, this will not be very fast, but it is the INTENT that counts – try to accelerate the weight as fast as you can. If the third number is a 2, it should take the athlete 2 seconds to get the lift to the top regardless of whether they are capable of moving it faster.
The Fourth Number
The fourth number refers to how long you should pause at the top of the lift. In our example the athlete will have no pause at the top as represented by the 0.
It seems silly to even mention how to count seconds, but I have heard many of our members count to 4 out loud in less than one second while under a heavy weight. So, to ensure that your 4 second count and mine are the same, use “one thousands,” as in: 1-one thousand, 2-one thousand, 3-one thousand, 4-one thousand. If all else fails grab out a portable squat rack and do it in front of a counting clock. (This can be eye opening for some)
Why We Like Tempo Training . . . and Think You Should Too
Tempo training is important at all stages of an athlete’s development – from beginners who simply want to learn to lift weights and shed a few pounds to Olympic calibre athletes of all disciplines. Here are our top 3 reasons for including tempo prescriptions with lifts:
1. Your movement quality will improve
Quality of movement should be your first priority. INTENSITY comes only after one can CONSISTENTLY demonstrate the proper MECHANICS of a movement. Proper tempo prescriptions can help athletes develop awareness and body control by giving them an opportunity to “feel” which muscle groups are activating to keep them in proper positions.
2. You will reduce the risk of injury
Improving the quality of the movement obviously helps to reduce the risk of injury for athletes. But in addition, slowing down the tempo of lifts can ease the stress placed on joints and shift that additional stress to the muscles powering the lift. More stress on the muscles and less on the joints is a good thing. Muscles are far better at adapting to increased loads. Connective tissue and ligaments typically take longer to strengthen and adapt to the increasing loads, so by slowing down the tempo you can give your connective tissue some rest while still strengthening the surrounding muscle. Tempo prescriptions also naturally control intensity. Let’s use the bench press as an example. If you excessively load the barbell you might be tempted to speed up the lowering phase and bounce the barbell off your chest – you have seen people do this (or have done it yourself). But if you know that the prescription calls for a 3 second descent and a 2 second pause at the bottom, you’re not going to be tempted to load anywhere close to the same amount. Give it a shot.
3. You will make more gains
Proper tempo prescriptions can lead to vastly improved strength gains. First, different tempo prescriptions permit for greater training variety and stimulus. This means fewer plateaus and more gains. Slowing down movements with tempo prescriptions can allow for a greater amount of time under tension with less overall stress on an athlete’s central nervous system. Slowing down the movements to a tempo can also increase your strength through sticking points in movements such as the clean or snatch so it is a win for your squats and oly lifts!
If you need or want help/advice on how to fit tempo variations into your current training plan please contact us below: