The power of tempo training with a dumbbell or kettlebell.

Reasons why we love tempo weight training— or also called “time under tension”

Majority of us during this time do not have access to barbells, squat racks, plates and a full at home gym that mirror the equipment from our home gym. I’m one of those. And while I love a good heavy lifting session, and though I have not touched a barbell in 3 weeks, I am still training to develop myself even better just using lighter weights of my dumbbells and kettle bell. And honestly, the time off from really heavy loads has been a long time coming. Your training year should always have “seasons.” 

Don’t underestimate the power of a dumbbell or kettlebell. Not all strength gains are made with barbells, which some people tend to overlook. Personally, I think this is a perfect opportunity to open your eyes to a different way to train, and still make gains in our fitness.

Right now we are in the “off” season. Off seasons are meant for training weaknesses, fixing bad movement patterns and fine tuning things that we suck at. The off season doesn’t mean you will “lose” your strength. Quite the opposite. You will make gains if you train right and not beat your body down with bad movement patterns and crushing loads all year round.

Any one who tells you that you can not make gains with lighter loads clearly has never experienced the world of tempo training and the benefits of unilateral training (single limb training-lunges, split squats, single arm moves, more on this later).

Benefits of Tempo Training – “time under tension”

You’ve heard (and experienced) the use of “tempo training” in our workouts recently. Many of you may be wondering whyyyy in the world would we put you through this? I found a good article that sums up why using tempo training in weight lifting is beneficial. (https://www.t-nation.com/training/questions-about-tempo-training)

But here are the cliff notes if you don’t want to get nerdy…

1: Slowing down the movement and using lighter weight is easy on the spine, tendons and joints which can prevent overuse injuries.

Tempo training is GREAT to reduce stress on spine, joints and tendons not just for people who have nagging injuries and who should not be using heavy loads on the spine. The “time under tension” just means the time your muscles are taxed. So think of it if this way, you could do lots of faster reps OR slower, lower reps at lighter load. Both allows you to recruit more muscle fibers for a consistent time period, which still will create muscle growth (hypertrophy) and strength, but slowing down the movements allows you to focus on better body control and less stress on the joints and tendons.

2: When you slow down the movement you will create better body control and awareness while IN the movement.

Many “everyday type folks” or recreational exercisers have not laid a foundation down of good body control, even those who may workout a lot. You do your squats and deadlifts without really thinking about where your body is positioned. Even if you “think” you do, I challenge you to add in some tempo sets and put your money where your mouth is. When you slow down the movement you have to use lighter weight in order to control it.

Better control and awareness = more muscle recruitment = more muscle development = you get STRONGER, even though you are using “light weight.”

  • Do you bounce out of the bottom of a squat?
  • Do you “let go” at any point during the lift, as in you almost relax at some point?
  • Do you get stuck in the hole?

Maybe, instead of thinking “lifting heavy to get stronger” you need to think “train for better control?”

If you are aware of your faults, you can train those weaknesses. Get better at your weaknesses and POOF, watch it translate over into your bilateral movements.

Why should you use tempo training?

From the article: https://www.t-nation.com/training/questions-about-tempo-training

There are many reasons to use tempo training. Here’s just a brief list:

  • Improved body awareness.
  • Improved control of lifts.
  • Development of connective tissue strength.
  • Improved stability.
  • Focus on muscular elements versus tendinous elements (a slow, controlled motion is going to place more stress on the muscles, whereas a bouncy or ballistic motion will place more stress on the tendons, etc.).

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the results to change. I say all this to ask you not to think of this time without barbells and PRs as a waste of your time. It IS making you stronger, just in a different method that can actually make you a better athlete, and like we say at Versus— harder to kill. 

Let’s test those PRs when we get back to the gym after all this quarantine training!