Lifting Tempo, Reps & Rest Time for Mass Gains(Hypertrophy)

Training tempo is the duration and speed of your eccentric and concentric movements done through the motions of a given exercise. The training tempo you want to apply will vary by what your goal is. I will address the tempo you want to use for building mass, AKA Hypertrophy.

Eccentric to Concentric ratio Should be 2:1

Eccentric force is muscle lengthening contraction(ex. going down on a bicep curl). Concentric force is muscle shortening contraction(ex. going up on a bicep curl). Isometric contraction is muscle tension that is neither lengthening nor shortening(ex. pausing in the middle of your bicep curl).  You are looking to have a 2:1 Eccentric to Concentric ratio for mass building, meaning you want the exercise’s eccentric portion to be 2x as long as your concentric portion. You are looking to have the concentric portion be 1-2 seconds and your eccentric part of the lift at 2-4 seconds, doubling your concentric time. 

Let’s continue with the bicep curl example.

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Bicep curls: If you curl up for one second, you want to lower the weight for two seconds before curling back up. If you curl up for 2 seconds, then lower the weight for 4 seconds.  You want to eliminate momentum in your lifts unless you are at your last reps pushing past muscle failure.  The very bottom and top of your curls should be minimal because you want constant muscle tension.  Constant tension is the goal of all lifts. The 4/(0-1)/2 (eccentric, isometric, concentric expressed in terms of seconds) is usually going to be better than the 2/(0-1)/1 tempo for TUT. Still, it’s good to mix it up every once in a while to avoid doing the same thing over and over.

The same applies to all the other lifts. When I squat for hypertrophy, I like to use a 3-4-second count going down(eccentric) with a 1-second pause at the bottom(Isometric) followed by 2 seconds going up(concentric). Same with the bench, 3-4 seconds down, up to one second at the bottom followed by 2 seconds going up.

Reps and Time Under Tension(TUT)

When it comes to Hypertrophy, your Time Under Tension(TUT) is more important than the number of reps.  The ultimate goal is to use slow and controlled reps and hit muscle failure and beyond by going all out within the range of 30-45 seconds.  That means maximum effort(unless you are a beginner) with constant muscle tension for that length of time, and at the end of a working set, you shouldn’t have the strength even to do a partial rep.

As for the number of reps, it should range from 6-15. As mentioned above, each of your reps eccentric portion should be at least twice as long as the concentric portion and should take 30-45 seconds

No Ego lifting

Having slow and controlled reps will mean more time under tension, fewer reps with the same amount of weight you’d get at a faster tempo, and no momentum. By doing 6-15 reps with lighter weight and the absence of speed and momentum, you will look less impressive from an outside view, but that’s okay because you’re here for results and not the subjective opinions that don’t matter. And again, this is for hypertrophy. These rules don’t apply to muscle strength, endurance, and power. I will address these in future articles.

Rest Time

Your rest time in between sets will depend on how hard your set is.  The harder you go, the longer your rest will need to be and vice versa.  Here is a rough outline:

Light warm-up set – Rest for 1 minute or less.

Moderate Set (3-5 reps left in the tank but still challenging) – 1-2 minutes

Hard/All-out set (EVERYTHING YOU GOT!) – 2-4 minutes

Additional Note

Remember to warm up for your workout with 10 minutes of moderate cardio and utilize light and moderate sets to work yourself into each exercise with maximum intensity without getting injured.  If you are a beginner, do your workouts with half effort, prioritize perfecting your form and gradually increase your intensity for 1-3 months before truly going ALL OUT.

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