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Overcoming Your Plateau

By July 28, 2011October 3rd, 201321 Comments
Overcoming Your Plateau

Overcoming Your Plateau

When it comes to lifting weight, changing the rate at which you perform the different parts of the lift is a proven method to overcoming muscle adaptation. Training with varying tempo and rest can help overcome the dreaded plateau.

Weight lifting tempo refers to the number of seconds it takes for you to complete a full range of motion of one repetition, usually called a lift.

The importance of “time under tension” determines the amount of stimulus a muscle is exposed to. Let’s take an Olympic style lift in which we use explosive ballistic contractions. The lift here may be around 1 second up and 1 second down. Now, if use the 10 rep range, our muscle will be under tension for a total of 20 seconds. Let’s compare our olympic style lift with a slow 2 second up and 4 second down lift, and we have a 60 second time under tension. That is a big difference.

There are four numbers represented when using tempo:

The first number is the eccentric or down motion of the lift, also known as the “negative”phase. It is during this phase that the muscle is being stretched. When trying to build muscle, this number is usually slow and controlled to fatigue the muscle, causing breakdown and thus, stimulating growth.

The second number is the pause or hold before the concentric phase or upward motion, which represents the third number. The concentric phase is also known as the “positive” phase in which you are contracting the muscle while carrying the weight or load. Here we typically use a faster momentum to return the weight to the start position.

The fourth number represents the starting point of the movement. Here you can either pause or immediately begin the next repetition.

Here’s an example using a bicep curl with a 4120 tempo. What this means is: 4 seconds on the way down, 1 second rest at the bottom, lift for 2 seconds and do not rest at the top.

Changing the tempo of a lift is good practice to provide a different stimulus on the muscle. Once the muscle has adapted to a certain tempo, changing the tempo will stimulated the muscle, causing increased fatigue, resulting in more strength and muscle gains.

Tempo can greatly influence your progress during a workout. Tempo not only increases recovery time, but also reduces your risk of injury by using slow and controlled movements. This will eliminate momentum, ensuring maximal tension is placed on the muscle, while allowing you to focus on each repetition, and contract the muscles you are using.

It is important to note that using proper form is more important when weight lifting. A common mistake beginners make is using a fast tempo that sabotages form. When momentum is introduced, there will be less tension on the muscle, which will lessen your gains.

You want to ensure slow and controlled movement is used with the proper form, while focusing on the muscle being worked. If these techniques are not in place, you will not sufficiently work the muscles.

Ignoring the importance of tempo will rob you of influential progress you should be obtaining from weight training. By changing tempo regularly, you stimulate your muscles and thus prevent your body for hitting that dreaded plateau.



Join the discussion 21 Comments

  • So basically the down motion of the exercise has to be more controlled and slower than the up motion. Is this a rule for all exercises?

    What is the best way to cut mass from things and hips? do i follow the above range of motion?

    Thanx Flavia

  • Sarah says:

    Thanks for the article – very informative!

  • kuljit says:

    Hi Flavia, Thanks for the information. I was wondering about HIT. What is that. If you on treadmill, elipitical or stepper which program you go on to make it HIT. Is there weights included too? There is fat burn,random,manual which program I should go on. thank you plz ans. me

    • Flavia says:

      Read the post: What Is The Best Type Of Cardio To Burn Fat Faster Just For Women Fitness? Let me know if you have any further questions.

  • Anna Smith says:

    Thanks for this article! Some great information!

  • Loni says:

    Gaining muscle is easy for me. However, i want to cut some extra fat. Some have said that slightly explosive (that are controlled) lifts are best for obtaining leanness due to a “cardio” effect for fat burning. Would you suggest the slower tempo for woman like myself to do for fat loss?

    I also do HIIT two to three times a week.

    Thanks a lot Flavia!

    • Flavia says:

      I would mix it up. The important thing for fat loss is getting your heart rate up during your workout. Try super-sets, ti-sets or circuits

  • Rosa Maria Barboza says:

    Thanks, Flavia. From now on I will pay more attention to the tempo.

  • Kelly says:

    Thank you Flavia. After reading this it reminds me that I need to slow it down.

  • Kelly says:

    Hi Flavia!!!

    What is the average size weights you use when you did these workouts? I am trying to figure out if I should up my weights or leave them where they are. I am afraid of my legs and butt getting bigger.

    Thanks again!!

    • Flavia says:

      If you are not trying to change your legs and butt, leave the weights where they are. If you are trying to change them, whether trying to lean out or build, you need to increase the weights or repetitions of the weights. You could always cut back if they are getting too big, but I have a very hard time thinking that you will get too big. Women do not have the hormornes to build muscles that way.

      • Kelly says:

        Thank you Flavia, my jeans/pants are getting much tighter in the legs and butt…I am increasing my cardio (maybe I need to burn some fat off of the top) I would like them to get leaner so my pants can fit good again, should I lower the weights and add more reps? Sorry I didn’t mean huge, just to me it is..

        Thanks again

        • Flavia says:

          Increasing your cardio is the best thing to do. Keep the weights and reps the same and add in some HIIT or longer periods if you have already. This means you are building muscle which is great! Now you just have to lean out buy adding some more cardio and you will have beautiful shapely legs!

  • Lillie says:

    Flavia, I wrote in a couple of weeks ago asking for nutrition help! And just wanted to say I am two weeks in and already seeing results… (my husband is too!) I also feel amazing. I have been following your program that you released recently. I have been trying to get over this hump for a few months now, and am just so excited that I am moving towards my goals again. And you are right…you cant train like a girl to get that body. lol

    So, just wanted to say thank you 🙂

    I also did have a question about carbs again, would you consider beans (or hummus) a carb to only eat after a work out?

    Thank you!!!

    • Flavia says:

      Great job Lillie and thanks so much for letting me know!! Beans I would be ok with eating a few times a week at any time around the workout. Before would be good or after. Legumes are really great for you so I would include them for sure. They are high in carbs so only having them a few times a week in addition to the post-workout carbs shouldn’t be a problem. Hummus is a great healthy snack but again, not too much of it and too not often.

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