Want Bigger Arms and Back? Try This Tempo Training Tweak

You could do more reps, but tweaking the tempo of your existing reps is an overlooked secret to building bigger muscles.

Time under tension is a frequently used metric in muscle-building and strength and conditioning programs.

Time under tension refers to the length of time a muscle is doing work in a set.

Consider a typical set with a 2:0:1 ratio (meaning a 2-second eccentric and a 1-second concentric with no pause between). Each repetition with this tempo should take 3 total seconds. Based on this, a set of 10 repetitions would take no less than 30 seconds.

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Time under tension is a frequently used metric in muscle-building and strength and conditioning programs.

Time under tension refers to the length of time a muscle is doing work in a set.

Consider a typical set with a 2:0:1 ratio (meaning a 2-second eccentric and a 1-second concentric with no pause between). Each repetition with this tempo should take 3 total seconds. Based on this, a set of 10 repetitions would take no less than 30 seconds.

Adding more time under tension to your training makes your muscles work harder, leading to more impressive muscle growth. You could do more reps, but tweaking the tempo of your existing reps is an overlooked secret to building bigger muscles.

Where and how you want to tweak the movement depends not only on your goals, but also the movement. You wouldn't necessarily approach a Squat and a Curl the same way, for example.

With that in mind, here are eight ideas to supercharge some classic exercises via a simple change in tempo.

Chin-Ups

Start by completing 4-8 full repetitions. Next, perform 4-8 "pulsed" repetitions, going down only to the point where your elbows are at 90 degrees before again pulling yourself back up. Finally, complete an iso-hold at the top of the movement for 10 seconds to complete the set.

By slowly reducing the range of motion throughout the set, you're allowed to achieve far greater time under tension. You can try this same tempo with Pull-Ups or Lat Pulldowns.

Barbell Row

Start by completing 4-8 full repetitions. Next, perform 4-8 "pulsed" or half repetitions. Finally, complete an iso-hold at the top of the movement for 6-10 seconds to complete the set.

Kettlebell Row

Start by completing 4-8 full repetitions. Next, perform 4-8 "pulsed" or half repetitions. Finally, complete an iso-hold at the top of the movement for 6-10 seconds to complete the set.

Angled Underhand Cable Row

Start by completing 4-8 full repetitions. Next, perform 4-8 "pulsed" or half repetitions. Finally, complete an iso-hold at the top of the movement for 6-10 seconds to complete the set.

Seated Cable Row

Start by completing 4-8 full repetitions. Next, perform 4-8 "pulsed" or half repetitions. Finally, complete an iso-hold at the top of the movement for 6-10 seconds to complete the set.

Reverse Fly

This one actually gets more challenging as the set goes along, so don't be a hero! To start, complete 6-8 full repetitions (this is the easy part). Follow this up with 6-8 "pulsed" or half reps. Finish with a brief iso-hold at the top of the movement (maximum of 10 seconds, but I doubt you'll last that long!).

Dumbbell Curls

Curls are perhaps my favorite exercise to use this concept. I share two great variations here, but there are many other possible options.

Perform 6-8 full repetitions. Next, 6-8 "pulsed" or half repetitions. For these, take the dumbbells down to 90 degrees before curling them back. This will keep your biceps under constant tension. Finish off with a 6 to 10-second iso-hold.

Banded Curl

Perform 6-8 full repetitions. Next, 6-8 "pulsed" or half repetitions. For these, take the dumbbells down to 90 degrees before curling them back. This will keep your biceps under constant tension. Finish off with a 6 to 10-second iso-hold.

Photo Credit: mustafagull/iStock

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Topics: BUILD MUSCLE | BICEP CURL | PULL-UPS | ROW