Repetition Tempo


Tempo is a training variable equal in importance to reps and sets, but commonly neglected. This programming tool allows strength coaches to target specific adaptations in an athletes programme and is a key component of a training plan. Essentially, in resistance training, tempo refers to the speed that an exercise is performed. The tempo that each rep is performed at will dictate the total time under tension (TUT) for any given set, and this component is one of the major keys to achieving the desired training response. Each repetition of a movement will have 4 phases, or positions, and 3 contraction types: eccentric, isometric and concentric. When prescribing tempo we use a four digit method popularised by the late Charles Poliquin.


An eccentric contraction occurs when your muscles lengthen under load. An example of this is when you lower the resistance (i.e. dumbbell) during a rowing movement. The first digit of our tempo prescription sets out the speed of this lowering motion. Using the example of 4-0-X-1 above, the eccentric phase would be a controlled movement over 4 seconds.

THE SECOND NUMBER -Stretched Position

This phase, or position, usually occurs between the eccentric (lowering) phase and the concentric (lifting) phase of a repetition. The arm is at full length during the 1 arm row [image below] is a good illustration of this position. This phase of the exercise is an isometric contraction, although in this example (4-0-X-1), there is no deliberate pause in this stretched position.

THE THIRD NUMBER – Concentric Contraction

The concentric contraction occurs when a muscle shortens, such as when you push a bar away from your body, or pull resistance towards your body as occurs during the 1 arm row exercise below. If “X” is used in the formula, it implies an explosive action with full acceleration. It would be harmful or dangerous to use “X” for the eccentric contraction of most exercises as this would mean lowering the load much too fast in lifts such as squats and bench presses. This is why you will only see the “X” used as the third number in our tempo prescriptions.


THE FOURTH NUMBER – Shortened Position

This final phase, or position, occurs at the end of the concentric phase, such as when you lock out a pressing exercise. Another example of this would be in a rowing movement such as the example below, where the elbow is at its most flexed position. With the tempo prescription of 4-0-X-1, there would be a brief 1 second pause in this position, before proceeding to the next repetition.  



Putting it all together, a 3-2-X-1 tempo prescription for the bench press would look as follows: The athlete would lower the barbell to their chest over three seconds. He/she would then pause for two seconds when the bar made contact with the chest. Right after this, they would press the weight to extended arms forcefully, and finally, rest 1 second when the barbell is at the top of the movement. 
The same 3-2-X-1 tempo prescription for a chin up would look as follows: The athlete would lower their body under control over three seconds, before pausing for two seconds when the arms are fully extended. Right after this, he/she would pull themselves up forcefully, and finally, hold 1 second at the top of the movement (chin over bar).


Blood Flow Restriction Training

Blood Flow Restriction Training

Restriction to blood flow first emerged as a form of exercise training with Japanese bodybuilders in 1995, but is now more commonly referred to as Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training.  Over the past 3-4 years, BFR training has exploded in popularity amongst strength coaches and physiotherapists alike. Early research identified the capability of BFR to stimulate hypertrophy and strength gains when combined with low-load resistance training but there was a distinct lack of research on how this was happening.  

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Field Sport Conditioning

Field Sport Conditioning

As teams across the country are forced to suspend all collective training, we thought we would help out with a sample session that can be completed individually and modified to suit!
This session includes work in all energy systems to maximise transfer to your sport.
Give it a go and pass it along to your team mates if you think they would benefit. Feel free to get in touch with any questions!

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Maximal Aerobic Speed

Maximal Aerobic Speed

In recent years Maximal Aerobic Speed has become popular among team sports in particular, primarily because it presents a simple and effective method of testing aerobic power. However, the real value of this method is that the data from testing can be used directly in the prescription of conditioning loads. This article aims to provide detailed instructions on how to effectively administer an MAS test, in a team setting, and examples of how to effectively use this data.

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Movement Skills – Acceleration

There are many elements to enhancing speed, no one training method holds the key. Rather it is a combination of components that result in greatest improvements. For example, developing specific strength qualities, is one of the most effective ways to increase the power necessary for maximal sprinting. However unless an athlete first focuses on movement, and in turn movement skills, they may struggle to maximise the results from their efforts in other areas.

Movement Prep

The purpose of any physical preparation routine should be to optimise performance in the upcoming session or competition, while decreasing the risk of injury.
Traditional warm-ups have typically included light aerobic movement followed by static stretching, and while this approach is successful in raising body temperature, it does not contribute significantly towards reducing injury risk, and certainly not towards optimising performance.

Pre-Season in Gaelic Games

We are at that time of year where a lot of teams are returning to training for the season ahead. Of course, most will have different league and championship calendars and will go about their preparation for each competition in various ways. Some will begin with gym sessions only, some will opt for field sessions only, and some will choose a combination of both. Some may even decide to give their players another few weeks before returning to any form of training.

Fuel Your Performance

At AXSOM, we believe that the process of eating should be viewed simply as fuelling the body. In the same way that a high performance car needs clean fuel to perform to the highest level, the body needs clean fuel to be at its most efficient and effective. We fuel to train, fuel to recover, and fuel to compete. This is applicable in all areas of life, not just with regards to competitive athletes. With nutrition, you are not only fueling the body, but the mind too, as food provides energy for our brain as well as our bodies.

Training Variables – Part 3

As is the case when determining the optimal reps and tempo, the training objective also dictates another important variable – the number of sets.
In general, the higher the number of repetitions, the less sets that are required to achieve the optimal volume. Conversely, the lower the number of repetitions being performed, the more sets that are needed. There are of course exceptions to this, but to illustrate how training objective will most typically influence the number of sets performed we will take two examples for comparison..

Training Variables – Part 2

As a general rule of thumb, the higher the total time under tension, the greater the impact on body composition. This is due to greater metabolic adaptations associated with increased time under tension. In order for an athlete to maintain control over a weight for a prolonged period, he/she must sacrifice on the intensity of the set (weight on the bar). This has a knock on effect of potentially reducing the strength training effect. Heavier weights will be required to optimally develop maximal strength, and particularly so to develop relative strength, therefore lower prescriptions for total time under tension must be applied.