How Fast Should You Move Your Weights?

Tempo is the single most important factor when lifting weights. To understand tempo, defines the 3 different parts of the lift.

1. Eccentric contraction - An eccentric muscle contraction is a type of muscle activation that increases tension on a muscle as it lengthens. Eccentric contractions typically occur when a muscle opposes a stronger force, which causes the muscle to lengthen as it contracts. What does this mean? When you bicep curl a weight up to your shoulder and you slowly resist gravity on the way down. You are now engaged in an eccentric contraction. Sometimes eccentric contractions are referred to "negative" training.

2. Concentric contraction - A concentric muscle contraction is a type of muscle activation that increases tension on a muscle as it shortens. Concentric contractions are the most common types of muscle activation athletes perform in a gym when lifting weights. Back to the Bicep curl example. When you lifted the weight up to your shoulder, you performed a concentric contraction.

3. Isometric contraction - An isometric muscle contraction, or static exercise, is one in which the muscle fires but there is no movement at a joint. In this type of muscle contraction, there is no change in length of the muscle, and no movement at the joints but muscle fibers fire. When you are performing the bicep curl and at any point of the movement, you stop the lift and just hold the weight, you are performing an isometric contraction.

Too often, individuals focus on the concentric part of the lift and ignore the eccentric and/or isometric. By focusing on the concentric, the individual utilizes momentum and creates a false sense of strength. The false sense of strength when put to the test will increase one's vulnerability to getting hurt or injured. I recommend clients lifting at a 4210 tempo. 4 seconds eccentric, 2 seconds isometric contraction, 1 seconds concentric contraction, and 0 seconds isometric at the "break" part of the movement. (You will know which part of the movement that is the "break" when you body feels relief from the lactic acid or burning sensation you are experiencing during the lift). By adhering to a 4 second eccentric contraction, we are now removing all momentum from the lift therefore establishing a "true" identity of how strong you really are.

Note: Make sure you are utilizing the Overload Principle or Momentary Muscle Failure. If you are unsure if you are overloading the muscle, please, refer to a previous article, We Strive For Failure...The Overload Principle for further explanation.


Steven Zahn

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Pre and Post Partum Certified

Dragondoor Publications: HKC Russian Kettlebell Certified