Let's talk TEMPO

What is TEMPO, and why do we use it?


While TEMPO might be a new concept to you, it is something has been around for years in the weightlifting world.

C5 introduced TEMPO into our group design way back in 2014. If you weren’t with us then, you can read up on that intro by clicking here.

Now that everyone in our facility is on your own Personalized Design, TEMPO is something of the norm within your program. It can now be progressed in an appropriate fashion for YOU, based upon your specific developmental needs. This “progression” can look different for everyone.

Let’s start with the basics on what TEMPO is, and how to read it in your C5 Personalized Design;

TEMPO is referring to the “time under tension'“ for a specific movement or muscle group(s).

(there are many examples on how this could be written; 21X0, 1113, 1010, 31X1, 5150.......to name a few.)


    • is the eccentric/lengthening of the muscle, typically the “lowering” portion to the bottom of the movement. For example, if a back squat is prescribed at 30X0, it means that from the top of the movement, you should take 3 seconds (1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, etc.) to reach the end point of the exercise (full depth for the squat).


    • represents the pause, if any, at the bottom of the movement. Because this example (30X0) says 0, it means that it is simply 3 seconds down, 0 pause, and then back up. If the tempo was 31X0, then you would have to pause for 1 second at the bottom of the movement. If it was 32X0, then you would have to pause for 2 seconds, and so on.


    • is the concentric/”shortening of the muscle”, typically the “raising” portion to the top of the movement. When it says “X” as the third number, it means to 'accelerate' the load as fast as possible – regardless of how fast the weight is actually moving, intention to 'accelerate' (and move with as much explosive force as possible) is most important. If the number is prescribed as 2020, then you would take 2 seconds to lower fully, 0 pause in the bottom position, then take 2 seconds to come back to the top, with 0 sec rest before going into the next rep.


    • represents the pause, if any, at the top of movement. If it says 30X1 for a weighted pull-up, then you have to hold your chin over the bar for one second before lowering for 3 seconds to full arm extension.

Hopefully this helps shed some light on how TEMPO is written here at C5 FIT, and how to execute it properly based upon your specific design, and movements.

Why do we use TEMPO?

There are various reasons “why” TEMPO could be used in a design, but for the majority of the time, the main reasons are to help develop motor control, and tissue & tendon strength via specific times under tension. Developing the ability to express controlled movement mechanics, while under load, are critical for your safety and longevity.

Remember, when you see TEMPO in your designs, follow them as STRICT as possible to help support your safety, longevity, and goals.

Rock on FAM!