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Master Your Tempo By Doing These Muscle Contraction Exercises At Home

06/15/2020
By Soji James, CPT, CSCS

With recent events, people are staying home to stop the spread of COVID-19. If you’re not used to it, working out at home requires an adjustment period. But even when you have limited access to equipment, you can still push your body and build muscle. By playing around with tempo in muscle contraction exercises, you can overload your body and promote muscle growth. Whether you’re slowing things down or adding explosive movements to your workouts, mixing up your tempo can prove highly beneficial during social distancing.

What Is Tempo In Exercise?

The tempo is the pace or speed that you perform a specific exercise. Essentially, it represents the time that the muscle or groups of muscles are under tension. By changing the tempo of a training program, you can encourage more muscle growth.

What is Time Under Tension & Why Does it Build Muscle? – RedDeltaProject

The tempo is also referred to as time under tension (TUT) or tempo training. The rhythm is tracked by monitoring the time it takes for the muscle to contract in each phase. The idea is that, by changing the tempo, you force your muscles to work harder. This optimizes muscle strength, endurance, and growth. If you’re new to weight training, you often see results from your training more quickly. However, when you’ve been training for a while, it can get harder to see results and gains. Adjusting your tempo means you can vary your training, giving you better results.

Before talking about mastering tempo in your home gym, you need to understand the different types of muscle contractions

3 Types Of Muscle Contractions

There’s much more to strength training than pushing and lifting. Different types of muscle contractions take place in the body. During each type of contraction, a muscle produces tension. Here’s a breakdown of the three types of muscle contractions.

Muscular male doing abdominal exercises on floor at home for muscle contraction.
Tempo In Exercise Represents The Time That The Muscle Or Groups Of Muscles Are Under Tension (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Isometric Muscle Contraction

With isometric contractions, there is no length change in the muscle. You produce tension in the body by holding a movement. An isometric exercise is the static phase of the movement. It’s when your muscles are working in a still position. For example, when your glutes are trying to hang in a wall sit for thirty seconds.

Eccentric Muscle Contraction

In an eccentric movement, the muscle lengthens and slows down the action, like the lowering part of a squat.

Concentric Muscle Contraction

During a concentric movement, the muscle shortens as it speeds up the action. As your muscle gets shorter, it has enough force to generate a movement. An example of a concentric movement is the lifting in a bicep curl.

In an exercise program, you read tempo as a four-digit number. Each number describes a different phase of the exercise. For example, 4211 would mean:

  • The first number “4” represents the time in seconds for the lowering phase, representing the eccentric movement. 
  • The second number “2” is the static hold of the movement, the isometric contraction. 
  • The third number “1” is the time in seconds in the up phase of the movement, the concentric contraction. 
  • The fourth number “1” is the duration of the pause at the end of the movement, so the isometric contraction.

The Benefits Of Changing Your Tempo

The way you change and play around with tempo in your exercises changes the intent of the movement. When you slow down the action and focus on eccentric movements, it can help build both muscle size and strength. Eccentric training also boosts the resting metabolic rate (RMR). This means that you burn more calories at rest.

A man doing intense workout in a stadium.
Changing Tempo Is All About Mixing Up How Long You Hold Certain Muscle Contractions (Image Source: Shutterstock)

There are also benefits of maintaining isometric holds and pausing for longer in a static position. Isometric training can improve joint stability, strength, and overall physical function. Changing tempo is all about mixing up how long you hold certain muscle contractions. Depending on what you’re looking to achieve, you may benefit from holding eccentric movements for longer or focusing on isometric holds. It’s entirely up to you. Mix up your home workout routine by slowing it down or adding more explosive movements to challenge your body.

Workouts To Do At Home

Plyometric Exercises

Plyometric exercises are explosive or jumping movements where the muscle quickly goes from a lengthened state to a shortened state. They are quick and powerful muscle contraction movements like burpees, lunges, squat jumps, and hopping. Muscles start with a lengthening motion, which is the eccentric movement. This is then followed immediately by a shortening—the concentric action. Plyometric exercises strengthen muscle tissue and train the body to produce precise muscle contractions. Here are three plyometric exercises you can try at home.

A fit man doing clap push-ups on a track field.
Plyometric Exercises Are Quick And Powerful Movements Like Lunges, Squat Jumps, And Hopping (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Squat Jumps

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in the knees. 
  2. Bend your knees and lower down into a full squat. 
  3. From the bottom of the squat, powerfully explode straight up. Bring your knees towards your chest while in the air. 
  4. Release your legs and control your landing. Head straight back into another squat for another squat jump.

Jumping Rope

Jump rope is one of the most effective at-home cardio workouts you can do. It benefits your coordination and bone density, and it helps burn major calories.

If you’re new to jumping rope, start by skipping for as long as you can, then resting for sixty seconds. Repeat this for five minutes. Then take it further and start reducing the time you rest to forty-five seconds. This is a good place to start building endurance.

I love the Rogue Speed Jump Rope 2.0. It takes your training to the next level and is a key part of my home workout tool kit.

Clap Push-Ups

  1. Start in a standard push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart.  
  2. Slowly lower your chest to the floor, keeping your back and core engaged. 
  3. Next, push yourself up as explosively as you can. 
  4. Before you land, clap your hands, and then land softly.

Isometric Exercises

With isometric muscle contraction exercises, you tense up your muscles, but you don’t move. You feel the tension without moving. Simply holding your body still while your muscles contract is a lot tougher than you might think. The bonus is that you don’t need any equipment. Try these two isometric exercises.

A healthy man doing a plank indoors.
Simply Holding Your Body Still While Your Muscles Contract Is A Lot Tougher Than You Might Think (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Low Plank

Plank is a popular bodyweight exercise for the back, and it also helps to strengthen your core and increase muscle definition.

  1. Start by lying on your stomach. 
  2. Bring your elbows under your shoulders with your forearms on the floor. 
  3. Extend your legs behind you. 
  4. Lift your hips and thighs off the floor and come onto your forearms. Your body should be parallel to the floor. 
  5. Tuck your pelvis. Your back should be flat. 
  6. Hold the plank for up to sixty seconds, and then lower to your stomach again.

Wall Sit

  1. Stand with your back against the wall, feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Engage your core and slowly slide down the wall until your thighs are parallel with the floor. 
  3. Keep your back flat against the wall.
  4. Hold the position for up to sixty seconds. 
  5. Slowly slide up the wall back to a standing position.

Tempo Training In Your Workouts At Home

Your training tempo is simply another variable you can play around with to alter your training. It can provide a new stimulus to your muscles. Experiment with a twenty-second concentric movement or two-second isometric holds at the end of your routine. There is no wrong or right answer when it comes to training tempo.

Mixing up your tempo is one of the easiest ways to spice up your workout without adding the need for new exercises, more reps, or new equipment. This means that you can work your full body from the comfort of your own home. Just add more time under tension. There are lots of different options to try out. Remember to have fun with it and find out what works for you.  Try the 1AND1 Life free At-Home Workout Plan.

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