ultimate mma strength and conditioning program

Choosing the Right Tempo for
Ultimate MMA Conditioning

By Eric Wong, BSc, CSCS

Reading stuff on the net - I've seen a lot of coaches say something to the effect of, "Tempo doesn't matter, just try to lift the weight as fast as possible."

Unfortunately, this type of blanket statement always leaves out some critical info, and can diminish the results you get from training. Now in my training manuals and most others you'll come across, tempo is written with 3 digits, eg. 213. Here's what this means (we'll use the Bench press as our example exercise):

2 - 2 second eccentric, meaning you lower the weight to your chest for 2 seconds.

1 - 1 second pause, meaning you pause the weight at your chest for 1 second.

X - explosive concentric, meaning you push the bar up as quickly as possible.

Now that you know exactly what tempo is and how it's prescribed, here are 3 secrets to choosing the proper exercise tempo for your goals:

Tip #1 - Minimize the eccentric tempo to minimize soreness (eg. 101)

Muscular damage happens mainly due to micro-trauma that occurs during the eccentric phase of the muscular contraction. So if you minimize the amount of time you're doing the eccentric, you're going to minimize your soreness.

Now regardless of your tempo, whenever you introduce a new exercise that you're not used to into your routine, you're probably going to get a little sore. But once you've become adapated, slow eccentrics will result in more soreness, while faster eccentrics will reduce soreness - which is great for fighters.

Tip #2 - Lift explosively to stimulate the high threshold fast twitch muscle fibres (eg. 10X)

Lifting explosively will develop your fast twitch muscle fibres and improve your power. This is where most coaches say, "Just lift as fast as possible, regardless of how fast the bar is moving." When you've got a heavy load on the bar, you're going to be working hard, but the bar won't be moving too fast. This is OK, you're still stimulating the fast twitch fibres.

But you also want to train with lighter weights at a fast tempo, so you develop the velocity component more, helping you build both your strength and explosiveness.

Tip #3 - Lift slower to stimulate the slow twitch muscle fibres (eg. 202)

Slower tempos are often ignored by many coaches and athletes alike. The benefit to slow tempo training is hypertrophy of your slow twitch muscle fibres.

You may be thinking "Why would I want bigger slow twitch muscle fibres?"

The bottom line is that if you neglect slow twitch fibre development, you will have to use your fast twitch fibres for most of your movements. These fibres tend to rely more on the anaerobic energy systems, resulting in fatigue.

In a fight, you're working for 5 minutes. So the more you can work using the aerobic energy system, the less you'll fatigue, since the aerobic energy system doesn't run out of energy.

Then when you need to tap into the lactic system, you can, and you can recover faster, since the aerobic system contributes to recovery of the lactic system.

So there you have 3 tempo tips to learn about and implement into your training to make you a better conditionined, stronger, and more powerful fighter.

You must integrate these concepts into your training to realize your full potential as a mixed-martial artist.

To learn more secrets about developing your strength and conditioning for MMA, read my other articles on MMA training.


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