Both slow tempo and fast tempo training have their own unique benefits. Which one is better or should you do both?
Most people's training style falls into somewhere between slow tempo and fast tempo (explosive) training. They try to lift heavy weights as fast as they can, but don't really spend time on plyometrics.
For many the priority is not to actually build strength or muscle, but to lift a certain number of repetitions or move a certain amount of weight.
In the previous article we talked about how every repetition should count. Unless you are a competing powerlifter, you should focus on getting stronger and not just lifting as much as you humanly can (these are not the same thing).
When you drop the ego and no longer care about the amount of weight you can lift, you can focus more on quality of your repetitions than the quantity.
Slow tempo training is one of the best methods you can use to build muscle, mobility and to ensure the structural balance of the body.
In slow tempo training you do controlled slow repetitions and focus on time under tension and quality contraction of the muscles. To do it right, you need to use very light weights and not care about the repetitions. This can be hard on the ego.
Biggest benefits of slow tempo training:
- Excellent for building muscle.
- Amazing for mobility and health.
- You will train the smaller and weaker muscles which is great for structural balance of the body.
The biggest problem with slow tempo training is that eventually you will become slower if slow tempo training is the only training you do.
Fast tempo training on the other hand is the complete opposite from slow tempo training. We are talking about fast & heavy repetitions, plyometrics and explosive training in general.
Biggest benefits of fast tempo training:
- Excellent for athleticism (speed and power).
- Will maximize your fast twitch muscle fibers.
- Biggest muscle groups get strong and explosive.
The biggest problem with fast tempo training is that you will mainly maximize the growth of your bigger muscle groups and the muscles that initiate the movement.
As a result, many smaller muscles will get overlooked and may even get weaker over time while the dominant muscles get even stronger. This lack of structural balance can make you prone to injuries and once you hit a plateau, it can be very hard to break through.
In order to keep progressing and stay safe, you need both slow tempo and fast tempo training.
It's possible to do both of them on a weekly basis, but athletes have figured out the best split: off-season and season training.
During off-season you should focus on slow tempo training and mobility in order to strengthen your foundation. A strong foundation will later allow you to progress further and it also makes you bulletproof to injuries.
Then eventually during season it's great to turn all of that muscle into fast twitch fibers by focusing more on explosive fast tempo training.
Slow tempo training during a training camp would be counterproductive for a fighter who is 12 weeks away from a fight, but focusing on slow tempo training during off-season will ensure his longevity in the game.
If you are a beginner, slow tempo training should always be the priority. It may seem like you make fast progress with fast tempo training in the beginning but you will hit the plateau very fast and it will be difficult to break through.
This beginner slow tempo phase can last from months to years (even up to 5+ years) and if you aren't interested in athleticism, you may never need to do fast tempo training. See Movement 20XX for a complete program with lots of slow tempo strength exercises and mobility.
If you are an athlete, a martial artist or want to "have it all", then combining both slow tempo and fast tempo training will create the best results.
Train hard, stay safe.