Complete Strength 12-Week Workout: Tempo Overview

In the Complete Strength workout program, tempo plays a major part. Tempo determines how long a muscle remains under tension, and as such can be as important a variable as weight in a lifting program. In this program, every tempo reflects exactly how long tension needs to be placed on muscles to have the desired effect on them—whether that effect is hypertrophy, strength, or endurance.

The tempo field of the Complete Strength workout determines how long each phase of the exercise should be held. In the case of isometric exercises, you will see only one number, which tells you how long to hold the contracting phase of the exercise. For dynamic movements you will see four numbers:

  1. First number: This is the number of counts, or quick seconds, that you should use for the initial movement. For example, in a dumbbell bicep curl, this is the movement in which you would curl the weight up toward your upper chest.
  2. Second number: This is the number of counts you hold at the end of the initial movement. In the bicep curl, this would be the hold at the top of curl.
  3. Third number: These are the counts for the second movement. Again for the bicep curl example, this would be the movement in which you lowered the weight.
  4. Fourth number: Count held at the end of the second movement. For example, if a bicep curl were labeled 2121, you should take two seconds to curl the dumbbell, hold for one second at the top of the curl, lower the curl for two seconds, and then hold at the bottom for another second before proceeding into your next curl.
Below are two examples from the Complete Strength workout:

Barbell Sumo Deadlifts have a 2020 Tempo, which means the following: Starting from the floor with the bar, stand up for 2 counts. Do not hold any counts at top before immediately squatting down again for 2 counts. Again, with no hold at the bottom, stand up again for next rep.

Neutral Grip Pullups have a 1130 Tempo, which means the following: Starting from the hanging position, pull-up for 1 count; hold at the top for 1 count; slowly lower back to low position for 3 counts; and immediately go into next rep with no rest at bottom.