Simplifying How I Should Exercise

Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior (or even a couch potato), experts and self-proclaimed experts have a lot of advice on how we should exercise.  How are you supposed to cut through the nonsense and get to the true knowledge and information that can really help?  In this entry I want to give you the guidelines to set up and maintain a practical training program that will help you reach your personal goals.  Also, you should be able to take your fitness goals as far as you want with the prioritization pathways that I’ve set up for you.  In the end, the goal here is to create an outline for everyone to follow based on collected expert opinions and scientific research that supports the best regimen possible to achieve your personal goals.  With this in mind, let’s set up your best plan ever and prioritize the foundations.  Please note that the focus of this entry will be on resistance and strength training since I get the most questions about setting up that kind of program.


Fitness is journey that must be viewed as a marathon rather than a sprint.  It is only through consistency and adherence to a program that results can occur.  The world of 6 minute abs and 30 days to your best self sounds too good to be true…and, in fact, it is.

What is the BEST plan for you?  The plan that you will actually do.  When is the BEST time to work out? The time you will actually work out.  The big idea I’m trying to get across is that a plan is only as good as YOUR ability to do it.  If you don’t take this to heart and mind, in the end you will be setting yourself up for frustration, disappointment, and failure.  So let’s look at the KEY elements to consistency and adherence.


The first thing that you need to set up is how realistic are your personal goals and your personal plan.  Although it is important to push yourself to your own limits, it is equally important to understand that all of us have limitations.

One of the most practical aspects of limitations is time related to your training schedule.  Time is the great equalizer. It cannot be saved and it cannot be changed.  You need to match up your personal time frame with the other time commitments you have in your life.  Scheduling and planning are critical in accomplishing a solid exercise plan.  And it is important to remember that an optimal approach is not always a realistic approach.  Focus first on what you CAN do in the time that you have available.

Another equally important equalizer is the limitations of genetics, ability, injuries, and age.  Although we like to believe (and even teach) we are capable of anything we set our mind to it is a simple fact that we all have physical limitations.  None of us can fly or breathe underwater by the mere fact we are not physically made to.  The same practical approach should be taken with setting up a plan so as to minimize injury while maximizing fitness.  Having a realistic view of where you are starting is an important aspect of a solid training plan.  Be brutally honest with yourself when it comes to your capacity, as well as your schedule.

Now, that being said, I do realize (even personally) that fear, insecurity, and comparison are real killers when it comes to accomplishing your personal goals.  While it is essential to be realistic in your training, I want to encourage you to reach your full potential.  Set goals that take effort to reach while still remaining realistic.


The next ingredient to improve consistency and adherence in a training program is making sure that it is enjoyable.  It goes without saying that you will put more effort into a program, or anything for that matter, that you enjoy.  Personal enjoyment is a large contributor to results…and results often lead to more enjoyment.  This positive reinforcement within a program design is foundational.  The cause and effect relationship can be thought of this way:

Enjoyment leads to greater efforts in training, and greater efforts in correct training leads to greater results, which then leads to more enjoyment from the program.

Determining the best program for you needs is to take into account your personal needs and individual variability.  Not everyone is going to like the same thing and not everyone is going to respond to every type to training the same way.  All this to say that if your current regimen raises your stress rather than your enjoyment, it will likely be more detrimental than beneficial.  Stress management, sleep patterns and supportive relationships are all critical factors in overall health.  If these factors suffer as a result of your workouts then your workouts will cease to be enjoyable.  In the previous section we learned that optimal does not equal sustainable.  So, it is essential to remember that enjoyment is a key factor to an optimal and sustainable program.


Although we can attempt to prepare for every situation, some things in our lives are not in our control.  Change is an inevitable factor of life, and some changes create stress in our lives…longer hours at work, relationship stress, conflicts on the job, repairs to our home, etc.  All of these stressors affect our body and our health.

We all know that stress can affect our progress, optimization and sustainability.  Fitness is no exception.  However, knowing this can help us prepare a better program and stick to a particular program longer.  What’s even more interesting is that studies with training groups show that a flexible approach (based on energy and how participants felt) proved to be superior to a rigidly planned approach.  So, of course, perform your exercise program as planned as much as possible, however having variability and flexibility built into the plan is important.  On the days you feel depleted or stressed, perform a more suitable and adaptable plan. Equally when you feel energized and strong, push yourself to higher levels of your capacity.  Remember that creating variability and flexibility within your plan has been proven to be more beneficial to reaching your goals.



After your have set up a realistic program that is enjoyable and flexible, you are well on your way to reaching your goals.  These three factors determine your consistency and adherence to your program.

Next on your list of foundational factors are the three variables of resistance training: volume, intensity and frequency.  This section covers some of the most important concepts and factors of resistance training, especially when it comes to your personal fitness goals.  There may be some new terms for some readers, so for the sake of completeness, I will briefly describe them as we go.


In training and fitness, volume is the calculated TOTAL load made up of three factors:

    1. Load (The weight or resistance that is involved)
    2. Sets   (The number of consecutive repetitions in one time period)
    3. Reps  (One complete motion of an exercise)

Knowing these components are important because volume is the key to muscle hypertrophy (growth and size).  According to research, volume, or the total work performed, is directly related to both strength and hypertrophy.  However, there is a catch…you CAN get too much of a good thing.  Overreaching and overtraining IS a real thing, so going past your optimal training can lead to fatigue, injury, and a decline in performance.

Although too much volume too soon can lead to the problems listed above, increasing your volume (or total work load) is essential to do while your fitness improves.  A reasonable formula to use in your program is this: perform enough volume in your program to progress and increase your volume only when progress has stalled or hit a plateau.  Assuming that you are recovering as you should and not overreaching or overtraining, adding volume at the appropriate point is optimal and essential.

Remember that “doing more” and “lifting heavier” is not really the best long term strategy.  There is a scientific balance and optimal zone of training and you can equally go past it or not reach it.


Intensity is often viewed or referred to as a psychological or emotional state.  However for the sake of this entry, we will look at intensity in a more objective way.  Intensity refers to a percentage of your maximal effort (your 1 rep max or 1RM or the amount of weight you can lift once with maximal effort) or it refers to the nearness to maximal effort you give that load (often called your Rate of Perceived Exertion of RPE or giving all that you can give as a 10 out of 10 effort).

A large part of our intensity choices are determined by our personal fitness goals.  For the sake of brevity, the goals we will talk about will be muscle strength and muscle hypertrophy (growth and size).  To optimize either of these we have to train a specific way.

Strength Training

When considering training for strength, there are three major aspects to consider: Muscle Mass, Neuromuscular Adaptation, and Movement Patterns.  As one can imagine, if you want to get good at lifting heavy things, then you have to practice lifting heavy things.  If strength is the goal, it seems logical that a higher volume needs to be performed in the lower rep ranges.  The problem is that bigger muscles move more weight, so you need to plan for muscle growth and well as strength.  In a study by Brad Schoenfeld comparing 3-rep maximum with 10-rep maximum, the 3-rep group took much longer to finish their work out and had more joint pain and injury, drop out, and mental burnout.  In comparison, the other group increased their strength the most. The reason being, if you are training close to failure all the time, form and function can break down.  For that reason there are some practical methods and recommendations for training for strength:  Train about 65-75% of your routine in the high intensity range (1-6RM), and the other 25-35% in the higher rep moderate intensity ranges (6-12RM)

Hypertrophy Training

When considering training for hypertrophy, there is less specificity in training intensity.  Research supports that the volume load need only be “heavy enough”.  That being said, there is no exact range or magical set point that is best.  It is believed that the moderate intensity work (8-12 rep range) is the ideal range for hypertrophy but it has been shown that lower intensity work (12-15 rep range) will also induce hypertrophy as well.  In fairness, the lower intensity range IS less efficient on a set by set basis. However, it is still beneficial to use lighter loads.  Not to be forgotten is the role of high intensity (1-6 rep range/ strength range) even if your goal is hypertrophy. The purpose being that getting stronger is important for progressive overload. When you train for strength you become stronger and when you are stronger, you can use heavier weights, which allows you to do more volume. More volume leads to more hypertrophy. Putting this all together, here are practical recommendations for intensity relating to hypertrophy:  train 65-75% of your routine in the moderate intensity work (6-12 rep range) and the other 10-20% in the lower intensity range (12-15 rep range) and 10-20% in the higher intensity range (1-6 rep range)


Frequency is really the combination and culmination of volume and intensity together.  It’s how you organize your training to maximize the effect of your training.  The goal is to have the right amount all the time…not too much or too little.  As one can imagine, a few long sessions are not the same as frequent optimized sessions.  As a result, the frequency of your training impacts a lot of your outcomes: learning curve, recovery time, adaptation, strength, and body composition (just to name a few).  That being said, if you organize your frequency correctly then doing 3 to 6 workouts a week will suit most individuals.

Practically speaking you need to consider a few things when it comes to frequency.  First, you need to take into account your volume and intensity.  This way you will determine how much time it will take in the week to complete it all.  It is a good idea to be flexible in the start of your program to see if you have too much or too little on your organized days.  Next, you will also need to consider, as you progress, that the workouts will need to change to keep up with your progression.

A good recommendation is a frequency of 2-3 times per week per muscle group.  Remember this can be attained through a total body work out (especially good for beginners) as well as splitting up the focus/concentration of muscle groups (better for more advanced athletes).  Also, it is important to be aware and take into account that an overlap of muscle groups often will occurs with certain exercises (especially with compound and powerlifting type exercises).  A systematic review by Mathias Wernbom suggests that a 40-70 reps per muscle group per session as a good guideline to work from.


So, to summarize the important aspects of Volume, Intensity, and Frequency remember to tailor make them to your goals.  However, for a great starting point, consider the following:

Volume – Optimization goal of 40-70 reps per muscle group per session.

Remember to consider overlap between similar movements, especially compound movements and powerlifting movements.  Heavier “warm up sets” should be counted towards total volume.

Intensity – 1-15 rep max should be the range that you train in most of the time (although it will vary specifically based on fitness goals).

If your goal is strength, 65-75% of training should be using 1-6 rep max range, the remaining portion of your training is lighter.  If your goal is hypertrophy, 65-75% of training should be in the 6-12 rep max range, with the remaining portion being both above and below this load level.

Frequency – Train each muscle group or movement pattern 2-3 times per week.

Optimize your schedule and time with the appropriate volume for your training ability, fitness level, age, and workload capacity to determine an appropriate frequency.  The goals should be 40-70 reps per session, 2-3 times per week, per muscle group.


Any journey begins with a single step, but part of the journey is to keep moving forward to a destination.  If you are new to training, then setting up a simplistic plan will likely create change without much effort.  That really is the best part of starting a program and being a beginner.  However, as you advance in your fitness and abilities, progress and development will be hindered if a plan is not set up correctly.

For that reason, a plan designed for progression will be essential.  But before we dive into progression there are a few things we need to understand.  First thing is that no one can get bigger and stronger forever and that there is a limitation set by genetics in everyone.  Second is that the longer someone has been training and the closer someone gets to their genetic limit; the more programming and planning is needed to make progress.

We have already visited one of the key factors in progression and that is volume load.  Volume needs to be increased in order to progress.  However, there will come a point where simply adding more weight will lead to more injury and less progress.  At this point, you will need to have new strategies to overload the system without getting injured.

A good rule to apply has to do with an athlete’s “training age”.  General categories relating to training age are the novice, the intermediate, and the advanced athlete.  Although often novices can increase their performance workout to workout, intermediate and advanced athletes may take weeks or months to have these changes.  In order to create progression and minimize injury, it is practical in introduce something known as a “deload” at every level of training.


The concept of a deload is a period of time, usually a week, where the volume of training is less compared to previous sessions.  It is important, although sometimes not popular, to incorporate these deloads into a workout plan for the sake of long-term progression and recovery.  A deload can be a simple as decreasing a week’s volume by 10% or so, but often deloads can be complex plans involved a decrease in all aspects of training: volume, intensity, frequency, and stress.  And as one would expect, the larger your “training age” the more complex a deload pattern tends to be.

A practical deload pattern often occurs every 4 to 6 weeks.  Remember that you are practicing and training other aspects of fitness in your deload.  You are also recovering from progressive overload that should have occurred in your previous weeks leading up to your deload.  And it is important to realize that you should deload BEFORE you get injured from progressive overload so that you can keep progressing in your training plan as well as your goals.


The process by which you organize your training into training periods (groups or sessions) including deloads is known as periodization.  This process is very helpful in keep progression and becomes more important as your training age increases.  In general, there are three major types of periodizations: Linear Periodization, Block Periodization, and Undulating Periodization.  We will briefly cover all of these to get a framework on how they operate.

Linear Periodization

Linear periodization is a style of training where volume decreases and intensity increases over time in a linear (or straight) way.  This type of periodization is most used in sports in preparation of competition and then recovering in the off season.  Usually there is a period of higher volume and lower intensity followed by a period of lower volume and higher intensity.  These then transitions into lower volume training that is sports specific in training so that peak performance occurs for competition.  The training should be sports specific and becomes more sport specific as it progresses.  After a progression, a deload or recovery period occurs before the cycle starts over again.  The biggest key to understanding linear periodization is a linear change of a decrease in volume with a linear change of an increase in intensity over time.  (Equally there is a concept of “reverse” linear periodization where intensity decreases as volume increases.  Although this is a method that works for some populations, the research supports that linear periodization is more effective for strength and hypertrophy than reverse linear periodization)

Block Periodization

Block periodization is a simpler style of progressions that shares similarities with linear progression but it more flexible in its design.  In block progression, there are several (usually 3) separate blocks of linear progression with a different goal for each block.  The blocks (or cycles) are typically shorter than a traditional linear progression style.  This style of training is best for the sport or athlete that has multiple competitions or peaks throughout the year and needs more flexibility and adaptations in the training for a sport or multiple competitions.  The biggest key to understanding block periodization is that skills are broken into blocks and the focus of each block is one skill (i.e. hypertrophy, strength, and power) before moving on to the next block.

Undulating Periodization

Undulating periodization is a style of periodization that changes the training variables within the week of training.  Variations in repetition range is the typical change within the week.  In this way, different days of the week are dedicated to different goals in the training.  For example, there could be a variation by having a hypertrophy day, a strength day, and a power day in the same time frame…all of which use a variety of training variables.  These factors and styles can be varied weekly or even daily in an undulating program.  The theory of this style of periodization is that there is an advantage to retaining strength and skills when variability between skills is kept short in the time frame.  Equally, there is a decreased in the “detraining” of any of the adaptations desired for a sport of competition.  The biggest key to understanding undulating periodization is that there is variability within the week (or month) of a period so that there is broader style of training and less loss of adaptation to each of the styles of training (hypertrophy, strength or power)


Lastly, let’s take a look at the concept of tapering.  This is a strategy that is used in preparation for competition especially when there is a single day of competition in a sport.  Tapering simply means reducing the training volume in order to minimize fatigue and maximize performance for the day of competition.  Tapering is a bit different from deloading.  Deloads are designed to minimize fatigue so that progress can continue.  Tapering is designed to prepare for an athlete’s best condition for a competition day.  In this way there is a better chance for peak performance in the athlete on the day of competition.  Tapering is usually done two weeks prior to a competition and often involves sports specific movements but at 75% of lower levels of effort, repetitions and volume.

Tapering can also be used for energy systems if your sport requires this (especially physique competitions).  In fact, as a physique competitor, the goal to peak performance is to adjust training to influence your carbohydrate load/energy system.  For that reason, a competitor needs to use glycogen as fuel in the final week to encourage more glycogen storage (carbohydrates in the muscle). This typically involves doing your routine (exercises/sets) the same but performing 10-20 reps on all training days the week of your competition week.  This shift in energy systems will ensure the best “appearance” which is the goal for physique competitors.


Next, we address the foundational concept of exercise selection, and once again this depends on your personal goals.  Hypertrophy, strength, power, or sports specifics are typical goals for athletes and your exercise sections should reflect your goals.  The logic behind exercise selection is simple: as you practice a specific movement, you get better at that specific movement.

For example, if your goals or your sport require you to have a maximal effort in one particular motion, the more you train that pattern with maximal effort the better you will be at performing that movement and effort.  That does not necessarily mean you consistently train to your maximal, but it does mean that a large focus of your training should be related to your specifics.  In other words, if your primary goal is strength then you should be doing the movements that get you stronger.

For hypertrophy and muscle growth, it’s a little different.  Most of the information out in the industry for hypertrophy is to change exercises frequently.  This is known as “muscle confusion” and is believed to be an important factor in training.  However, research demonstrates that if you are not familiar with a movement pattern then muscle growth is actually LESS likely to occur.

The theory is that you want to become an expert in a movement as quickly as possible to promote muscle growth.  The reason being is once you learn a skill well, you can expose your muscle to progressive overload and thus promote muscle growth.

Now that does not mean you should keep your exercises the same.  But there is a practical level of variety that is optimal.  However, adequate variety is not the same as “muscle confusion”.  So not only does the research show that learning a skill quickly promotes muscle growth, it also shows that performing additional or accessory work from an adequate variety of movements leads to a balanced growth of muscles involved.

Therefore, if your goal is hypertrophy, a practical approach is to included 1-2 compound and complex movements for a muscle group in addition to 1-3 isolation movements for each muscle group.  Compound movements, because of their static nature, should remain constant in your training regimen.  Isolated movements, on the other hand because of their low complexity, can be varied more often in the training regimen.

In summary:

Strength (Powerlifter/ Strongman)  Competition/compound lifts for 50-75% of the total training.  Accessory work for 25-50% of total training.

Hypertrophy (Bodybuilder)   1-2 compound exercises for each major muscle group.  1-3 isolation exercises for each muscle group.


In general, compound movements involve more than one joint motion and equally involve several muscle groups.  Isolation exercises, in contrast, tend to work one muscle group and use only one joint at a time.  Both types of exercises are important, but knowing how to select your combination of exercises is important and will help you achieve your goals more efficiently.

Training for Strength:

Since a portion of strength training is perfecting a neurological skill set as well as muscle strength, specific compound exercises need to be at the core of your program.  Typically, the “Big 3” (squat, deadlift, and bench press) or the “Big 5” (squat, deadlift, bench press, barbell row, and overhead press) are the exercises that strength competitors want to perfect in their routine.   Accessory and isolation work should be chosen based on how the accessory exercises might contribute to improving your main and desired compound exercises. The best way to understand this is to realize that compound movements are not always necessarily the best tools to cause muscle growth.  Therefore, an assessment of the muscles that contribute to these movements is important. And thus, depending on individual needs, isolation lifts should be included to help contribute to the strength of all the muscles that assist the competition lifts.

Training for Hypertrophy:

When your focus is muscle growth and hypertrophy, you won’t need to be as much of a specialist as a strength competitor. In fact, it might be suboptimal for total body muscular development to only focus on the 5 main compound lifts. While it is important that you are familiar with the motor patterns of the 5 main compound lifts, they may play less of a role depending on your training age (how long you have been training).  For beginners, the priority is to become efficient with the main lifts as quickly as possible to included them in the overall routine. After perfecting these lifts, novice lifters will increase growth and hypertrophy with substantially less volume per muscle group than a more experienced lifter (remember that VOLUME usually refers to the total load used and INTENSITY usually refers to the weight used in the repetition). That means, in the beginning stages you don’t need to worry much if isolation movements are included to a large extent, but rather you should focus on overall volume.  Of interest, beginners and early novices will achieve more global hypertrophy without much emphasis on isolation exercises and their time is better spent learning the basic skills of lifting. Lastly, for advanced lifters, as you get more advanced it becomes much more important to add in accessory work according to your weaknesses to ensure balanced muscular development.  At this advanced stage, there may be more of a role in isolating and emphasizing genetic limitations or “weak points”.  These can be a factor of genetics, but often develop as a matter of movement patterns and form.  As you advance in training age, transitioning from novice to expert, it is also highly recommended that you begin to receive more expert instruction in your lifts.  In other words, seasoned novices and advanced athletes that receive expert instruction get better hypertrophy.  This demonstrates, at more advanced levels, that proper form and execution is of utmost importance for a balanced physique and hypertrophy.

Ordering your Exercises

Once you have determined your exercise combination to meet your personal goals, ordering them so that you maximize results and minimize injury is next on your list.  Logically, it is best to perform your compound exercises earlier in your routine when you are energized and fresh.  These exercises require the most skill and lead to the most fatigue and therefore have the highest risk of injury.  These compound exercises also stimulate the most amount of muscle growth and hypertrophy, so doing theme energized and correctly has the biggest impact.  Starting your routine with them is generally best.

The exception to this is when an athlete is focusing on a weak point.  In this case, it is reasonable to begin a routine with an isolation exercise of the muscle group that is a weakness, especially if that weakness is not trained by the compound movement.  This strategy can help develop the weak point in question.  However, it is important to consider you will be pre-exhausting or fatiguing the muscle group prior to a compound lift.  This can hinder overall development and increase the risk of injury.  Altering the volume and intensity in the compound movement following the isolation movement for safety in this case is a good idea.


There are some interesting theories as to how long an athlete should rest in between sets and exercises.  For this reason, it seems logical to explore aspects of resting in between sets…how long should I rest to get the most out of my work out?

Long or short rest periods?

Originally it was demonstrated that there are short hormone spikes at the end of an exercise set.  This led to the belief that rest periods would capitalize on these hormones to improve strength and growth.  Although it is true that hormones assist with this, research seems to point out that the hormone theory is not the only aspect contributing to strength and growth.  The hormone response may, in fact, be a response to the training rather than the mechanism of the growth and strength.  So, the idea that rest periods may enhance hormones is for the most part unfounded.

A more modern theory relating to muscle growth relates to muscle damage and metabolic fatigue.  It has been shown that the shorter an athlete rests between sets, the greater the muscle damage and metabolic fatigue.  But does this actually lead to muscle growth?  The scientific research to explore this seems to demonstrate that shorter rest periods contribute to fatigue, but do not alter muscle growth or hypertrophy.  Variations in rest periods among studies, in fact, often found no difference in muscle strength or hypertrophy.  This is likely due to what was pointed out in earlier sections that total volume and intensity influences muscle strength and hypertrophy.  In the end, most research shows that short rest periods have little impact on hypertrophy and longer rest periods may have some advantage.  This finding is likely related to the ideas that if a rest period is too short, there is not adequate inter set recovery for the athlete.  It is likely that lack of recovery between sets leads to a lower volume and intensity, which is the larger contributor to muscle growth and hypertrophy.


Like many things in life, there are exceptions to the rules based on circumstances.  Although much of the research in rest periods supports no difference or encourages longer rest periods, there IS an exception.

The use of antagonistic paired sets, exercising opposing muscle groups along the same joint (flexion and extension), can improve and increase performance.  In the case of opposing muscle groups, a shorter rest period may be advantageous.  A rest period of 1-2 minutes in this case is recommended.

Final thoughts on rest periods

After all is said and done and all of the theories and research is reviewed, the recommendations are simple as well as practical. An athlete should rest until the athlete feels most ready to perform at the athlete’s best on the next set or exercise. In general, it’s a good idea to actually clock your rest periods to ensure you rest adequately.  A reasonable recommendation would be at least 1.5 minutes between smaller muscle groups and at least 2.5 minutes between compound lifts when training. If you are performing antagonist paired sets for larger upper body push and pull motions, rest 2 minutes between sets on exercises, and if you are performing antagonist paired sets for smaller or isolation exercises rest for roughly 1 minute between sets.


Tempo is the speed at which you lift and creates the time that a muscle is under tension.  Tempo tends to be one of the more complex and confusing topics in exercise, but interestingly enough, it is likely the least important factor based on the topics we have reviewed so far.

Eccentric Muscle Control

The eccentric motion is an exercise is the motion of a muscle when it is lengthening under a weight, usually the “lowering” portion of an exercise.  This motion creates a lot of discussion in the role of muscle strength and growth.  In regards to training for strength, the relationship is rather simple.  When training for strength the concentric motion is the focus, so there is less focus on the eccentric motion.   In strength training, your total load determines your tempo, so again it is rather simple.

When training for hypertrophy there is a bigger influence on the eccentric component of the exercise.  In hypertrophy, slower tempo usually emphasizes the eccentric component of an exercise.  However, the problem with this is an athlete is limited by concentric strength when performing a lift.  In other words, hypertrophy emphasizes eccentric actions to gain more hypertrophy and lift heavier, but we cannot lift heavier than we can lift concentrically.  So, the eccentric focus of hypertrophy training is limited and flawed by the general physics of lifting.

Time Under Tension

The biggest argument for tempo is the time under tension theory.  This theory tends to split the fitness world into proponents for and against.  The research behind “time under tension” seems to show that whether an athlete uses fast or slow tempos, the “time under tension” as well as the hypertrophy is roughly the same.  But what’s really happening?

Some factors that are likely confounding the truth can be logically seen and need to be considered.  As athletes slow down their form, they improve and focus on their form.  This may have a larger impact on hypertrophy because doing an exercise correctly has more benefit.

In regards to the science, although tempo may be an influence, it is more likely that the magnitude of the tension rather than the time that is more important.  In other words, the more force that is generated, the more tension that occurs, and the more tension that occurs, safely over time, the more hypertrophy occurs.

And lastly, when considering tempo, the practical aspect of lowering the weight under control is critical.  This is not only important for safety, but if you are training for hypertrophy, you want to have appropriate muscle action in the eccentric portion.  Muscles should be working not only in the lift up but also in the lowering portion of the exercise rather than just allowing gravity to bring the weight back to the starting position.

Just Lift Weight

So, in the end, when it comes to tempo, the benefits are questionable and without scientific studies to support the arguments.  Realistically, the best advice then is to just lift weights.  Slow down the tempo to perform the exercises correctly, use proper form when lifting, and stay in control to maximize efforts while minimizing the risk of injury.  Your volume, intensity, and frequency will be bigger factors in achieving your goals.  Tempo may be fun to play with, but don’t waste too much time with tempo.


This has not been the typical blog post for a beginning reading for my posts, but I wanted to cover the kinds of questions I get about training and lifting.  As you can see, there are several factors that can affect an athlete’s results.  Because of that, it is important to emphasize what is most important and to prioritize and perfect those things first.  As you advance in your training age and skill, moving from beginner to novice to expert, the latter subtopics will become relevant.  However, for most readers, the concept of lifting weights with proper form and execution will be the most important factor.  Just lift weights as a start.  Refer to earlier sections of this entry and progress to other sections as your perfect the earlier sections.

Exercise and fitness are both important and modifiable lifestyle factors that influences overall health.  It should not be overemphasized or underemphasized.  I encourage you to build an exercise routine that is flexible, enjoyable and realistic…and this blog entry should give you many of the tools you need to do that.

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