How to Read Tempo

Go ahead and let this live rent free in your brain forever.

cONtRoLLiNG yOUR moVemEnts, mAkes YoU StrONger ..oh & your ligaments and tendons will thank you greatly. Tempo can be written in different ways, by different coaches. This is how you will see tempo inside any program of mine. It’s ALWAYS followed by the @ symbol (unless theres a typo).. so a full exercise prescription will look like this:

Tempo is how quickly or how slowly we control our reps. Manipulating tempo can drastically change the intent of a movement, so it’s important for you to understand how tempo works. We can use tempo to pick at the bottom position of a movement, the lowering phase or put a focus on total tension within a given movement.

Tempo is always read in the same order:

The first digit is the ECCENTRIC

The second digit is the ISOMETRIC

The third digit is the CONCENTRIC

The fourth digit is the ISOMETRIC

…this is all just the scientific way of saying ( the down, the hold, the up and the pause – so don’t get too caught up in the big words)

For Example:

No matter what movement or what numbers you’re reading, the tempo will always start by telling you how slowly you need to perform:

the DOWNWARD ( eccentric ),


the Pause @ the Bottom


the UPWARD (concentric)


the Pause at the Top


There are so many different variations of what the digits in the tempo could be –

@2112 @30X1 @2121 @SDTU @3131 @2020 @31A1 @11X3 @31X1 @20X1 – etc.. you can see there are also letters involved sometimes too. I know shits getting weird but bare with me.

Not every exercise starts with the Eccentric Phase

What about something like the Deadlift or a Pull-Up that starts with an upward motion first?

Don’t sweat it. You can do one of two things:

  1. Look at the Upward Portion of the tempo (third digit) and start there.


2.Y ou can just press, push or pull it up, then start with the Downward Portion of the tempo (first digit) and go from there. *to be honest, this is what I usually do.*

Either way, don’t over think it. The digits behind the @ symbol MEAN SOMETHING & they are not to be totally skipped over because you don’t want to apply patience to learn. Repetition and Consistency are KEY. It’s not expected for you to get this perfectly, but you will try your best to understand it and apply it to your lift.


You got this.