Why Tempo Training Leads To Increased Force Output Production At High Frequency

Did you ever wonder why Ben Johnson or any of Charlie Francis’s other athletes got so strong even though they did tempo training with the elite level sprinters doing it practically everyday? Yes Yes, we all know that CF has told us that Tempo Training is a Restoration Method that leads to a faster recovery of Speed and Strength sessions; however, did you ever imagine that it could lead to increased strength, not just through recovery but also the through higher PNS (Peripheral Nervous System) excitation?

Here we go, from Mel Siff’s, “Supertraining” (pg 14-15)

"Peripheral fatigue has been subdivided further into low frequency fatigue and high frequency fatigue, with the distinction being made on the basis of the frequency at which fatigue occurs in response to electrical stimulation of the muscles (Edwards, 1981). If electrical stimulation is applied to a muscle directly after contraction, impairment in force production at low frequency (less than 20 Hz) has been called low frequency fatigue by Edwards. If the force decrement is detected at frequencies greater than 50Hz, this is known as high frequency fatigue (Fig 1.5).

Low frequency (LF) fatigue occurs early in exercise, without regard to the characteristics of muscle contraction, and exhibits a prolonged recovery period persisting for as long as 48 hours. It has been attributed to failure in excitation coupling due to depressed release of calcium ions (Edwards, 1981). It does not necessarily affect force output at high frequency, because the high excitation frequency may compensate for the impaired release and maximally activate the muscle fibre. Interestingly, it has been found that variable-frequency trains of impulses offset low frequency fatigue in skeletal muscle, so it appears as if such variability may exploit the catch-like property of skeletal muscle to augment force in fatigued skeletel muscle (Russ & Binder-Macleod, 1999).

It has also been shown that fatigue slows the dissociation of force-generating myosin cross bridges, since calcium ion uptake, the calcium ion-ATPase activity of the sacroplasmic reticulum (SR) and the rates of SR calcium ion release are depressed in fatigued muscles (Williams et al, 1998). Moreover, during fatigue, the contractile apparatus and SR undergo intrinsic functional alterations, which probably results in altered force production and energy consumption by the intact muscle.

With reference to short-term maximal contractions, the reduction in neuromuscular transmission rates may be a result of a reduction in central drive rather than peripheral electrical failure (Bigland-Ritchie & Woods, 1984). This has been suggested because the reduction in firing rate may be beneficial in avoiding electrical failure and facilitating maximal mechanical response from the muscle. Intensive activation of the central nervous system through the use of training with maximal weights, maximal power or plyometrics requires a recovery period of at least 48 hours or more, if restoration means are not employed. Interestingly, the rapid force recovery following eccentric exercise is mediated at least in part by neural factors, a recovery process which may occur independently of cell disruption (Hortobagyi et al, 1998)."

I believe this article does nothing for the medium level athlete who does speedwork on MWF and tempo on TTS bc the athlete has recovered PNS wise; however, for the elite-level athlete who does tempo everyday except Sundays (which I believe BJ did) then the athlete in addition to seeing an increase in capallerization and recovery of the muscle, will now also see an increase in strength on the MWF lifting days according to the article above! The tempo on the speed days would be done in the morning and speedwork in the evening! This also means that speedwork is enhanced as well bc the force output of those muscles will increase as well! Perhaps this is why BJ was such an athletic powerhouse!

Oh and in case you were curious about CNS fatigue; on the same page,

“Recent findings using electrical stimulation across the skull have revealed that the motor cortex is one site at which suboptimal output develops during human muscle fatigue.”

probably a dumb question but it is coming from a dumb person so here goes…would it be beneficial to add tempo training into a program based on powerlifting…especially if competition is in the lighter weight categories (148’s 165’s)…If I understood that post correctly, tempo training would indeed increase strength levels if implement correctly…maybe tempo sessions could be incorporated as extra workouts???What do you think???

First of all Tempo days should be done on all days you have off except Sunday which is a general day of rest for your entire body. That being taken care off, you can then focus on doing tempo eventually in the morning with weightlifting in the evening.

I don’t know for sure if doing tempo in the morning will lead to strength gains in the evening but I believe it does bc this is implied by my original post. The only way to know for sure is to try it. I personally won’t be doing that for some time until I get other things in order. But if your just a powerlifter then go for it and see if it works; however, you must do tempo on your days off and this will help you recover faster and lead to a capellerization of the muscle. Once you’ve done this for awhile then doing tempo on days you lift will tell you whether your strength levels went up/down or remained the same. The reason for this is bc you must know be able to hold the tempo variable on your days off in check to see if doing tempo on your lifting days leads to an increase in strength.

In literature that I have come across (from the Soviet Union) it always suprised me to see the amount of aerobic work their weight lifters did. You will benefit from doing tempo as Super has mentioned. Its probably a good balance to the high tonus developed by powerlifting training.

In CFTS, Charlie states that tempo helps calf strength.

Additionally, he goes on to say:

“Extensive tempo not only improve recovery, but over time enhances capillarization of the muscle. This heating lowers the electrical resistance in the neural pathways within the muscle, thus improving muscle’s contraction speed.”

It’s all in this one well written book. I always recommend athletes read it, then re-read it again…

Your absolutely right. I may have forgotten about that little fact. Well in any case this will be further evidence for tempo work. Now from two highly prominent sources CF and SIFF.

Tempo can come in many forms, not just running. Other things may be more topical to lifters (especially bigger guys), like bodyweight circuits or pool work (less pounding on the joints).

Thanks I think I will start to try it…some more twists to keep training interesting…awsome info dudes!!!

Very good point Tempo works should be specific to your sport. In a runner tempo work would be running. For a lifter tempo work could be lifting. I do not have any scheluded lifting on Tues/Thurs (these are my only two days off) and many times I come in and do some high rep ircuit or bb type work. This will also help with recovery. Also can be great GPP work. Louie has written about this a ton in the past.

Thamer…I kiind of thought extra workout articles I have read by louie had the same theory…I have been trying kettlebell movements with db’s as recovery workouts…do you think it would be beneficial to try doing some light tempo runs just to change things up when I get bored with other methods but do not feel like taking time away from the gym?? I was thinking that even light sprints would increase “capellerization of the muscle” maybe extra beneficial for leg recovery???

Thamer…did you write that aricle on diesel crew? It was a good one!!! peace!

Yes that was me that wrote an article for diesel crew. I had the honor of meeting the “gentlemen” of diesel crew at an NSCA clinic. Thank you for the compliment on the article. The diesel crew guys know thier stuff about getting people strong and are good guys. But, as far as the tempo runs are concerned give them a try. If it helps with capellerization then it should make you better right? Maybe mix tempo runs with high rep good mornings or band leg curls. I could be totally wrong on that but sounds like a great way to get more blood flow and increased capellerization to the post chain. Anyone agree or disagree?? I am far from a sprint or speed expert.

Could one introduce tempo on a limited basis? Say 1-2 days per week, while doing speed work 1-2 days per week. This would of course be done in conjunction w/ weight training.


If training 4x/week. I’d go with the following.

day 1 speed+ wieghts
day 2 recovery/tempo
day 3 regeneration OR tempo
day 4 speed+wieghts
day 5 recovery/tempo

hope that helps!


My weight training frequency is more then that… but yes it does give me a better idea as to how to set up a schedule. Thank you.

In other sports maybe but in weightlifting I have to disagree to some extent. An example of this would be doing bench press with very light wt lets say the bar and then doing bench press in the evening. I think this scenario will lead to a possible injury bc the muscles that are directly involved in the movement are getting worn out a little before the evening HIT lift; especially, the smaller muscle groups like the rotator cuff muscles. Tempo training is different for sprinters bc its their own Bodyweight that they are moving in the speedworkouts; therefore, they are working at the velocity end of force-velocity curve whereas, weightlifters are moving well weights at the force end. Any way you can increase local blood flow to the muscles that will be used later on is a great idea has long has the muscle isn’t to fatigued. Case and point, on two different occasions when I was blowdrying my hair for 20 min with my right hand, I then was shaving for about 10 min with my right hand and then cutting my hair with mostly my right hand. Well guess what happened later on? I either injured my upper right chest ligament/tendon doing shoulder press one day and at a different occasion I injured it doing bench press. Don’t laugh its true!

I think weightlifting is unique this way, I know the Bulgarians had multiple sessions a day but I doubt they repeated the same exercise and if they did they performed that same exercise with much lower intensity at the end of the day not the beginning! The whole point of this article is the simplicity of it, where you fatigue the muscles through very light work and later on in the evening you can lift more bc of the compensation effect. For example, if you are doing squats in the evening then to get the same effect has tempo work you would have do hundreds of bodyweight squats which no doubt would give you unwanted CNS fatigue and too much PNS fatigue in the evening. Remember CNS fatigue is anthing the athlete finds hard like a 1000 squats! Were are not bodybuilders! That being said something like a general body weight circuit would ok and you could repeat the circuit 8 times. For example; if you are doing squats, bench press, military press, bentover rows, and cleans in the evening then in the morning you could do 30 reps (or whatever the appropriate amount is) for each exercise which gives you a total of 75 reps at a rate of 1 sec per rep gives 150 sec or 2.5 minutes. Take the 2.5 min x 8 = 20 min.

Its possible however; I know for sure that tempo isn’t going to give me a chest/shoulder or quad/ham problem in the evening! In the end you just want there to be some peripheral fatigue so does it matter where it comes from? That being said, a sprinter should not be doing cycling for his tempo bc cycling is not working the upperbody at all and it can lead to severe tightness in the IT band and this can lead to tons of problems, I can vouch for this first hand! 20min of cycling would probably be ok but something like 35-45 min on constant a basis will lead to problems!

Those adhering to Abadjiev’s training philosophy train maximally upto three times per day always with the same 3 exercises (snatch, clean & front squat). ‘Recovery’ (!) days are taken every third day and consist of both the power versions and back squat. Intermediate lifters using the Abadjiev model may train maximally for two days in succession and then take a complete day off. IMO one common cause of stagnation is increasing workout frequency before work capacity has been sufficiently developed.

I like the idea of bw squats as a regenerative means for weight/powerlifters but done on rest days. A lifter will not be conditioned for traditional tempo and will tolerate it poorly. Additionally, ground contact is particularly stressful for guys >90kg.

BTW Whilst BJ may have performed an extensive warm up i didn’t think he did tempo on the same day as speed.

No one said you couldn’t do bw work (push-ups of various styles) and pool work would be great for bigger guys to taking some pressure off of the joints. I honestly doubt BW squats would cause much, if any, CNS fatigue and little PNF fatigue as well. I have done over 100 consecutive bw squats with no soreness or fatigue the next day (not even that much a couple hours later).

100BW squats is one thing 1000BW squats is another! If we are talking about tempo then the minimum time I believe is about 20 min therefore 100 squats would be about 3min total! I just wanted to point out that you need a routine that will last 20min. As for this thread the amount of Periheral fatigue is kind of a grey area but I would bet tempo work would take care of it. CNS fatigue is anything the athlete feels is too much burnout before lifting again! I can tell you that 1000BW squats for me would be a big burnout for my evening session! That being said, if you increase the volume slowly then as your fitness gets better you can tolerate more reps; however, we then run into the question of energy utilization and we don’t want to waste too much before our evening session!

David your example of doing snatch then clean and jerk then squats at different times of the day is ok bc these are the primary lifts this athlete wants to do throughout the day. This is similar to the Bulgarian methods and I personally split up my sprinting and weightlifting sessions. But to do a 30% muscler endurance or high volume muscle workout are a different story.

All 3 exercises are done 3x per day!!