“The reason why we as coaches use tempo is to specifically control the athlete. Tempo is an important tool which can not only help the athlete learn the movement, but also develop appropriate motor patterns and body control.”  – OPEX Coach Mike Lee

Tempo, also known as time under tension, is a programming tool that allows the coach to specifically alter and target specific results in a program. Tempo can be used to work the athlete’s position, mechanics, movement progression, metabolism, control, and absolute strength. 


Tempo is the rate or pace in which an exercise is performed. Essentially, tempo and the way it is prescribed represents how long the muscle or group of muscles is under load or tension. Manipulating tempo can change the complete intent of the training program. Tempo is part of the foundation of CrossFit West Boca


Let’s take a look at how to read a tempo. Tempo should always be written as a 4 digit prescription like the example below. @42X1

You may be scratching your head at what exactly that means. But let’s break it down.

Digit 1 Represents the Eccentric (Down Portion)

Digit 2 Represents the Isometric (Bottom)

Digit 3 Represents the Concentric (Up Portion)

Digit 4 Represents the Isometric (Top)

The way in which and the amount of time the tempo ‘prescription’ is written changes the intent of the piece. There are four main categories of intent that change depending on the tempo.

Position/Mechanics – By slowing down the movement, you are forcing the athlete to develop an awareness of what the body is doing and should be doing in each muscle contraction or even one specific muscle contraction within the piece.

Metabolic –  If you increase the total amount of time under tension, you increase the amount of work required, which in turn increases the metabolic demand of the actual contraction.

Progression – You can keep the tempo the same for the movement and gradually decrease the amount of time under tension in the sets to force weight progression and advancement.

Control –  Tempo requires the athlete to utilize every muscle in order to meet the demands of the tempo. This forces the athlete to remain in control and develop muscles to maintain it.