Tempo Abbreviation Explained

x/x/x/x will be written as such meaning eccentric/ pause in stretched/ Concentric/ Pause Shortened, this applies when a tempo is specified. If there is no temp specified default to slow and controlled for any accessory and especially single joint exercise. For compound lifts if there is no tempo specified default to lower the weight under control and strong out of the bottom.

Why tempo? My goal when programming for you is to manipulate variables and work with intent to get a result. Weight, sets, and repetitions are the most obvious of those but tempo is a crucial one as well (as well as exercise selection). 40lbs lifted 5 times for 1-sec down, 1-sec up, is a completely different amount of work that 40lbs lowered slowly under control, paused for 3-seconds, and then slowly lifted back up for 3-sec.

Some reasons to add tempo work include, but are not limited to pumping blood flow to tendons, allowing more work to be done with less amount of weight, the feeling of “owning the weight” before moving in explosively for athletes. Also, tempo as both been show anecdotally and in studies to be an incredible way to program for fat loss.

Prefixes A, B, C, and PW, MM, PE

A,B,C, PW, MM, PE and Numbers

Exercises will be written in sequences of “A1. A2. A3.”  specifying the order they are to be done in. Once all of the “A” exercises are completed you will move on to the “B” exercises. Every exercise has both a purpose, order of importance, and inherent risk. Exercises with greater importance by the nature of their effectiveness and skill demands tend to have a greater risk. Therefore they will primarily be at the beginning of your workout when focus is at its highest. 

“PW” Sometimes single joint exercises will be included as muscular prep for the following exercise. For example leg curls before squats, if you're interested here is a good T-Nation article on the subject. This exercises will be prefaced with “PW” for pre-work. Activity meant specifically to excite the central nervous system, such as vertical jumps before squats, will be labeled “PW” for pre-work. 

“MM” before an exercise means that this is specifically added to increase “mind muscle” connection to a specific muscle before your lift. 

“PE” pre-exhaustion means that you are trying to intentionally fatigue that muscle before the lift to follow. A classic example is a lifter with core musculature that needs to be brought up to speed, or that is recovering from an injury. For example, pre-exhausting the legs before squats (with extension or leg-presses) so that there is still stimulus to the lower body in the compound move but the ability to brace through the back and anterior core will become less of a limiting factor.



Pre-exhaustion in training/bodybuilding terms tends to be used as a cover all definition for anytime an exercise, usually a one joint isolation move, precedes a compound exercise. For your program pre-exhaustion is going to fall into three more specific categories: 

PE = pre-exhaustion. This can be because we want to fatigue the certain prime mover muscles so that the stabilizers (think the lower back, core, shoulder girdle for squats) don’t have to work as hard. Especially if the afore mentioned muscles are a weak link in your particular kinetic chain or compromised because of injury history. For example, 5 x 10 leg extensions or 2 x 30/30 1-leg leg-press before squats. Another example would be chest flyes before pressing to bring lagging pecs up to speed. If your exercise prescribed has “PE” before it think get a burn!  

PW = Pre-work, exercises in this category are primarily for blood flow. I particularly find value in pumping the antagonist/stabilizer muscles with blood before a compound lift. For example, leg curls before squats. We aren’t necessarily try to destroy the hamstrings but surge blood to the knees and turn on  the hamstrings before performing their stabilizer and secondary roll. Linked here is a T-Nation article discussing the topic of Leg Curl First, Squat Later. Something that I’ve found useful for trainees with shoulder issues, especially anterior humeral glide, is high-rep rows or iso-metric batwing holds before pressing. Also, this could be prescribed to help pump blood flow to joints especially if you have issues such as elbow tendinitis. 

MM = Mind Muscle connection. If this preface is used before the exercises the main purpose is help the mind muscle connection. For example you might have hip-adduction machine reps before before squats if your adductors aren’t firing during the squat which can often lead to over emphasis on the lumbar spine. Another example would be 1-arm bench press before your barbell bench, or lat raises before overhead press. These exercises should be done generally with RPE7 intensity.