Build Muscle/Get Curvy/Tone Up/Etc.


Fitness words sometimes make me hate life. I can’t stand buzz words like “core” “stability” “tone” “Brazilian butt lift” and “Santorum”. Yet, I use them anyways, because it helps people understand what the hell I’m talking about at any given time, which is a feat in itself. However, when I do say things like “squeeze your abs in order to increase core stability so we can effectively create a Brazilian butt lift”, a little part of my insides cry.

In other news, I haven’t posted in a while because I sprained my wrist while snowboarding with one of my clients. So I had the dubious honor of sitting on a park bench with my wrist swollen and bruised, wrapped in a self-made splint that I was able to create out of pieces of cardboard and medical tape (thanks for nothing ski patrol) and watching people engage in super fun snow sports on a beautiful day in February. Lesson learned: snowboarding is hard, stick to skiing, don’t fall, and bring a laptop for the off-chance that you do, so you can spend your time drowning your sadness on facebook, and not moping in real life. Moving on.

Because of my unfortunate wrist incident, I have not been able to engage in a variety of activites that I find very pleasurable. Eating with my right hand, typing delightful blog posts, and opening cans of salsa for my wife. Thus, my inactivity on the interwebs. I’m not sorry.

But here’s some fitness wisdom to help you dominate your next workout, and dominate Thursday in general. A lot of people don’t think about speed when you’re lifting. You might meander from exercise to exercise, doing 10 reps here, 15 here, and generally going at your own pace, not looking at clock or a watch, letting the sounds of Carrie Underwood’s romantic laments soothe you into a fitness coma. Similarly, people don’t often think about how fast or slow they lift or lower weights. Some people are very explosive, using some serious body english to move the weight where they want it, some are more methodical, taking time to raise and lower their pink dumbbells with care.

However, if your goal is to build muscle, reclaim your feminine physique, or get toned in certain areas, then the tempo at which you raise and lower weights is of the utmost importance. Typically tempo is annotated with 3 numbers, often looking like: 201. The 2 dictates how long in seconds you take to lower the weight (eccentric portion), the 0 dictates how long your hold the weight at the peak or top of the movement, and the 1 dictates how long it takes you to raise the weight (the concentric portion). So if we were talking about a pullup at a 201 tempo, you would pull up in 1 second, hold for 0 seconds, and lower in 2 seconds.

There is really no ‘magic’ tempo that causes muscle gain rapidly compared to all differing tempos. I’m sure that being off by one second has little to no bearing on how effective the exercise actually is. That being said, the tempo I have found most effective to increase the muscle in a certain area is a 402 tempo.  This is a very humbling tempo, because in order to get through the prescribed amount of reps, you might need to lower the weight (men) or push through a significant burn (women)

I would start this off conservatively. Pick a body part that you would like to work hard on like glutes or biceps, pick an exercise that corresponds well to that body part, and do 4 sets of 10 reps of that exercise at the 402 tempo. For glutes, I would pick a single leg hip bridge with weight, and for biceps, I would pick dumbbell hammer curls.
Another good tip would be to have a watch or a clock that you can see while you do this or a training partner that counts for you. Time seems to pass at a different rate when your arms are burning, or you’re doing a plank.

This will make you sore, so make sure you’re properly hydrated, getting a good post workout meal, and taking vitamin C to help alleviate some of that.

And if you’ve read this far, are female, and think “why would I want to build muscle? I don’t want to look all bulky!” – Stop. please.



    • Sorry to hear about your wrist! I broke my wrist trying to snowboard for the first time in 2009. I’m also sticking to skiis from now on. Also, wrist guard gloves. Keep up the awesome blog posts, they always motivate me to try new exercises.

    • @Jeff: pixxx or it didn’t happen
      @pryl: Thanks, I need all the sympathy I can get. helps with the healing process. I’m glad you like them. Hows your whole foods challenge going?

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