Lifting For Strength


Gym Rat #1- “Yo bro, how did you get so jacked”

Gym Rat #2- “I lift heavy… do like 15 reps for each set... bro.”

Lifting For Strength

In a perfect world, the resident meathead at your local X-Sport wouldn’t double as your trove of workout knowledge. With a McDonalds on every corner and the Cubs having not won a World Series since 1908 , this world is far from perfect and so, the biggest guy at X-Sport is often your source for everything lifting.  First off, I’m not here to discredit the big guys. Visit T-Nation and you’ll find enormous guys with enormous knowledge.  The truth is, there is more to lifting than pushing around heavy weight, especially when you have specific goals in mind.  Speeding through 10-12 reps isn’t the same as 10-12 reps using a slow tempo.  However, most program design you find will list numbers that make little-to-no sense for the desired outcome.  So before we go on, there are key definitions we need to go over so this blog doesn’t turn into an endless rambling full of fitness jargon.

Tempo- Simply put, the time it takes you to complete one repetition. Looking at a squat- if it takes you 2 seconds to lower the weight (eccentric phase), you pause 1 second in the lowered state, and you raise the weight for 2 seconds (concentric phase), your tempo is 5 seconds (2+2+1=5)

Time Under Tension (TUT)- The amount of time it takes to move the prescribed weight for the given amount of reps in a set (if 1 complete rep takes 5 seconds and you do 5 reps, TUT will be 25 seconds)

Reps- The number of repetitions you do in a set.

Sets- A group of repetitions for an exercise.

Rest- The time taken between an exercise or exercises.

To illustrate my point, let’s imagine a power lifter. He’s probably big, round, and bald, reminiscent of a bowling ball.  It is common for these athletes to bench 500+ pounds and squat nearly 1000 pounds.  When you watch these guys lift, they rarely go over 3-5 reps and the tempo is usually explosive.  After all, if you are trying to squat 3 times your bodyweight, the weight needs to be moved quickly or it'll crush you.  The rest in between their sets can range anywhere from 5-10 minutes.  This allows for the energy systems in their body to “replenish” and allows for another set at maximal effort.  Sets can range anywhere from 5-12 as they share an inverse relationship with reps (as reps go up, sets go down and vice versa). The time under tension generally ranges from 1-20 seconds (although this can be greater when discussing Functional Strength, but that will be discussed at another time).  Below, you will find the general exercise prescription for relative strength.

Tempo: Explosive (a.k.a. fast)

Time Under Tension (TUT): 1-20 seconds

Reps: 1-5

Sets: 5-12

Rest: 5-10 minutes

There you have it.  If someone tells you to do 15 reps with heavy weight, disregard it.  If you’re doing 15 reps, you are on the opposite end of the spectrum for strength training.


-Ryan "Ren" Reynolds BS CSCS CHEK Exercise Coach

If you would like to know more feel free to call GrandeFit at 847-561-6113 or email me