Oh. My. Gosh. I finally did it, I finally wrote up the post that no one probably cares about anymore on tempo training. Tempo training can be an awesome addition to your strength training regimen and is great to perform on your ‘rest’ or light days as active recovery. The type of tempo work I’m talking about here and the type that we use at our gym is meant to be done for aerobic training (improving your aerobic capacity) where you work at 75% of your capacity or less. Here is a brief description of the purpose of tempo training and then we’ll get into some different ways it can be performed:




The benefits of these types of activities are that they improve capillary density to promote greater blood flow and recovery between training bouts, increase the amount of high intensity activity you can tolerate (work capacity), decrease recovery time the day after a hard training session, keep the athletes “fit” with a low body fat percentage (ever seen a fat, soft, pudgy, weak guy who could run really fast? Not very often!), and promote rhythm through cadence.

— John Cortese (from THIS article on EliteFTS.com)




Tyson helps out with my prowler tempo work
Tyson helps out with my prowler tempo work




Here are some ‘dumbed down’ basic points Steve wrote up for our athletes here at Powerhouse (some of these points are specific to running, I’ll go over other forms of tempo below):



  • Tempos are meant to be extensive work, not intensive work, meaning that there should be multiple sets and reps performed at 75% intensity or less
  • It is important to stay alactic (no lactic acid buildup) for tempos to be effective. All the other strength and speed training you do breaks the body down and requires recovery and the last thing you want is to run tempos at too high of an intensity so that they require recovery as well. Tempos should aid in recovery while building on your aerobic conditioning and building work capacity
  • Rest should be approximately 30-60 sec between reps and 2-4 minutes between sets
  • Remember that you are not training speed with tempos like this. Speed training needs to be performed at 95% + intensity with complete recovery. Any sprint work done between 75-95% is too intense for tempos and not intense enough for speed work. Sprints in this range can be used as anaerobic conditioning, but will require recovery afterwards like any other training session.
  • To find your 75% time at a given distance, you will need to either time it and then calculate your time or go based on perceived exertion
  • Your last sprint should feel the same as your first one so don’t kill yourself at the start
  • After each sprint in a set, walk back to the start. This should allow for enough time for recovery between sprints
  • Between sets, you can do some low intensity abs (spinter situps, v-ups, planks, russian twists etc.), pushups (light and never to failure) or some light band work if you have bands
  • Keep track of total yardage in a session and increase slowly over time
  • Tempos can be run 1-3 times per week depending on how much free time you have, how you’re recovering etc.




When most people think of aerobic or tempo work they think of jogging but really tempo work can be done a number of different ways. Molly Galbraith (of Girls Gone Strong) wrote an article for Juggernaut on different methods that can be used for tempo that you can check out. Here are some of the methods we like to use here at the gym. Remember that time, weight and distance will all need to be adjusted based on your current fitness level. As you continue you’ll want to increase distance/sets/reps/weight to continue progressing forward (don’t adjust all of them all at once!)




Skipping is awesome for tempo work 🙂





Light weight


Push 20 yards

Walk down & back 20 yards

Push 20 yards


Do 4-6 reps of this with some light ab work in between (10 v-ups, 10 toe touches, 10 sprinter situps) and do 3-5 total sets







Backwards sled drag  or high handle prowler push (15-20 yards or so)

20 Band Pullaparts

Forward sled drag or low handle prowler push

5 – 10 Pushups



Repeat 4-6 times with light upper body/core work between and do 3-4 total sets



Stationary Bike/Rowing Machine:


Bike/row at 75% of your max for 45 sec

Do 10 Glute Bridges

Bike/row at 75% of your max for 45 sec

Do 15 Russian Twists (per side)

Bike/row at 75% of your max for 45 sec

Do 10 band facepulls/pullaparts/scap pushups

Bike/row at 75% of your max for 45 sec

Do 10 leg lowers



Repeat 3-5 times, rest, and do 2-3 total rounds



Jump Rope


100 jump ropes

10 pushups

20 sprinter situps

15 band pullaparts

Rest 30 sec

x 5


Do 2 sets of (so 10 total rounds)



Kettlebell Swings


20 kettlebell swings

20 sprinter situps

50 rope jumps

15 band pullaparts

x 4


Do 2 rounds



Even this kid knows the benefits of tempo training




These are just a few examples of tempo work, you can obviously sub in different exercises, just make sure to keep it light. You are not strength training and whatever you’re doing between sets should not be fatiguing or be done to failure (no max pushups).




So here are the key take away points about tempo work:


  • It should be done at about 75% of your max capacity
  • You should remain alactic the entire time
  • This style of tempo training is meant to be for aerobic training
  • You should be doing the workout all at the same tempo – hence the name 😉





So now that you know a little bit more about tempo training I hope you think about adding it in to your usual routine. If you have any additional questions just email me: chelsey@powerhousefitfoodie.com





A Basic Guide to Tempo Training
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2 thoughts on “A Basic Guide to Tempo Training

  • September 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Hey, I’m still interested! 😀 Thank you for posting this! I guess I just struggled to see the difference between tempo and steady state cardio until you broke it down like this. Molly Galbraith’s article looks great, I’m going to read it in more depth when I get chance later on.

    I especially like the skipping and the kettlebell examples you give – I’ll be incorporating those into my regime for sure! Also, I wish I’d been brought up like that kid 😉

    • September 19, 2013 at 9:10 am

      Glad it helped. It’s something we have all of our athletes do leading up to season (usually for 12 weeks or so before) to get them ready for the intensity of games. I do it a 2-4 times to stay lean while getting in some ‘active recovery’. I just manipulate the number of rounds/time/weight week to week eventually my 75% max increases over time as my capacity goes up. I really do notice a difference with my alactic threshold and it has definitely increased my aerobic capacity.


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