Lift Fast Or Lift Slow? Lifting Tempo

If you have ever watched a group of people in the weight room you may have noticed that everybody lifts at a different speed. Some people lift incredibly fast while others seem to be working out in slow motion.

While lifting fast or slow is neither right or wrong, your lifting tempo is important and should be a conscious decision every time you lift weights.

I want to list a few pros and cons to each method of lifting:

Fast Lifting


-Fast lifting is functional. Do you reach over your head in to the cupboard for a can of soup in slow motion? No, you reach up quickly and grab it. Functional training has been steadily gaining popularity and it’s no surprise! Being able to take your hard work at the gym and apply it to everyday situations is incredibly useful. I love being able to carry my grocery bags home and not having to make two trips! It’s also nice knowing that I will be independent as I age. I won’t have to rely on friends and family to help me complete simple chores.

-Fast lifting also allows you to lift heavier. If you have ever watched power lifters you will notice their lifting tempo is quite fast. If your aim is sheer power and strength than a fast lifting tempo may be for you.

-Fast reps are also used for sport specific training. You need to train muscles for how they will be used. Athletes for the most part, need fast and powerful training for fast and powerful muscles.


-Lifting fast is not recommended for beginners simply because their lifting technique has not been perfected. Fast lifting without proper technique may cause you to use momentum in all the wrong ways! Swinging your body with heavy weights will surely cause an injury. Especially be careful of the low back and avoid a fast tempo all together if you currently have any lower back injuries or conditions.

-Most people lift to achieve nice muscle tone or increased mass. To achieve this goal you need increased tension when you lift. The faster you lift the LESS tension you are putting on your muscles.

Think of it this way; when you lift the weight your muscles are working. This is called the positive phase of your rep. When you are lowering the weight (negative phase) your muscles face resistance.

Resistance = Increased blood flow. You want to increase blood flow to the muscles because this helps stimulate growth while you rest in between workouts and heal. Your muscles grow to match the demand of the work you lifted with so they will continually progress in strength and appearance.

Slow Lifting


-Slow lifting is great for beginners because it teaches body awareness. When you lift slow you concentrate. You watch the muscle being worked and you feel every single movement right down to your twitching muscle fibers. A slow lifting tempo is safer and is a good speed to learn new exercises on.

-As mentioned above, slow reps increase tension on negative reps and is a proven training method for muscle size and appearance.

The good speed for a slow rep would be 4 seconds up, 4 seconds down However some people lift much slower.


-Slow lifting is well…Slow. It can get boring. My suggestion to avoid this, is to concentrate on the benefits of slow lifting and how it will help you achieve your goals. Also, switch up your tempo once in a while to take a break from slow reps and to keep your body guessing.

-Unlike fast reps with heavier weights, slow reps require a lighter weight. If you are used to lifting a heavy weight and then you have to lighten your lifting load, it may seem like you are going backward in strength gains. However, this isn’t really a con because it’s all psychological. If you are not heavily focused on how much you are lifting and instead are focused on what you are doing for your physique, then all is well. Besides, when you can’t even finish the set going slow with a lighter weight, you will be glad you went lighter!

A good middle ground is the standard rep. 2 seconds up, 3 seconds down. This is what most people are doing without even realizing it! Another “best of both worlds” method is fast positives, slow negatives.

For most people I would recommend standard-slow tempo training for the most part and throwing in a fast lifting tempo once in a while for change and to improve explosive power.

Choosing the right lifting tempo is crucial to results. Next time you lift try out fast, slow and standard tempos and get a feel for all three. Then evaluate your goals and chose the best tempo for what you are looking to achieve.

Lift Hard!