Exercise Execution Details(Selection, Tempo, Breathing, Time Under Tension, Mind Muscle Connection)

How to perform an exercise and maximise the results?  Today, we are going to discuss the exercise execution details including exercise selection, variation, tempo, breathing etc.  We will discuss all these from a muscle hypertrophy standpoint.

#1 Target Muscle & Exercise

Every muscle has to be targeting a muscle.  First Muscle, then Exercise.  The weight used or intensity should match your goal as well.  You can refer to the basics:

  • 1-5 RM:Strength
  • 8-12 RM:Muscle Hypertrophy
  • 15+ RM:Muscle Endurance

Besides, exercise variation is crucial as well.  Each exercise will involve several muscle groups.

Like a simple Push Up.  Different variation targets different muscle group.  Just a hand position can lead to many variations:

  • Wide Grip: Chest focus.
  • Narrow Grip: Tricep focus.
  • Lower position: Front Deltoid focus.
  • Push Upward: Upper Chest focus.
  • Push Downward: Lower Chest focus.
  • Side: Higher intensity.
  • Knee: Lower intensity.

Thus, the exercise intensity & variation should be match your target muscle.

#2 Tempo/Speed

Have you ever heard like: slow tempo, fast tempo etc?  How slow/fast exactly are we talking about here?  Tempo can be represented as follows:  The most common Slow Tempo means:  2 seconds Concentric 2 seconds Eccentric.


  • The 1st no. = Time for Eccentric portion. (Lowering down)
  • The 2nd no. = Time at the bottom. (Pause at bottom)
  • The 3rd no. = Time for Concentric portion.  (Pushing up)
  • The 4th no. = Time at the top.  (Pause at top)

1 means mentally count 1 second.  2 means 2 seconds. 0 means no pause.  For explosive/plyometric lifts, we often use X to represent.

We may vary the tempo according to exercises.  Some common examples are:

  • 1010/2020: Most common tempo for almost all exercises.
  • 4010/3010/2010: For eccentric training.



Why tempo are important?  There are two concepts to understand:

  1. Eccentric Contraction
  2. Time under Tension


Eccentric Contraction

Studies shown that Eccentric Contraction is CRUCIAL to the muscle hypertrophy.  Recall those time when we are able to perform dozens of Push ups in Secondary School but yet still no significant muscle gains?  It is probably because those form of training (No eccentric contraction)  is not optimal for muscle hypertrophy.  Rather, explosiveness relies on these tempo.

Time under Tension (TUT)

TUT can be simplified as :

The time for an exercise execution. aka. The time for muscle under loads.

For muscle hypertrophy standpoint, at least 20-30s TUT is required.  Meaning 8-12 reps with moderate tempo.  In fact, there are many combinations along with different exercises/tempo/training principle etc.  As there are many to discuss on TUT, so we won’t discuss in detail.


#3 Breathing

Breathe with rhyme is needed.  If not rhythmic, your performance may be jeopardised.  The most common way is :

  • to exhale in concentric portion
  • inhale in eccentric portion

For beginners, please just use this way.


Also, try not to hold the breath during the reps.  As it may increase the pressure in your abdomen & then blood pressure, and might cause discomfort.  For experienced lifters, holding the breaths can be used on demand.  As it can help us to exert greater force.  Often used in heavy lifting.  For example, we hold the breaths for squatting up with heavy weights.


In fact, there many different ways to breathe during execution,  Mainly depending on the exercise.  No matter which way, just stay in the tempo & breathe.


#4 Mind-Muscle Connection (MMC)

Mind-Muscle Connection is a very important topic, so we will discuss it in a separate video in coming future.

What it means is that

The Ability to Control the Muscle.

  • If you have a good MMC, you can exert more force deliberately with that particular muscle.  Thus, better muscle stimulation.
  • If you don’t, you cannot exert more force deliberately with that particular muscle.  Thus, less muscle stimulation as the forces are dispersed.

For beginners, MMC is not your top priority.  For experienced lifters, MMC might be the key to break through your plateau.

#5 Common Mistake

The most common mistake people made is that

They have no idea what they are doing.

They just do the exercise without knowing how and why.  Without knowing these fundamental knowledge, the results will be greatly compromised.  I hope everyone can know what/how/why they are doing.  Execute with targets to maximise the gains.

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