Many of our exercises use tempo training for better quality of movement, lower risk of injury, and increase in strength. When you see four numbers (or an X) with an exercise, this tells you the speed in seconds for each component starting with the eccentric (down) movement. X means as fast as possible in an explosive movement. Even if a movement starts with an upward motion, such as a pull-up, begin counting the rep with the downward component.
Breaking the code - What does "32X1" mean?!
The order of the tempo numbers is always Down, Hold, Up, Pause
For example, a back squat with the tempo of 32X1 would
look like this:
3 – Moving smoothly, use 3 seconds to squat to full depth
2 – Hold for 2 seconds at the bottom
X – Explode up as quickly as you can
1 – Start the next rep after 1 second
Be sure to count each second fully.
If you see a 0, that means do not pause - for example, a movement at 3030 would mean moving smoothly down for 3 seconds and smoothly up for 3 seconds, with no pause at the bottom and no pause at the top to reset.
Even if a movement starts at the bottom, such as a Pull Up, you'd read the numbers in the same order. For example, a Pull Up at 20X1 would mean starting from a dead hang, then on the first rep explode up to the top (X), hold for 1 second with chin over the bar (1), lower with control for 2 seconds, and go right into the next rep with 0 seconds hanging from the bar.
Not all movements will have a tempo, depending on their complexity and the goals of the workout. Each workout has been thoughtfully designed for effectiveness as well as providing breaks where free movement is encouraged.
When choosing loads, follow the pointers in each workout and make sure you can complete all of the reps for each while staying in tempo.
For more examples see the “What is Tempo” video: