How to understand program NOTATIONS and TEMPO training

How to understand program NOTATIONS and TEMPO training

This article is a guide to understanding Frogman Project programming and why we use programming notations and tempos. Programs contain tempo and notation for 2 reasons:

It helps to maintain a quality and standard in the strength and conditioning world where every coach uses the same format to structure exercise order and the way you are to do your reps. This is important for standardising.

The order of the exercises is firstly written alphabetically with A B C etc etc. If there is a number after the letter it means that there a 1,2 or more exercises in that section that need to be completed in THAT order before moving onto the next section. Let’s break it down further.

Notation Ordering

When you see something like this:

A. Chin up
B. Strict press
C. Reverse curl

This means that the first exercise, chin up, is performed until all the sets, reps, and rests are complete. Then the strict press and reverse curl follow in that order.
Skill and complexes are written as follows:

D1. Deadlift
D2. Good morning
D3. Bent over row

This notation indicates that one set of exercise D1 is performed, followed by one set of exercise D2, and then one set of exercise D3. The number of sets will be indicated in the notation, for example:

E1. Ring rows – 3 x 10
E2. Ring dips – 3 x 10

That would describe 3 rounds of a superset, with 10 reps being performed in every set. Another example would be:

F1. Lateral raise – 10/8/6
F2. Front raise – 9/7/5

That describes 3 rounds of a superset, but the number of reps in each set changes in each round (10 reps of lateral raises followed by 9 reps of front raises in the first round).


Tempo is the speed at which a rep is performed – by speeding up or slowing down a rep we can completely change the outcome on the athlete.

Tempo divides a repetition into four phases: For example 3-0-1-0

  1. The first number in the series (3) is the length in time, measured in seconds, of the eccentric phase or lowering part of the lift.
  2. The second number (0) is the transition time or pause between the eccentric and concentric phases.
  3. The third number (1) is the length in time of the concentric phase or lifting part of the lift.
  4. The fourth number (0) is the transition time between the end of the concentric phase of the current rep, and the start of the eccentric phase of the next rep.

Note that an X indicates that the phase should be performed as explosively as possible. For example, a X/0/2/0 tempo on the bench press would mean that you press the bar up as quickly as you can, not pausing at the top, then take 2 seconds to lower the bar to your chest, with no pause before beginning the next rep. See a video example here.

Rest and Extended Sets

Rest intervals are indicated within the program usually, like this:

Back squat 4 x 10-12, 45 secs rest between sets

If you see no explicit guidelines, typically a rest of 60-90 secs is appropriate, although more rest may be needed for heavy compound movements, and less may be needed for isolation work.

Our programming is progressive and the tempo and percentages have been calculated, trialed and tested to ensure continual progression. Mess with the numbers and you mess with your progress.

To get a real insight into how we use this in our programs, sign up to our Free intro week below.

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