I have seen two men work out on the same routine, using the same number of sets and reps, same weights, and only one of them great. Which one? The one who had a workout tempo. What is a workout tempo?
Workout tempo is the evenly spaced sets (time-wise) without any distractions, and complete concentration on when to pick up the next weight and do the next set.
Without even giving it a name, champions instinctively use this tempo when working out; while 90 percent of the other members walk around the gym between sets, gossip with their buddies, or look at a magazine, or just sit down and rest. Distraction to a champ is disastrous. He will tell you he loses his energy level and pump if distracted. In fact, if this occurs, you might as well quit in the middle of your workout and rest an hour or so, then try it again and take up where you left off.
Complete singleness of purpose is the key to concentration, and is engendered by a burning desire to receive satisfaction from a workout. Doing a prescribed number of sets and reps without workout tempo produces no satisfaction, and without this feeling of accomplishment, I cannot see how progress is made.
I have always felt that each workout I take is progressively different than the last one, and this simply means that more inter-muscle tension is used and tighter contractions are employed. This results in greater satisfaction with each workout.
By the way, when you reach this level of accomplishment in your workout, you may confuse this elated state of feeling with the need to do more work. Beware!!! This is where you could make your biggest mistake, by taking on more work and over-working. Remember, a little poison cures, too much kills.
(IronMan, July 1984)