Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rest Periods Should Feel Like Rest

My new client, Katherine, is a marathon runner who trained in Denver under 2 different trainers and is very active. I love these types of clients because they LOOK for ways to challenge their bodies and are not afraid to seek out different schools of thought via different trainers. Katherine explained that she has put on about 8-10 pounds since her last child and wants to take her strength-training up a level. She was in considerable good shape and possessed a good foundation of strength. 

Schools of thought do tend to differ among the training crowd, however, in my opinion...some things are just plain ol' blatant. Currently, her strength program was inconsistent with her goals and physical ability. It was comprised of isolated movements with pink dumbbells and conversations between sets with her partner. Sure added that they did perform "compound movements like squats and curls", but something was missing.She wanted me to figure out what it was. It was too obvious for me, so it was time for her to evaluate.

So I asked Katherine, "Where is the intensity?"

She said, "I guess there really isn't any".

I replied, "Then you just trouble-shooted your own program".

She answered, "I need you to show me HOW to train."

Wanna know what happened next?

After a screening using an overhead squat and some movement preparatory drills including:

Ankle Mobility
Adductor Lengthening
Glute Bridges
Mobility "S" Drill for Shoulders:

Given her already above average fitness level, I developed a quick circuit to help her keep her stamina and burn some calories to rid her of those 8-10 additional pounds she wanted gone:
Circuit #1
DB Push Press
Squat with Medicine ball (PNF Pattern)
Single Leg Squat Reaches on an elevated step
Push ups

Circuit #2
Woodchops (hi to lo)
1 Arm DB Rows
MB Toss Squat
Plank with plate transfer

She completed these 2 circuits with a 3rd circuit consisting of floor exercises. Each circuit was repeated 3 times. Rest in between circuits was kept under 30 seconds. During one of her rest periods (later in the program), she looked at me with a sweaty face and heavy breath and said, "Man, this really makes rest periods feel like....well, I guess!"

Moral: Stop resting so long in between sets. Stop watching TV, talking, or reading in between sets of exercises. Make your workouts more efficient...not LONGER!

Don't under-estimate work capacity. Fatigue is disguised in different fitness levels and is one trusted indicator of intensity. I have found that different people will need different amounts of rest periods. Some do well with 20 seconds, 30 seconds, and more. It really depends on fitness level, history, and feedback. The best tools I have always used to guage intensity during a client session is:

1.) RPE. I use a scale of 1-10 or 1-5. The higher the number the more intense.
2.) Facial Expressions. Nothing beats a good facial expression. Watch for grimaces, bunched up eye-brows, or red cheeks. 
3.) Form Breakdown. Once exercise form breaks down, the set is ceased. There is really no point in continuing the exercise with compensations. The point is to groove the correct movement patterns for the sake of optimal performance; not to train them to exhaustion for some sadistic desire.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent advice, John. It would be interesting to follow Katherine's progress under your expertise. Cheers to her success and to yours.

    Rick Kaselj


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