Maximize your strength training routine by cutting out these time wasters.Read article
They’re the walking dead, and they’re everywhere. In every gym in America, you’ll see them by the dozen: guys walking aimlessly from station to station, leaning on machines, wasting time and getting nothing done, without a clue as to why they’re not seeing progress.
That’s not you anymore. You’re not a zombie. You’re alive, your workouts have a definite purpose, and your new approach in the gym optimizes the time between your sets and exercises. In fact, from now on, you won’t have nearly as much of it—rest, that is—because it’s time to start monitoring your recovery periods by taking advantage of the principle of continuous partial recovery (CPR).
“You have to time your rest periods,” says Jay Ashman, director of athletics at Gorilla Pit Strength Sports in Mentor, Ohio. “Aside from the actual number of reps in a set, the time you spend letting your muscles recover (or not recover) will have the biggest influence on your results. Once you decide what you actually want, your rest periods need to line up with that goal.”
Different rest periods cause different training effects. So if you’re trying to get stronger in a particular main lift like the bench, squat or power clean, your rest periods will be relatively long—think three minutes or more—to encourage full recovery of your muscles and central nervous system.
For mass gain and fat loss, your rest periods will be significantly shorter. In most cases, you should rest for less than 90 seconds between movements. We’ll address exactly why this is the case shortly, but for now, understand that it matters what you do between sets as well as how long you wait before jumping back under the bar.
The idea behind CPR is the strict monitoring of rest periods during your workouts to ensure your muscles never completely recover between sets. From the very beginning of a CPR training session, you’re building fatigue—in both your muscles and your cardiovascular system—and your body won’t get a break until you’re on your way out the door with your gym bag over your shoulder.
The primary goal here is to fatigue your fast-twitch (Type II) muscle fibers, the ones you’re capable of adding the most mass to through weight-training. Muscle is built this way because when your fast-twitch fibers get fatigued, they recruit more fast-twitch fibers to keep up. And when you recruit more muscle fibers, you can build more muscle mass.
“To recruit fast-twitch fibers, you have to lift in a fairly explosive manner, even if you’re a bodybuilder or a guy who’s looking to add size but isn’t overly concerned about enhancing speed or power,” Ashman says. “Lower the weight under control to take advantage of the eccentric portion of a lift, but strive to really get some pop off the bottom of the move.”
The next reward CPR training offers comes when you glance at the clock on your way out of the gym. By heading in with a plan of attack—a predetermined combination of sets, reps and truncated rest periods—you’ll find yourself getting a lot more done than usual in a lot less time. You should always monitor your rest periods whether you use a CPR-style program or not, but shortening them this drastically is the perfect solution for anyone with a busy schedule.
Don’t be mistaken: This style of training is just plain hard. You’ll be in constant motion for at least 40-45 minutes without much in the way of a break, and that’s going to make you tired. Very tired. Your body will adapt, however,and you’ll learn to recover rapidly between sets. You’ll burn loads of bodyfat, and you’ll be in significantly better shape at the end of this four-week training period.
Before you get started, you’ll need to buy a quality stopwatch, preferably one that can time both your rest periods and total workout duration simultaneously. In the gym, your stopwatch is your prized possession, so treat it accordingly.
When you finish at a particular station—a bench, for example—make your stopwatch the first thing you secure, either in your bag or around your neck, before you move on.
To time your rest periods, simply start the stopwatch as soon as you complete the last rep in a set. This factors in time spent changing the weight on the bar or exchanging dumbbells. Start the clock, do what you need to do, and count that time toward your rest period. If it takes you longer than the allotted time to get the barbell ready, just start your next set and focus on changing the weight faster next time.
Putting yourself on the clock like this will encourage good training habits. You’ll no longer be tempted to waste time chatting with others or checking yourself out in the mirror. Instead, with recovery time suddenly a precious commodity, you’ll be completely focused on what you need to do to get in, get it done and get out.
“When clients leave here, what sticks with them is the stopwatch,” Ashman says. “Most people have never trained that way before, but once they do, there’s no going back. I’ve had people get to the gym, realize they forgot their stopwatch, then drive all the way home to get it before they can start training.”
This program is a four-days-a-week blowout designed to jump-start your training for the next month by developing solid gym discipline and building fast-twitch muscle fibers through fatigue. This template is an upper/lower training split consisting of exercises you can set up and break down with relative ease, keeping your rest periods to an absolute minimum.
Between sets, rest for the amount of time listed in the template. Between exercises, give yourself 2–3 minutes, but again, time spent walking from station to station or preparing an area for an exercise should be counted against your rest period.