Rest Periods During Strength Workouts

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We all have different fitness goals.

Some folks want to lose weight.

Some want to put on muscle.

Others want to increase their sports performance.

While there are those that simply want to slow down the effects of aging.

Regardless of what your fitness goals are, if you incorporate strength training as a part of your routine, you need to use proper rest periods to work towards the goals you have.

In the last 5–10 years there has been a lot of confusion in the fitness community regarding rest periods and how tired you should be while training.

Most of this stems from crossfit.

People see folks in crossfit taking NO breaks, blasting through exercise after exercise in a fully exhausted state, and assume that training that way MUST be the best modality for progress.

This is where it gets complicated.

It’s not that training in an exhausted state is never a good protocol because it can be, but the FOUNDATION of your strength training should NOT be based around it.

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The Crooner, years ago, after a maximal effort Prowler challenge.

So why should your strength training not be primarily based around a lack of rest periods?

Let’s start with the basics.

The main purpose of strength training is to get stronger and build lean tissue/prevent loss of lean tissue.

In order to be able to make the most of each set, the body needs enough rest to perform optimally.

Different goals require different rest periods, but taking no rest is a sure fire way to hinder optimal strength/muscle gains.

You will never be able to perform maximally without adequate rest periods.

If someone prefers “exhaustive style strength training” it’s usually for one of two reasons.

Either they think it burns tons of calories, or think it’s good training for endurance sports.

Unfortunately both are more or less false.

First:

Strength training, no matter how fast paced, does NOT burn many calories.

You should NEVER do any workout based on how many calories it burns anyway.

Calories should be controlled with your diet while your workouts should build, shape, and strengthen your body.

Trying to keep a poor diet in check with workouts is a never ending game that you will not win.

Regardless of the type of workout, you will not be able to erase the carnage of poor eating. You may be able to soften the blow, but you will not wipe the slate clean even with daily workouts.

Second:

There is a very small correlation between strength training with no rest periods and progression in endurance sports.

An athlete’s strength program should mimic pieces of their sport.

For example, baseball and football have relatively short plays that require approximately three to ten seconds of work. They also have adequate rest periods between plays generally speaking.

So, in the gym, a good portion of their strength work should mime what they do during a play.

For the above athletes, that would mean doing an intense set in the 3–10 second range for their primary strength and power building.

For example, a football lineman doing a heavy set of six squats makes much more sense than sets of 50 that takes him two minutes to complete.

Could a 50 rep set EVER be beneficial to a lineman?

Sure, but certainly not as the mainstay of his training.

Now, when we consider endurance sports such as cycling and running, things greatly change.

Obviously if a bike race is two hours long you shouldn’t mimic doing squats for two hours in preparation just as a baseball or football player wouldn’t.

Furthermore, trying to imitate a two hour long bike or run with a 60 minute strength workout by not using any rest periods simply doesn’t have enough correlation to be beneficial.

Are you training your body to “work hard in varying ways for an hour”?

I suppose, but the correlation to helping you get faster is pretty low.

Instead, focus on how strength training CAN help you get faster and feel more powerful than ever before.

Rather than doing strength workouts that exhaust you and force you to keep pulling weight off the bar because you are smoked, give yourself adequate rest between sets and push more weight because of it.

Your body is already trained for the time portion of your event be it one, two, or three hours.

What it’s NOT trained for is being able to make maximal power for shorter periods of time.

Let’s say five to twenty seconds.

For example, a hill climb, a sprint to the finish, a quick pass before the end of a road, etc.

These are all examples of where maximal strength training power can be felt and very much appreciated when typical endurance power has peaked.

In endurance events, you need to think of the entire activity broken down into plays just like baseball or football would be.

Therefore, doing your strength training with heavier weight and adequate rest periods is going to prove VERY beneficial in your endurance sport.

Without it, you are not going to build the raw power to attack the hills, sprints, etc.

An exhaustive no break workout may only allow you to lift at 60% power, so you can begin to understand why you lose so many benefits when training in that manner.

So, both from a calorie burn standpoint and to aid in endurance sports, strength training in an exhausted state does not have much benefit.

However, no matter what speed you decide to take your training and how short your rest periods are, everyone should still be on the same page regarding one thing:

Form.

As we just discussed, exhaustive strength work isn’t the best choice for many people in general, but it is also a bad choice for anyone who has not MASTERED traditional strength training when given adequate rest periods.

If you cannot squat, deadlift, row, press, etc. with great form in a fully recovered state, then you shouldn’t even consider doing them if you are tired.

That is where injury occurs.

There are many pieces to the puzzle when it comes to sport specific strength training, but with a little guidance we can get you on the right track.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to help!

Email me at: JwaltersPT@gmail.com

or check out my website at: JonWalters.co

IG: JonWalters15

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Nick, one of the endurance athletes I sponsor through the gym, leading the pack.

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