Once Halloween hits it seems like life becomes a roller coaster ride until the New Year. Many of us are in the go-go-go mentality of maintaining our work and/or school commitments along with having the added responsibilities of holidays, family, and entertaining. While there is a lot of joy this time of year there is also an equal amount of stress. One of the great lessons we can take from strength training is that, in order to push hard, we need to make time for recovery. Traditional strength training work-outs are divided into sets of exercise consisting of a certain amount of repetitions, each set is followed by a period of rest. The rest period is just as important as the working period. Taking the adequate rest between sets is absolutely essential to making progress with our strength training. Often we fail to give the rest period in our life the importance it deserves. This is detrimental to the progress we make both in and out of the gym.
There are a myriad of different strategies when it comes to work/rest intervals. The ratio will often depend on your goals for strength training: some people lift to improve muscular endurance for long distance events, some people lift to increase there lean muscle mass and rev up there metabolism, some people lift for muscle hypertrophy and developing a particular body part of interest, others lift for pure strength building. A general rule is that the heavier you lift (or the higher percentage of your one rep max to be technical about it) the longer your rest period needs to be. For example, power lifters may rest for upwards of five minutes between sets. Most of us at 50/50 aren’t lifting heavy enough to require this much rest, so typically a 1:1 work:rest ratio is very effective when we are lifting. This will seem like a lot of rest to many of you, but I promise it is effective. The key is truly picking a weight that challenges you in the 6-12 rep range, meaning the last two reps are very difficult (but not impossible) to complete with proper form. For those of us who thrive on pushing ourselves to the max every second of every day this rest thing can be very challenging at first, but I swear that the endorphin rush you get from a well executed dead-lift or bench press will rival any runner’s high.
When we think about our body’s need for rest and recovery our mind often go towards yoga and stretching, which are great for your body and I highly encourage you to participate in these activities. But, I want to challenge you to think of this need for rest and the importance of rest in all your work-outs, particularly your strength training. Use this rest time to mentally prepare your body, coach yourself through proper form in your head, visualize yourself executing the move, and congratulate yourself on making progress towards your goals. Mindful strength training is effective strength training, and rest is an essential part of this equation. Take a deep breath and say ahhhh……
Jay McWilliams C.S.C.S