When I come across fitness magazine covers or overhear party conversations about working out, the primary focus is many times “which exercise is best for _____”. Now this may sound a little crazy coming from someone who teaches movement for a living, but when programming for physiological change, the exercise or movement you choose may be the least important variable. Hear me out…
Workout A – Do sets of Heavy Barbell Back Squats for sets of 1-3 reps per set
Workout B – Do Kettlebell, Dumbbell or Barbell Front Squats for sets of 8-12 reps per set
Workout C – Do Bodyweight Air Squats for 100 reps per set
Do you think they would all produce the same results? They all are just Squats right? However, Workout A would be great for Strength and Power but lousy for building endurance. Workout B would be ideal for building muscle, but not perfect for building power and Workout C would gain lots of endurance but would be counterproductive to building maximal strength. What was the primary differing variable between each workout? Repetitions, which are simply a measure of work time, also sometimes known as TUT or Time Under Tension.
Timing in your workouts is extremely important and often overlooked. There are a couple of other different categories that timing is critical:
–Total Workout Time – Maximum workout time should not exceed 45-60 minutes including warm-up and cool down. Any efforts beyond that limit will be counterproductive hormonally and lead to overtraining
–Rest Time – Stay tight to the guidelines given with your program. Keep a digital watch or stopwatch at your side to monitor yourself. Rest time should be counter to work time. Short, intense sets require longer rest periods of 2-5 minutes to restore both neurological and physiological factors, whereas longer, high rep sets require minimal rest of 1 minute or less.
–Tempo – Exercise tempo should broken out into a 4 number sequence. These numbers represent the following:
1st # – Eccentric – How long it takes to lower the weight
2nd # – Pause – Maintain tension and control as you transition from down to up
3rd # Concentric – How long it takes to lift the weight
2nd # – Pause – Maintain tension and control as you transition from up to down
So a tempo of 4-1-1-1 in a bench press would mean take 4 seconds to lower the bar to your chest, pause there for 1 second, lift the weight quickly to the top in 1 second and pause again at the top for 1 second before lowering again. Varying tempos can creating a great training effect.
So next time you ask “what is the best exercise for _____?” think that even if I told you, I would be wasting your time if we don’t consider these important variables.