Metabolic Conditioning and Training Rest Periods
As trainers, you now know all about reps, sets, and timed intervals, but how does the rest, taken between all this, factor in?
Rest periods can be defined as the break prescribed to the client to take between the exercises and sets they are performing.
This is time that is dedicated to the recovery between their sets and exercises and will vary depending on the client’s goals, the exercise being performed, the load being lifted, the training status of the client, and the chosen protocol being used.
When speaking about rest periods, it is important to note that they are going to be very different across various modalities. For example, the rest period used when performing strength training, will be different than when doing plyometric training and that will be different than those used when performing power training.
Benefits of Short Rest Periods
With metabolic training, you want to be using rest periods that are short enough to allow the client to keep going, but not long enough that they are fully recovered. The goal with metabolic training is to build up an excessive level of fatigue by the time the workout is over. This is what will then trigger many of the benefits that have already discussed throughout this course (increased fat loss, fatigue tolerance, muscle strength, and so forth).
It takes about 2.5 to 3 minutes for the phosphagen stores to be replenished, which is the storage form of creatine phosphate and ATP in the body. Therefore, rest periods in metabolic training will never last this long.
If training for pure strength, it would be imperative that the phosphagen stores were fully recovered so that the next set done, the client/athlete could give 100% maximum effort, lifting as heavy of a weight as possible.
With metabolic training, research has suggested that it is ideal to keep rest periods to 60 seconds or fewer for optimal results. Studies published in the Muscle Strength Training Techniques and Considerations journal noted that shorter rest periods lasting 30-60 seconds or less resulted in the greatest overall growth hormone response compared to rest periods that lasted longer.
Remember as noted earlier, growth hormone is one of the key hormones involved in helping clients get leaner and stronger. Consequently, one must do all they can to maximize it.
Additionally, when keeping rest periods to the shorter side, you will also, create a higher overall level of lactate in the exercising muscle, which helps the body improve its ability to buffer the accumulating lactate, therefore improving the ability to sustain moderate, near maximal or maximal contractions over a given period of time.
The better an individual is able to do this, the harder they can exercise for a longer period of time, thus improving training progress. This is great for athletes who need to improve work capacity over time
As it turns out, if one of the goals is adding more lean muscle mass, having shorter rest periods may also be more beneficial. It’s been noted in the book Human Kinetics, that using a work to rest ratio of 1:1 in conjunction with high training volume and weight load that has an individual lifting between 8 and 12 repetitions per set.
In this situation, one would probably find that using a work interval of 30-45 seconds and then the same length of time for the rest interval – 30-45 seconds would be ideal.
If a trainer really wanted to take things to the extreme, research shows that a particular method of training called Tabata training, created by Dr. Izumi Tabata offers the absolute best metabolic effects available. In the study, published in the Medicine and Science of Sports and Exercise, researchers noted that doing just four minutes of training using intervals of 20 seconds and rest periods of 10 seconds, repeated 8 times resulted in greater fat loss results than 60 minutes of steady-state cardio at the gym. This is great news for time-pressed clients – now they can see better overall fat loss results exercising for just four minutes compared to 60 minutes per session.
These sessions are intense, so are obviously not something that would implemented in a beginner trainees’ routine. This type of training tends to also produce the best cardiovascular and anaerobic fitness improvements as well, leading to a well-rounded fitness level.
Now seeing the many benefits from keeping rest periods on the shorter end of things, let’s discuss how to incorporate rest periods into training sessions properly.
Incorporating Rest Periods into Training Sessions
When determining how much rest to be prescribing in any given workout program, there are a number of factors that must be taken into account.
Exercise Set-Up and Transition Time
The first thing to think about is the overall exercise set-up and transition time. How long does it take to get the particular exercise ready to perform?
Some exercises do take longer than others, so this may influence the rest period. This can be a limiting factor in how short you can make a rest period, so you will have to adjust the interval to compensate. If you must use longer rest periods to allow for transition time, this may mean also using longer work intervals as well. This will help to keep the overall intensity of the session still at that higher level.
Intensity of the Exercise
The trainer will also want to think about the intensity of the exercise being performed. The higher the intensity, the more rest needed to have between sets. This means exercises that utilize a heavy load or a longer working duration will need to have a corresponding rest period to match.
Otherwise, if not enough rest is given, high levels of fatigue will prevail and that will make it harder to carry on. If the client if observed to be suffering from fatigue that is continually building as the workout continues, this is a good sign that more rest time needs to be added between sets.
Goal Of The Program
Also, consider what the overall goal of the workout is. This often is the biggest contributing factor in deciding how long the rest and work periods should be.
For example, if the goal is explosive strength and power, the trainer will want to allow for a longer rest period between sets. This might call for just 15 seconds of all-out maximum work followed by 45 seconds of rest.
If plyometrics are being utilized, it would be important that longer rest periods are be used to get as close as possible to that recovery state before continuing on. This form of exercise demands that a high intensity be used and this can only happen if the client is recovered.
On the other hand, if the goal of the workout is to burn as much fat as possible and spike that post-workout calorie burn, the client will need to keep the rest periods short, as this is what will help establish the best possible EPOC response.
As can be seen, the various goals set for clients will heavily dictate how their overall workout program would be designed.
Difficulty of the Exercise
It is also helpful to consider the overall difficulty of the exercise the client is performing as well. The more difficult the exercise and the more focus and concentration they’ll be required to give to complete it, the more they need to be fresh going into each set. This demands a greater rest period.
On the other hand, if the exercise is so easy to execute, they could perform it in their sleep, there is really no need to worry about having extra rest time to help facilitate a fresh mind.
Client Fitness Level
Another thing to be considered is the fitness level of the client. How advanced are they? Are they someone who can tolerate a more intense protocol with short rest periods, or will that likely be a little too much for them to handle?
It’s important to consider this as inexperienced clients may need more rest as they simply are not used to the intensity level of short rest periods, even if their body may be able to handle it. Gradually work up with them as they get more comfortable with pushing their limitations.
Finally, consider the weight load. How much total weight are they lifting with the exercise in question? The higher the weight load, the longer the rest period is going to be needed. Remember that weight load directly corresponds with intensity, so a heavier weight load will almost always demand more total rest time, compared to a light weight load.
These are the many factors that need to be taken into consideration when prescribing rest period for clients. It is definitely a “by-situation” decision to be made. Even amongst the same client, some days they simply may not be able to tolerate shorter rest periods as they are more mentally or physically fatigued than other days. Make the judgment call and plan on being flexible.
Rest Period Breakdowns
These are the most popular rest periods that can be used during a metabolic workout and what I find tends to work best with my clients. Keep in mind that this is flexible, once again based on your own experiences when training each unique client.
30-60 second rest periods: This is the most popular rest period that can be utilized during metabolic workouts. Use it for beginners who are getting adjusted to this type of training or for more advanced individuals who are performing challenging exercises or using heavier loads.
15-20 seconds rest periods: I like to use these 50% of the time with my sessions as they tend to be very intense and can really shock the system of the trainee. This short rest period is great for creating a strong metabolic response and kick-starting the fat loss process.
5-15 second rest periods: This is another one of my favorite rest period protocols and is great for more advanced trainees looking to maximize their fat burn while building great muscle density.
No rest periods: I use this about 10% of the time. If we are doing a complex, a rep based circuit or a finisher, I’ll have them go from one exercise to the next with no rest in between.
No two metabolic training programs will ever be alike and the rest period is one thing that continually keeps changing. Make sure to take a good look at the rest periods being prescribed and ensure that they follow all of the regulations that have been laid out here. In doing so, you’ll help ensure that your client is able to derive maximum success from their training session.
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