by Chad Kerksick PhD October 27, 2011 4 min read
I was reading through some past blog posts on the 1st Phorm site and I came across a past blog by 1st Phorm CEO and good friend, Andy Frisella titled “Intensity: either show up with it or get out of the way” that encouraged readers to get after it when you step foot inside the gym. For those of you who regularly read the things posted on the 1st Phorm website and blogs, you may remember my six-part series written on resistance training variables. In particular the discussion on intensity supports Frisella’s sentiments. While optimal intensity is a key thing to achieve, it’s hard work and for many requires a good bit of training and time before you can really bust your tail all of the way through your workout. Don’t take these words to be soft or giving people an out because they aren’t, rather just perspective and encouragement that regular hard work will stimulate your body to grow, change and improve. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where your body can recover quickly and keep begging for more, so don’t get down if you have to build up to this type of training. The end result is certainly worth it, but it’s not something a couch potato can read about one day and decide to do it the next, that outcome may likely be excessive soreness and end up with your face staring into a trash can or toilet.
If you happen to be a couch potato and you think you’ve made your way through your workout training with optimal intensity, it’s likely your intensity wasn’t at the level we’re talking about. To support the benefits derived from training hard is a recently published article in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research which had two groups of athletes perform the exact same workout, but one group rested for three minutes while the other rested for around 35 seconds . Traditional research would say greater increases in strength occurred when longer rest was given and more growth occurred with less rest, but is this what happened? Well, kind of. When looking at the changes in strength and power production, both groups experienced significant increases in upper- and lower-body strength and upper-body power after the eight week exercise program was completed. No differences were found between the changes in the groups meaning that both groups increased to a similar degree. In addition, agility performance also increased similarly in both groups which some people could take to mean that a sound resistance training lasting just eight weeks can help improve athleticism. Both groups also experienced similar significant increases in lean mass, which goes to say that both types of training can help stimulate muscle growth. Finally, lower-body power did increase to a greater extent in the group which rested for three minutes when compared to those people who only rested for 35 seconds. This finding is consistent with traditional suggestions about improving power where greater rest periods allow for more complete recovery and a more quality effort. Not to be outdone, though, was the fact that percent body fat decreased to a greater extent when less rest was taken when compared to the body fat changes when three minutes rest was provided. When considering that most men and women resistance train and exercise to reduce their body fat and improve how they look, this change in favor of less rest may be the most intriguing and appealing to you folks who hit the gym every week. (Less Rest = Greater Intensity = Better Results)
Another factor wasn’t scientifically compared, but one that I think is one of the most important to consider is the amount of time each workout took to complete. Since each workout was the same you can assume that each set took roughly the same amount of time to complete regardless of whether 35 seconds or three minutes of rest was used. Each workout consisted of 3 – 6 sets of 6 exercises and each exercise was performed for 6 maximal repetitions. If you assume that each set took 30 seconds to complete, resting for 35 seconds between sets and exercises should have lasted around 19 – 39 minutes to complete. Completing the same workout with three minutes between sets and exercise would result in the workout lasting anywhere from 54 – 120 minutes. If you are one of those people who live at the gym and would rather be there than at home or somewhere else, then go ahead and stop reading. For the most of you, however, you may see that if you cut down on your rest, you can save immense amounts of time, approximately 35 minutes if you perform three sets per exercise and 84 minutes if you perform six sets per exercise. Add these numbers with the fact that this study showed that you may actually lose more fat and still gain the same amount of muscle training hard and fast, it makes sense to consider. Some of you may be thinking that lower-body power was greater with three minutes and you’re right, so if you’re Stephen Jackson or think you resemble him during your flag football leagues, then by all means go ahead and take more rest. As usual, I’m not going to tell you what to do, rather just try to explain something in a manner that makes sense and let you decide. Regardless, don’t forget the Andy’s advice and first of all train with as much intensity each workout as you can muster, but remember that cutting down on your rest can improve your body fat percentage and also allow for positive improvements in strength and performance, but most importantly get you home faster to enjoy your day.