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Strength Training Breathing and Rest Time Between Sets

It's about that time of year when people start getting back to the gym so I wanted to offer up some work out advice. I'm going to talk about two things, and both will apply whether you're currently working out or heading back after some time away. When I'm with a client I always focus on proper breathing and rest between sets. Together they set up the rhythm for a good workout experience. Many people tend to lose track of their breathing when they're exercise, and often it leads to someone holding their breath, or barely breathing. This may sound odd but I see it a lot. The focus becomes so much about the exercise that everything else seems to fade away, even getting air in and out of the body. This is how I teach someone to breathe when we're doing strength training exercises. First off many people tend to rush a movement and depending on the goal that might be OK, but let's talk about most other times we're moving our body. I say body because what we move can be anything from a dumbbell, barbell, kettle-bell, resistance band,sandbag, rock, etc. A bonus to getting into a rhythm is that it can possibly assist in squeezing out a few more reps. Let's begin by braking every rep into three movements and to keep it simple we will use the bicep curl as an example. Our hand(s) start in the lowered position and as we bring them up we will breathe out slowly, trying to pace our breath with the movement. As the hand(s) stop at the top of the movement we pause for a second and this pause allows us to reset our breath. It is also a great opportunity to add some extra contraction to the muscle. This contraction helps create a better body-mind connection to the muscle you are trying to work. As we lower our hand(s) we breathe out keeping pace with the movement. When the movement has finished we pause slightly to reset our breath and then begin the next rep. My recommendation for a tempo for most exercises is 2/1/2. This would mean two seconds for the first part, a one second pause for the second part , and then two seconds for the third part. One of the best reasons for this tempo is that people sometimes rely too much on momentum and a jerky motion to move the weight. Which once again, may be fine depending on your goals and where you are in a training cycle. So now that we have breathing out of the way let's talk about rest time between sets. Here is how I like to explain this. Let's say we have a high octane car that burns gas very quickly. The more gas we can get into the tank before we drive it the farther we will be able to go. So if we're at the pump and only fuel up for a few seconds we won't get much gas, however if we wait a minute or two we will get more gas into the tank. Your body works in quite a similar way. It is practically everyday where I'm slowing down someone between their sets. I'm not sure if it's the high speed pace of life, or the that people are focused on paying for the time but many people want to rest only a few seconds between sets. This typically will result in fewer reps, which means, less work performed, which is actually wasting time. I set a goal for every clients sets, and I make sure they rest enough to get as close to that goal as possible. Here is my recommendation for rest times. If you are in the 12-15 rep range then try and wait 45-60 seconds before your next set. If you are 10 reps or lower try to wait at least 60-90, and 1-5 reps wait at least 3 min between. Most importantly listen to your body and take great notes of your weight, reps, rest, and sets and see how they reflect on your performance. Remember, these are all recommendations and times may vary depending on the goal and where you are in your cycle of training. If you found this informative or helpful please share. Feel free to email me.

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