June 04, 2008

Sneaky Tip for Strength Training

So our fit friend Jen got me reading the magazine Experience Life, and they had an interesting strength training tip that I thought I'd steal. It's called "Pausing for Power."

(Hey, it's Recipe Day, so I figured I could get away with something short and of special interest. Those of you who do not Strength Train can go make pasta!)

Anyway, when you are doing a set of yucky strength training exercises, you know how at the end you just physically can not do one more repetition? You tell your muscles "please, just one more!" and your muscles say "ha, ha, ha, sorry, no f*cking way?" This is generally how you know you've finished the set.

At this point, traditionally, you do one of two things. The first option: wait for your muscles to recover enough to do another set. (This can be a boring awkward waste of time unless you're good at multitasking). The second option, if you are lazy like me, is to say "that's over, thank God!" and move onto the next exercise.

Well, it turns out there's a sneaky Third Option:

You just pause and rest at the end of the set for few more seconds (5-10, usually, but up to 30 if necessary) until you can crank out just one more repetition. Then wait a few more seconds, and repeat again-- until you really can't do anymore.

This trick will allow you to either squeeze out more repetitions or use higher weights, and is apparently a good way to increase power and break through plateaus.

(There is supposedly some science behind this, but the source is a guy with a self-published book. He's probably very smart and all, but let's just say it's a "tip," not an authoritative study. The only way to know if it's any good is to see if it works for you.)

The technique works better for certain exercises than for others, and there are some general hints you'll want to find out about. So if you do want to try it, check out the article first.

Here's what I liked about this tip:

It's perfect for slackers like me who generally do only one set but occasionally feel the odd urge for a little bit of extra progress. This way, you're sort of skipping right to the "hard" repetitions at the end of another set, without having to do the whole other set.

It's a little early to tell if it's working for me--I think it is. And it does take a bit of experimentation to figure out how long to wait and which exercises you want to use it for. (Probably not best to use it all the time). But I'm having fun messing around with it. And at the very least, it's a good way to mix things up a bit.

So do any of you read stuff on blogs or in magazines and run out and try them? Any other good tips for strength training you've discovered that either make it more efficient or less loathsome?


  1. If I read something that really interested me, I would think of running out and doing it - but then I'd get distracted and forget, only to remember at 3 a.m. while I'm lying in bed.

  2. Do I ever read stuff on blogs or magazines and then try them? hmmm... think! Think!! ;)

    Actually I've been doing the pausing thing for a while now (although more in a subconscious i'm-going-to-squeeze-one-more-rep- out-if-it-kills-me kind of way) and I think it does help. Can't really hurt as long as you maintain good form.

  3. I always think I am lifting weights the wrong way. I just try and do 2 sets of each excercise..on bowflex...but I don't change it up like they say to do. I am lazy. I could try this though. Thanks.

  4. I discovered the pause thing for myself, and yes, it works for me.

    Do I read things on blogs and say "Neat, I'll try that." Yes, but then I don't remember the things....

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  5. Umm..yes, I have a whole boomark folder full of stuff that I "plan" to do!

    Good tip!! Thanks Cranky!

  6. I do the pause too. I thought it was a little bit of cheating to let my muscles rest to do just an extra rep...
    Also, lifting wise, I try to have several ways to work one muscle. There always is an exercise that I totally despise and one that I actually like (except for abs, abs stuff sucks). So I start with the one I loathe, than do another muscle group and go back to the first muscle and do an excercise I actually like. I feel as if I am constantly playing mind tricks on myself.

  7. Ooooo, good post Crabby! I will definitely have to try this because I try to get through weight training as fast as possible, but sometimes I feel like a slacker. :)

  8. Heh...is there a secret 4th option for wimps? :)

  9. I read blogs to get motivated. Right now, I'm motivated to try to find where I put those darn weights...

  10. What I /should/ be doing is reading blogs about people who go to work. I need motivating to get up and get out the door :(

  11. I love the weight training tip and will try it today during my exercise (at lunchtime). I love lifting weights. Well, I don't love it. I love what weight lifting does to my body.

    And I read blogs because they're there. I only read the best ones.

  12. You: "There is supposedly some science behind this, but the source is a guy with a self-published book."

    Me: Hilarious! The fact that Chad Waterbury's book is self-published drives me craaaaazy every time we source him, even though he's Mr. Neurophysiologist Exercise Expert Guy. Can Rodale not come a-knockin' on his door soon?!

    Nice post, Crabby. Love the part about rest-pause being a way to skip to the hard part without having to suffer through another set.

  13. Excellent recommendation. Lots of times with weights, I feel like I can do a bit more, just not quite, That pause should help.


  14. I'm not recommending it, and maybe one day I'll evolve to a better place, but I find directed anger to work really well when it comes to pushing more reps and heavier weights.

    I also try exercises that I read about on great blogs, like Charlotte's or Mizfit or Fitz on Thatsfit.(I know her.) The Internet fitness community has added a nice energy to my fitness progress. So thank you!!

    Dr. J

  15. That's a tip that I follow pretty often. I like the sneakiness of it!

  16. Ooo, I should try this with yucky push-ups! (the exercise, not the undergarment... but hey, maybe those too!)

  17. I bookmark all sorts of things that I want to try. I have even gone so far as to try a few of them!

  18. I've occasionally done the pause thing, and always get a few more reps out.

    One trick I don't do often enough are drop sets. But it will extend your workout if you do one set. For example, on lat pulls, I start with 70# and do as many as I can, rest 30 seconds and drop the weight to 60# and do as many as I can, rest/drop/pull, etc. At about 20-30# I can crank out 30 or so.. where I couldn't do one more at the higher weight.

    This is especially helpful when your muscles can push/pull heavy weights but the joint/soft tissue isn't happy that day. Takes the strain off the soft tissue but really works the joint.

    And yes, I read blogs, etc. and constantly look for new things to try.

  19. I swear, I am getting worse and worse - could have sworn I left a comment here yesterday, but it must have just been in my mind..... sigh.
    There are often times I think I should try some of the things I read on blogs...sometimes, I actually DO try them! :)

  20. Bag Lady--you know what's weird? I thought you left a comment too! Either we're both getting old or Blogger ate it.

    And hey, what great suggestions I'm getting down here! Will have to check out some of these other "cheats." And glad to hear I'm not the only one who reads things in blogs, means to try them, then forgets entirely.


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