One of the best things about having a training facility is that I get to experiment with different training techniques and see pretty quickly how they will work in the real world. Even the best training method in the world is ultimately useless if it is too complicated, time consuming or boring for the average person.
One of the things I have been working on lately us using time based workouts for more than just conditioning. Lately I have been basing the facility workouts not on a pre-planned number of sets but on a length of time. For example, I don’t plan on having clients do 4 sets of 10 reps on a circuit of 3 exercises; I plan on them going through the circuit for 10 minutes. I still have them do 10 reps per set and I see how many times they get through the circuit.
For example, here is a “metabolic circuit” we used in the facility last month:
Exercise 1 – DB Shoulder Press X 10 reps
Exercise 2 – DB Front Squats X 10 reps
Exercise 3 – Burpees X 10 reps
Go through this sequence for 10 minutes. You want to get through 3-4 rounds. If you can not get through at least 3 rounds then lighten the load. If you can get through more than 4 rounds then you need to use a heavier weight on the shoulder press, front squat or both.
This approach accomplishes a lot of great things. First, it allows you to auto-regulate the workouts. If you are feeling energetic you can rip out as many rounds as you can but if you are feeling a little run down you simply move through at a slower pace and do a little less. This lets you make daily adjustments to your workouts to reflect your current recovery status.
Second, it gives you automatic feedback on when to increase your weights or progress an exercise. For example, the goal of 4 rounds through the before mentioned 10 minute circuit tells you when it is time to advance the weight on 1 or more of the exercises.
Lastly, it makes the workouts flow better. If you are just doing a pre-planned number of sets you may let your attention wonder and take longer than you should. By putting a timer on the circuit it makes you focus on the task at hand.
Am I saying that I will completely scrap the idea of doing a regular “sets and reps” again? No, I know that there is certainly a place for that type of program. But for the average rider looking to get into great shape and make it as fun and interesting as possible, this time based approach may be the way to go. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.