T Nation

THIB'S TIP: Workout Pace

You are missing out on one of the most effective way to change your body.

You love to hear about all the cool sets and reps or periodization schemes… You almost get a tingle when you read about a new training method or technique … You become frantic when you learn a new exercise.

Yet rarely do people talk about what I consider to be one of the most important aspect of a successful training program: the pace of the workout.

I like to train fast. And I believe that if there is no performance decrease, training at a fast pace will give you better overall results.

  1. A fast workout pace keeps you focused. Nothing takes me out of the zone more than long rest between sets, or worst chit chatting between two bouts of efforts.

  2. There is a place for everything… when you are trying to learn a new movement or to perfect an old one, it’s fine to take longer rest periods and think about your technique. But these should be practice sessions and are either done on an off day or at the end of a regular workout and should use light weights and maximum focus on technique.

BUT when you are actually training to get results you should almost become dumb…just execute, do not think about the details it will actually hurt your performance. I always said that when you grab the bar, you should become dumb… focus on the general movement performed with the most force and power as possible.

When you keep a fast workout pace you instinctively stop overthinking. One of my olympic lifter was really off with her technique and made it worse by thinking too much during the session. The solution I used was to have her do 16 sets of 2 reps on the competition lifts with 30 sec. of rest between sets. She was too focused on the job at hand, and on the recovery, to think. As a result it fixed her technique almost instantly!

  1. A sense of urgency give you an adrenalin boost or a stronger drive to get things done. We all had these workouts where we are pressed for time and HAVE to get the workout done within 30 minutes (sometimes less). I don’t know if you are like me, but these workouts often turn out to be the best ones because you go “combat mode”… more focus, more drive, no wasted efforts.

  2. A faster workout pace increases energy expenditure and is great to lose fat and to improve conditioning.

NOW, at first it might be hard to increase the workout pace if you are used to long rest intervals. So I recommend gradually working toward a high density/fast pace workout. Don’t go from 3 minutes rest down to 30 sec in one shot, you WILL have a decrease in performance and that goes against what I believe in.

But work toward working faster and faster… DO NOT time rest intervals. Rather use total workout time as a guide… if I complete my session in 50 minutes last week, and in 43 minutes this week, that is a good improvement

Trust me… increasing workout pace is probably the secret to unlocking major progress.

I always find when I have a plan and can execute it during my training sessions they go much much better. Stopping to think about what I’m going to do next just kills my performance.

[quote]corstijeir wrote:
I always find when I have a plan and can execute it during my training sessions they go much much better. Stopping to think about what I’m going to do next just kills my performance.[/quote]

I totally agree. Which is why I think that even elite lifters (power and olympic) have coaches (or very knowledgeable partners)… it takes out the need to think so that they can focus on execution.

You cannot be in intellectual and physical mode at the same time. And switching back and forth is a great way to NEVER getting into the zone.

completely agree with this, i train in a gym where i know quite a few people, and also train with a partner. however once i enter, earphones go in and thats the end of chat other then a bit of conversation about weights used. i feel earphones are single best way to stop talking even if your not listening to music

Do you have to sacrifice the amount of weight used (strength) for pace? I guess what I’m asking is, can you still get stronger while pushing the pace?

This is a wonderful post, thanks! And I do agree with corstijer. Having a definitive plan also helps to speed up your sessions. One thing I have noticed is that my training sessions are much quicker now than they were when I started training three years ago. I guess experience under the bar also helps in establishing movement patterns effectively so you do things faster even without realizing it!

[quote]titleist55 wrote:
completely agree with this, i train in a gym where i know quite a few people, and also train with a partner. however once i enter, earphones go in and thats the end of chat other then a bit of conversation about weights used. i feel earphones are single best way to stop talking even if your not listening to music[/quote]

Ear buds in, play time is over. I find that works really well in commercial gyms.

[quote]usmccds423 wrote:
Do you have to sacrifice the amount of weight used (strength) for pace? I guess what I’m asking is, can you still get stronger while pushing the pace? [/quote]

As I mentioned, you increase the pace “as long as performance doesn’t suffer”. To me, strength gains are paramount. I would not do anything that compromise my strength gains. Now that I am used to a fast pace, I actually gain more strength when I keep the pace rapid.

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]usmccds423 wrote:
Do you have to sacrifice the amount of weight used (strength) for pace? I guess what I’m asking is, can you still get stronger while pushing the pace? [/quote]

As I mentioned, you increase the pace “as long as performance doesn’t suffer”. To me, strength gains are paramount. I would not do anything that compromise my strength gains. Now that I am used to a fast pace, I actually gain more strength when I keep the pace rapid.[/quote]

How long did it take you to get use to the pace?

Good stuff, I’ve been learning to shorten rest time recently. Just out of curiosity though, why do you suggest not to time rest intervals? I was considering doing that for me to take it to the next level and to help keep me more on pace. Plus the total workout session time for me will slightly vary based on how busy I get during a certain week.

[quote]krillin wrote:
Good stuff, I’ve been learning to shorten rest time recently. Just out of curiosity though, why do you suggest not to time rest intervals? I was considering doing that for me to take it to the next level and to help keep me more on pace. Plus the total workout session time for me will slightly vary based on how busy I get during a certain week.[/quote]

My thoughts are that a specific time is too arbitrary. If you only need say 20 secs, why wait 30?

For the past three years, my basement has been my gym, so I can work at my own pace. On those few days where I’ve worked out at a commercial gym, I’ve been out of sorts, off my rhythm, and my performance suffers. I may not have the best toys at home, but I use them more efficiently.

I should say that I’ve been hooked on this “as little time as it takes” for a while, since CT advocated it a while ago.

This is why gyms for solely Olympic weightlifting are sometimes awful for workouts. LOL!

I always felt my best workouts were the ones where I had to finish before the gym closed, or I had to get to work with little time to spare. I wouldn’t say I was at the point that I was careless rushing, but having the thought of needing to finish changed my pace from “I need to lift now” vs “few more seconds and I’m ready”. Some of the best workouts I’ve logged! Right next to training when you start to feel sick (for me anyway)

Thib, thanks for the tip.

What is a good benchmark for a trainer to shoot for? 1 min rest for larger muscle groups (legs, back, chest), and perhaps 30 seconds for smaller muscle groups (bis,tris,shoulders,calves)?

How do you recommend using rest intervals as a periodization method? Would it be something like

Week 1
3 sets of 10 with 200 lbs, 60 sec rest between sets

Week 2
3 sets of 10 with 200 lbs, 45 sec rest

Week 3
3 sets of 10 with 200 lbs, 30 sec rest

Week 4 (add weight)
3 sets of 10 with 210 lbs, 60 sec rest

[quote]Seinix wrote:
Thib, thanks for the tip.

What is a good benchmark for a trainer to shoot for? 1 min rest for larger muscle groups (legs, back, chest), and perhaps 30 seconds for smaller muscle groups (bis,tris,shoulders,calves)?

How do you recommend using rest intervals as a periodization method? Would it be something like

Week 1
3 sets of 10 with 200 lbs, 60 sec rest between sets

Week 2
3 sets of 10 with 200 lbs, 45 sec rest

Week 3
3 sets of 10 with 200 lbs, 30 sec rest

Week 4 (add weight)
3 sets of 10 with 210 lbs, 60 sec rest[/quote]

That’s not how I work at all… I find that actually calculating rest intervals is even worse for my focus then a slow workout tempo. Anything that makes a workout rigid, I’m against it.

As for the weight, that’s not how I work either. Well, I’m more focusing on heavy lifting with my layer system, but I never know what weight I’ll use because it depends on my capacities on that day. As for the rest, I simply try to keep a fast pace, only resting long enough to be able to perform at a high level for my next set.

BTW, normally when I read 3 x 10 I stop reading.

interesting stuff about pace.
i am very impatient. highe intensity worker type. psychologically i have to make use of all my waken tiMe.
in the gym, i do not have a partner, so i’m sort of too fast between sets sometimes, but generally, i have a job to do and i attack.
CT has also taught me another aspect. training is not a list of chores
for me, i need to get somewhere in the zone