Tell a runner to rest mid-workout and chances are, unless you’re talking to a sprinter, they’ll look at you like you have ten heads. I know I did. [flashbacks to the days of my trainer saying, “I like it when you rest.” WTF?!] Back when I considered myself a runner and first got into lifting weights, the thought of rest during exercise baffled me. We have ingrained in us this “do-or-die” mentality. Or, in my case, do until you have stress fractures in your feet then keep doing. *sigh* I’ve always been athletic, and am decently coordinated, but to say that my transition to weights, using Metabolic Effect’s (ME) rest-based training (RBT) principles, was seamless would be an understatement.
So what is RBT anyway? In two words: efficient exercise. The primary goal of the short-duration, high-intensity workouts is rest, not work. Cra, right? I know you’re probably thinking “how on Earth does this work?” But contrary to popular belief, it’s intensity not time that drives results in the gym; exercising smarter, not longer. RBT maximizes calorie burn both during and after the workout. The ME philosophy teaches to “push until you can’t, rest until you can.” Push hard then rest, until you can push hard again. With me?
Here are my Top 9 tips to master rest-based training:
- Hire a trainer. I am so grateful to have had a trainer for the first six months of my lifting weights. It gave me confidence to know that I was performing the exercises correctly, but also kept me accountable- especially in the beginning when I was still a cardio-obsessed crazy unsure of this new, more moderate approach to exercise. Rest-based training is taught so if that’s what you want to do, hire someone familiar with those principles. Online or in-person, be sure they know their shit. Whether you intend to work with a trainer on the reg or not, hiring one is a great way to jump-start your [weightlifting] workouts. It also helps keep you focused if you suffer from gym anxiety.
- If you’re contemplating rest, you probably don’t need rest. When you don’t think you can, go for one more rep. If it requires that much consideration, you probably don’t need rest. When you go down for a push-up and face plant, to perform a curl and the weights don’t move or a squat jump and your feet don’t leave the floor… that’s how you know you need rest.
- Go for one more rep. In the beginning, it’s not uncommon to want to pace; to use our rest in between exercises. In my practice, I’ve observed this to be common among endurance athletes, especially runners. This is the “must go until finished” mindset. Instead, try to perform at least one repetition of the next exercise in the circuit before taking your rest. If you can, keep going. If not, rest.
- Limit your rest to no more than 7 seconds, to start. One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “how long should I rest?” There’s no rule as to how long you rest in RBT. Some people take short, frequent rest; others longer, more infrequent. So you’re thinking, “Ok Emily, what the hell… so then why’d you just tell me to limit rest?” The point is not to get entirely comfortable; we’re not trying to bring your heart rate all the way back down. After all, we ARE exercising. Lol it’s not going to be a walk in the park, but remember: short and intense. The end is in sight. 😉 So to answer your question, seven is an arbitrary number that worked for me… kept me moving. Once I learned RBT, my rest time became irrelevant but I used this tip to get me started. But, do NOT cut your rest short. Rest is the single biggest determinant of exercise intensity. The more you rest, the harder you’ll push. And the harder you push, the more you’ll rest.
- Swap long duration cardio for HIIT or sprints. This was more of a mindset thing for me, but the less steady-state, moderate intensity long duration cardio I did, the less I paced during my rest-based workouts. I really do enjoy straight cardio though so instead of nixing it all together, I began to work track (or treadmill) sprints into my weekly routine. Along the same lines with quick bursts of energy followed by rest, I still got my endorphin rush but in a fraction of the time. (As an aside, I haven’t been on a long run in as long as I can remember, yet am faster and stronger than ever. And if I had to run a half-marathon tomorrow, probably could. *Bottom line: More is not always better. Better is better.)
- If possible, take a ME class. Second to hiring a trainer, this is your next best option for learning the technique. And before you tell me that group exercise isn’t your thing (it wasn’t mine), try it. Just once. I promise you will be hooked! I was. What’s there to love? You are your ONLY competition. The instructor keeps things rolling at the front of the room, but some people are working while others are resting; some are taking the advanced movement, others the regression. Everyone’s using different sized dumbbells. No one to compete with, even if you try. Of course, I tried. Ha. In addition to being “coached” by the instructor at the front of the room, it’s helpful to have veteran ME-ers show you how it’s done. *NOTE: Not all participants will be experienced. As a certified instructor, I can assure you you’ll see lots of interesting things. And a lot of people doing the workout incorrectly (i.e. using light weights and thus making what is supposed to be a rest-based workout, continuous).
- YouTube: Metabolic Effect Rest-Based workout for examples. ‘Nuff said.
- Aim for the Bs and Hs. Breathless, burning (in the muscles), heat (generation i.e. sweat) and heavy (weights). To accomplish the benefits of metabolic training, aim to meet these four criteria in each and every workout.
- Practice. RBT is counter-intuitive. It goes against everything we’ve been taught up until this point. I get it. I really do. But I promise that with practices comes progress. Just keep DOing and tell yourself you can. Even if you don’t believe it. #fakeittilyoumakeit Positive self-talk, FTW! 🙂
I hope this helps! Questions? Head on over to my Facebook page and let me know!
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