Re-define your rest|How to get more out of your workout

Posted on March 10, 2010


I know that you know by now that going to the gym to do a set of machine leg press followed by a rest period where

Want 'em? Go get 'em. Active rest is one good training tool.

 you sit & wait for the time to pass (how much time was supposed to pass again? 30 seconds? 60? when Oprah goes to commercial?) then do another set of machine leg press before you walk over to the dumbbells to do standing bicep curls followed by another Oprah rest period before the next set is the worst way to spend your time in the gym.

You do know that right?

So since you know that, you’re probably going to the gym to do….what? Just what are you doing at the gym these days? One thing you may not be doing that you really should work into your next program at the gym is the Active Rest Workout. If you Google ‘active rest’ you get a bunch of articles about taking a rest day during your workout week but still doing something movement based, like a stretching class or a low intensity bike ride. That’s good, but it’s not what we’re talking about here.

Active rest workouts are really easy to do, and make a measurable difference in your fitness level, abilities & results. Active rest is a ‘rest’ period after a set of “The Exercise”  but this rest period is not a chance to stand around & watch Oprah or even to stretch the muscles you just worked. A solid active rest is a rest period where you do a less dynamic, more controlled/focused, and probably slower exercise. It may not be an “easier” exercise, but it may look like that. The reason is you won’t need heavy weights, powerful/fast movements, or a high heart rate for the exercise to be effective.

A good example of an active rest would be doing Kettlebell woodchops as your ‘exercise’ followed by a single-leg bodyweight deadlift as the ‘active rest’. The exercise incorporates big muscle groups, gets the heart pumping & should fatigue you by the last rep. The active rest movement is still an exercise but here uses only bodyweight & a movement that focuses on more stability & control of the body via the core & smaller muscles.

The end result is you can do TONS more in a workout than you would with a typical workout and thus get more out of it because you are training your body to do more work without needing an all-out-do-nothing rest period. This means your muscles will have better endurance, you burn more calories & you burn more fat – thus giving yourself a boost in the Results Department. And! It’s not boring! So that’s a bonus! There is really no chance for you to sit & think, “Man, this is boring,” because you won’t have a minute to think about anything except what exercise is coming next.

So what exercises make good ‘active rest’ exercises?  Single-leg stabilization exercises like the single-leg squat, core exercises like the plank hold, light boxing with a reaction bag, light bodyweight cardio like ice-skaters. Again, all of these exercises are not requiring major stress on the cardiovascular system or are major muscle movements. Unlike a circuit training workout where you may do several strenuous, big-muscle exercises in a row, using active rest allows you to still focus your energy to the primary goal of the real exercise (like the woodchop that requires all your attention to accomplish) but still get benefits by making good use of your rest period.

So next time you go workout, pepper in some ‘active rest period’ & see what it does for you! Remember, the ‘exercise’ is the big muscle, big heart pumping, HARD exercise. The ‘active rest’ movement is the one that focuses your attention to your core, stabilizer muscles, smaller muscles, or balance & that lets your heart rate not go through the roof while doing it. And don’t forget, there’s no time to watch Oprah when doing a workout that includes active rest!