Always Train with a Timer

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Always Train with a Timer

Training with a timer changed everything for me. It helps me: 

  • Get more working sets in a workout before I get tired.
  • Increase the quality of my sets.
  • Prevent injuries.
Training with a timer will make you better. Here are the 3 main ways I use a timer when training.

Use #1 Cap training time

My performance isn’t always excellent when I train. Some days it’s good, and some days it’s bad. Somedays it’s GREAT though. The majority of my worst injuries had come from when I was feeling GREAT. Why? I did too much. Check out this broken thumb; it was a result of feeling GREAT and doing too much at the end of a workout.

A thumb break may mean a full arm cast!

One of the best acrobatic tricking sessions of my life ended in my worst injury, a grade II ankle sprain. I could have prevented the injury if I had stopped training at a predetermined mark. I was throwing down moves for almost 4 hours. My ankles had had enough and gave out in the end.

Which one is injured? Hmmmm...

Nowadays, I always crap my tricking session time at 90 minutes, including warm up. If I feel GREAT at the 90-minute mark, tough luck, I have to go. Looking back, all the acute injuries resulting from accident practicing my tricking skills has happened after the 90-minute mark.

Use #2 Forced rest intervals

Most of us think of using a timer to limit rest intervals. The better approach is to use it to force yourself to rest longer than you want; this is one of the best ways of controlling training to ensure every set is optimized. Remember, a training session is composed of sets, and if you have 10 good sets, your workout will be more effective at producing results than 10 bad sets. That logic seems stupidly obvious, yet few people consider the truth of it. Think about it; whether or not your workout had only 50% good sets or 100% good sets, you will tend to fixate on how you feel when you are finished. That post-exercise high… Many workouts are simply for health and feeling better, so if this is your goal, then so be it: there is still no reason you shouldn’t try to have more good sets than bad!

How do you have good sets? You rest the correct amount. Here’s how long I would rest for different activities:

  1. Maximum strength 5-8 minutes between sets. (less for smaller muscle groups, more for bigger muscle groups)
  2. Knee wrapped heavy back squats 8-12 minutes between sets. (cause some of that time is spent working your ass off to wrap the knees)
  3. Explosive jumping, gymnastics, etc. 4 minutes between sets (a set would be 2-3 minutes of off and on skill work)
  4. High rep bodybuilding isolation work 2-3 minutes between sets.
  5. High rep bodybuilding compound work 3-4 minutes between sets.

Max grip strength, for example, falls under the category of maximum strength for a smaller muscle group. So 5 minutes of rest between heavy sets of gripper work or grip tool work is about right. Yes, even if you aren’t huffing and puffing and feel no fatigue after just 2 minutes, you MUST REST the correct amount for grip training; this is the most important tip I can give you for improving your grip strength. Grip training is the most counter-intuitive application of proper rest intervals. Get a timer out and use that sucker to force yourself to rest. Even if you don’t feel like it, do it. Also, a small hourglass may work. I have one that is exactly 5 minutes and 1 second. Somebody put 1 second too much sand in my hourglass when they made it!

The ancients used to use this training technology too!

Use #3 Enforced mandatory warmup time.

If you think about it, an injury is about the worst thing for your training. Time spent healing isn’t the only time lost, and there is also the time spent getting back to where you were. Not to mention the psychic handicaps of working around and dealing with injury wastes a lot of time outside of training. Even if you aren’t outright whining, you’re spending time thinking about the pain.

One of the easiest ways to decrease your chances of injuring yourself is to warm up thoroughly. How? Do all sorts of warmup exercises and ease into your working sets. The easiest way of controlling this is by using a stopwatch to keep track of how long you’re warming up. The body needs its time. Even if you do all of your warmup exercises in 5 minutes, the body will need another 5-15 minutes to acclimate. It doesn’t matter what you do; the body needs its time. So figure out how long you need on average and take that time! For me, I need about 30 minutes to begin getting into the zone, and another 10-15 minutes on top of that to reach peak performance. I use a stopwatch to see how long I’ve been going.

I also use the time to allow me the opportunity to auto-regulate my training. Auto-regulation is just a fancy word for the process of choosing when to have lights, workouts, vs. hard workouts. If I’ve been warming up for 30 minutes and I’m feeling like garbage, then I’ll consider that and use it to help me decide whether or not to just altogether not train for the day, or shift my focus to easier exercises to add volume.

Putting them all together:

If you warm up for the correct amount of time, put the proper amount of rest needed between efforts, and cap your total training time, you’re going to be maximizing your potential for any given training session and putting the odds in your favor for improvement. It takes some discipline to get this right from the beginning to end, especially with training distractions and time crunches, but be vigilant in maintaining control of the timing and cadence of your training and you’ll wonder how you ever did it any other way.