“Push until you can’t; rest until you can.”
One of the great things about being an ACE-certified Personal Trainer is all of the great resources I have available to help me help my clients. One such tool at my disposal is the IDEA Fitness Journal. Like “Ralphie” in A Christmas Story running to the mailbox for his secret decoder ring, I set up surveillance on my mailbox at the beginning of each month waiting for my next issue of IDEA’s excellent publication.
This month, there is a very enlightening article about Rest-Based Training (RBT). In short, this training system is more focused on rest periods and putting the client in charge of the intensity of their workouts while I set up and monitor the actual workout. The author, Jade Teta, says that RBT creates a good balance between results and safety.
My way or the highway
Most trainers, myself included, feel obligated to really push their clients through a 30- or 60-minute workout so that at the end of the workout, they feel they are getting their money’s worth. During an average 30-minute workout, I direct my clients through about 6-8 different exercises. Each exercise consists of 2 or 3 sets of 10-12 reps. In between each set, I will often have them do active rest. This 30- to 60-second rest period may include planks, mountain climbers, bicycle crunches or other exercises. When I tell my clients to do another set right after 15 burpees, they often look at me with this glare that says, “Are you freakin’ kidding me?”
This way of doing workouts may be good for some clients who really need me to push them. It is a type of extrensic motivation because I am the motivating factor. They are doing what I want them to do. I own the workout, not them. I push them based on what I think they can do, rather than what they can actually do based on their current physical and mental condition. By mental condition, I mean that we all have those days where we just aren’t focused or are preoccupied with life outside the gym.
Transfer of power
What Rest-Based Training does is hand the baton back to the client. It gives them ownership of how hard they work. Psychologically, as I understand from Teta’s article, it helps them develop intrinsic or innate motivation. This is called the self-determination theory (SDT). Rather than being coerced into change, RBT creates self-motivation and gives them control over their workouts. Studies show that clients work harder, are more aware of their physiology, and become more engaged in their programs. They exercise safer and see better results.
How does this change the workouts?
As I mentioned, I typically have my clients perform 2 to 3 sets (10-12 reps each) of a number of exercises with some active rest or about 45-60 seconds of passive rest in between sets. With RBT, for example, I will choose three exercises and give the client ten minutes to rotate between those three exercises (similar to circuit training) performing 8-10 reps for each set. They take as little as much rest is needed between each set. They set the intensity and control the rest periods based on how they feel physically and emotionally. Once that ten minute period is over, they will a have a new set of three exercises to complete in ten minutes. Once that is complete, they’ll have one final set of three exercises to complete. That is nine exercises in 30 minutes that they have complete control over. My job during that time is to explain, demonstrate, observe, correct and motivate.
Teta’s article highlights the four key components of Rest-Based Training with the acronym R-E-S-T. In short, the components are:
R = Rest-based. Rest, not work, is the goal. It increases the quality of the work and is psychologically easier because clients voluntarily work harder.
E = Extrinsic focus.Intrinsic sensations such as breathlessness, burning, & heart rate can inhibit exercise intensity. RBT shifts the focus to what clients are “doing” (extrinsic factors) rather than what they are “feeling” (intrinsic factors).
S = Self-determined. Because RBT gives clients autonomy over exertion and rest, it helps them push harder, makes the workout psychologically easier, and improves adherence to exercise.
T = Time-conscious. RBT workouts are time-focused and are usually harder and shorter to incorporate the start-and-stop and rest segments according to individual needs.
There’s obviously a lot more information in the article than I am summarizing here, but the studies and other sources that Teta cites are pretty convincing that Rest-Based Training is something that I, as a trainer, need to think about and at least test with my clients. One of the challenges of being a personal trainer is to keep the workouts fresh and varied for my clients so that they feel challenged and don’t get bored.
I’ll follow up in a few weeks with another post about how RBT is working with my clients.
To your health!