When we athletes think about rest, this can mean a myriad of different things. For one, performing recovery during an interval training session where intensity needs to be rationed throughout the session.

Active rest training strategies

A good example of a cycle of interval and recovery is the followin: 5 mins warm up steady state, 5 mins increase of stroke rate per minute above steady state, 5 minute flat out sprint, 3 minute back to steady state, 5 minute sprint interval, 5 minute cool down.


A similar training session can be put together using running, cycling, and swimming. Recently studies carried out in Australia have shown light aerobic activity, such as easy stationary cycling, increased exercise performance when used between sets of parallel squats by as much as an extra five reps per set. This same effect was seen even when used for an upper body lift like the bench press.

Two minutes on a bicycle ergometer at 45% V O2 max during the inter-stress period of 4 sets of maximum repetition bench presses at 65% 1RM was found to be more effective in clearing lactate (10%) and producing greater (10%) isometric force as compared with passive rest.

Other active rest training strategies include performance of resistance exercises where the resting side of the body performs static contraction/limited or no movement. However, to claim no work is being done is an understatement.

Many sports require training specificity and this method mirrors the sporting activity perfectly. For example, golfer whose muscle recruitment during the golf swing alters dramatically as he or she comes from the top of the swing through striking the ball.

Two exercises which show this training specificity are the single arm chest press and a kettlebell row.  Start with single arm chest press, perform with non-target arm held in, finish position, and bend forward for dumbbell or kettlebell row with non-target arm held up (see image 1). Also, a neck exercise for a race driver (see image 2) by engaging other muscles in stability forcing the body to ration recruitment of specific muscle fibers from those active to those responsible for stabilizing the body position.

Active rest training for professional sports_image1

Image 1

Active rest training for professional sports_image2

Image 2

Other exercises can be utilized in this way including front and side shoulder raises/lateral raise with the side not performing activity held up into final position. Squats with arms held in the final shoulder press position with bar or dumbbells, a biceps curl with alternate arms where non target arm remains contracted whilst the other arm moves to perform the curl to the top position, remains there where your other arm switches into the movement phase.

How does this help the average gym user employing these active rest methods?

An increase in both cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength and endurance over time. Further functionality of the entire core strength system will be witnessed. When trying these systems for the first time start slowly and with lightweights on the resistance stuff.



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