Sometimes it's the little unknowns that can stop us in our tracks when we
start a new project. So I'll take this opportunity to address a couple of
the most common questions I get on a day-to-day basis as a personal trainer.
The first information most new clients want to know are;
1. What are sets and reps?
2. How long do I rest between sets?
3. How do I find my max heart rate and the proper
cardio "zone" for my goals? How long do I do Cardio for?
First, what are sets and reps?
What is a set? A set consists of a number of reps done in a row. A rest of a minute or two usually follows this. So then what is a rep? The "rep" is short for repetition. Or, how many times you raise and lower the weight in a row. So if you picked up a weight and put it down 12 times in a row, you just did one set of 12 reps! Clear it up a little? O.K., now it's written a little different when you see it in a program.
The number of sets usually comes first and then the number of reps per set. So, to tell someone to do three sets of twelve reps would look like this, (3x12). Sometimes you see this 3x10, 8, 6. This means you do three sets in total but one set at 10 reps the next set at 8 reps and the last set at 6 reps. All sets are spaced out by your determined rest period.
Now I know some people are going, duh, I knew that! But it never hurts to
explain. Now if you know you are doing 3x12 when you record it into your journal
you must include the weight so that you can remember it for the next time
and improve upon it. Put the weight in front of the reps like so;
Now you know how sets and reps work, lets get onto how to how long you should rest between sets.
Rest periods between sets
How long you rest between sets depends largely on the reason you are training. The general rule of thumb for all round fitness is to rest 1 minute between sets. This allows most of your power to regenerate while still keeping up the pace of the workout to burn calories and keep the training effect.
If strength gains are your priority than 2-5 minutes is best for full recovery
of energy systems. If pure fitness and fat loss is your goal, a challenging
workout consisting of rest periods in the 30-45 second range will serve you
How long and hard do I work on cardio training?
To gauge your progress on the cardio take 220, minus your age and multiply it by 60%. That's a great and safe place to start. What you have here is 60% of your maximum heart rate. Let's say your 40 years of age. 220-40= 180 (your max heart rate). 180x 60%=108.
So there you are on the bike pedaling away, reach down to your wrist (or use the sensors on newer machines), find your pulse for 30 seconds, and multiply it by two. If you came up with 115 slow it down a little and vice versa. Once you are sure that your body is up to speed and the 60% mark no longer poses a challenge, use the same calculation at a higher percentage to incrementally increase your intensity. Use 65% then 70% and so on.
For steady state cardio when fat loss is the goal most of the science states that 70-75% is a great target range to stay in. Higher percentages are useful when athletic performance and improvements in cardiac function are the goal. An excellent way to mix the best of both steady state cardio and higher percentages of heart rate is to do interval training. This involves a warm-up of 5 minutes and then "sprinting" hard for 30 seconds to a minute and then resting for the same. Twenty to thirty minutes of interval training can be quite intense, so make sure your ready for it! The up side is that you will burn a ton of calories and in half the time, so its perfect if you're running out of minutes in the day!
out this article for more info on high intesity cardio
Also take a look at this cardio article for more information on how long to do your cardio. Cardio- How long?
Have fun with your newfound knowledge of sets, reps, how long to rest and how hard to do your cardio. Now all you need to do is go get fit!
If you need more help with getting started at the gym or setting up a program check out my book Fat to Fit
I.S.S.A. certified fitness trainer