One of the best way’s I’ve found to shake up a workout when you feel in a rut is to change up the timing of it. You still want to hit all your muscle groups, but if you do it in a different routine, it keeps your muscles guessing and your mind engaged.
Last time I mentioned the idea of using a one-minute timer instead of counting reps and just getting as many as you can in that minute. Another great timing-routine is Tabata, which involves short bursts of exertion followed by even shorter rests and then repeating multiple times.
Traditional Tabata timing is 20 seconds of as many reps as you can, 10 seconds of rest, and you repeat it eight times. This gives a total of four minutes of intense work, with just enough rest to let you push all the way through. It is incredible both how quickly you can burn out a muscle group in that four minutes, but also how much those 10 second intervals of rest in between reps gives you enough strength to go all the way to the end.
With Tabata, you want to choose short, quick motions: sprints, squats, bicep curls, rows, tricep pulses, anything with pulses really. Don’t do anything elaborate because you have to be fast and don’t have time to think about it or spend a lot of time getting into position. Those 20 seconds go fast, and the 10 seconds of rest go even faster. However, you also want to go as hard as you can for each of those 20 seconds. Start out with heavy weights and then drop down as you go if you can’t maintain good form.
I first learned Tabata timing during my personal training experiment. We used it on multiple occasions for various exercises, and it always added a level of intensity.
A few pointers I learned for using this method:
First, you must use a timer. There is no way you can mentally keep track of the time and even watching a clock with a seconds hand won’t do the trick. It is too fast and too intense. To get the real Tabata training, you need to use a timer. And, of course, there’s an app for it! You can set the time you want for your work, rests, how many reps you want to do and your timer will ding as it shifts from one to the other. There are mulutiple apps available for both iOS and Android phones.
Second, Tabata is good for short, quick exercises, but nothing involving strain on the shoulders or neck because it is too easy to pinch a nerve when you are going quick and intense. You also want to make sure you are focusing on large muscle groups in the exercises.
Third, don’t cheat on the rests. Use the 10 second rests to catch your breath and shake out your muscles, but you have to also use them to get back into position for the next 20 seconds of work. It doesn’t count to use your first 5 or 10 seconds of the “on” time getting into the right position for the exercise.
Once you have done your full four minutes of work/rests, then you can take a slightly longer rest and transition into the next exercise. Just be sure you don’t let that rest drag on too long.
Another way you can use Tabata training, rather than doing the same exercise every 20 seconds for four minutes, is chose four or eight different exercises to do every 20 seconds and switch it up, with 10 seconds in between to transition from one to the next. This also keeps your muscles guessing and makes the time fly. But I would suggest you definitely have a list of the exercises in front of you because you’ll only have 10 seconds to transition from one to the other.
Of course there are other timing routines you can do, but the 20/10 is the most traditional Tabata and can work you to the max pretty quickly. It’s a great change-up for your normal routine.