How do I improve my between-set recovery time?
Like when I'm trying to do a 5x5. If I had a full 5 minutes between each set, I could do full sets of 5 each time no problem.
But given that I have limited time at the gym, I usually end up with a 2 minute rest period with each set. But inevitably I can't do a full 5 reps in each set. It ends up looking like 5, 5, 4, 3, 2 or else I lower the weight by 10 lbs or so to keep it at 5.
How do I improve the between-set recovery time so that I can do a 5x5 consistently with a 2 minute recovery, or is that asking too much?
Potential sources of failure in later sets, and what you can do about them.
Microtearing: Aside from eating well and getting enough good sleep before your next workout, nothing that I know of. This one will last on the order of days.
Central nervous system fatigue: See above. If you're not overtrained, longer rest periods may help CNS recovery, but I can't say for sure.
Waste build-up: Probably shouldn't be a big factor in low-volume sets, but if it is, you should improve your conditioning, especially if you're having trouble getting back to normal breathing pattern/heart rate before your next set. I recall Bompa saying something about gently stretching your muscles between sets to maximize cellular transport in and out of the muscle fibers. Longer rest periods between sets will obviously help.
Glycogen depletion: Since it's similar to waste build-up (except you're trying to move stuff into the muscles rather than out), the above advice goes for glycogen depletion as well. On top of that, research (see this study) indicates that you can speed up glycogen recovery by ingesting carbohydrates before/during/after exercise. Sports drinks are useful for this purpose, given that the carbohydrates are already dissolved in water, and I'd expect it to help if you've been keeping your blood sugar levels steady via proper nutrition before the workout as well.
Creatine supplementation may also help (see this review), primarily because phosphocreatine in muscle tissue is readily convertible into ATP. This study indicates that its benefits do not extend beyond the first two bouts... which, frankly, is sort of odd because most ancedotal evidence indicates the opposite. I'd imagine that a lot of the entries in this table indicate that creatine supplementation could help endurance over repeated bouts of exercise.
Another option you have is to improve your muscular endurance by switching your program up, but you'd probably have to put the 5x5 stuff on hold for a few weeks. Your goal would be to increase the total volume of work you can perform in a workout... off the top of my head, you'd want to work to/beyond exhaustion with longer sets, shorter rest periods, and optionally, some combination of forced reps (not negatives) and drop sets.
Not to derail this thread, but in my infancy of weight training I've been pondering something similar- do different muscles inherently require more rest?
More specifically, do proportionately larger muscles need more time to repair than smaller ones, say latissimus dorsi v. brachialis?
I searched but just found a bunch of stuff on cardio.
Again, if my memory of Bompa serves, larger muscles (I think the example he gave was vastus medialis) require more time to fully restore their glycogen than smaller muscles. But that's in terms of full recovery, which is on the order of days. I'm not sure if it'd apply to partial recovery in the course of a few minutes between sets.
bitparity, reduce the amount of weight you are using on your 5x5 so that you can complete 5 reps in the last set. 5x5 programs that use a fixed load throughtout all five sets use deloading and reduction of loads when you hit such situations.
Obviously the first 2 sets will be easier than what they are now. But again, the goal is not to grind the reps right off the bat with the first set, but to accumulate effort throughout all 25 reps.
The other options are to deviate a bit from the program and:
1. reduce the load as you have done to get to do 5 reps in the remaining sets the moment you feel you are getting weaker, OR
2. use a stop-rest approach: when you fail to get the 5 reps, take 5-10 sec rest and then crank another rep, and then another.
The only way to improve your ability to recover with the amount of rest you are looking for (2 minutes) is by accomodating the resistance (reducing your initial load either at the beginning or during your sets) or increase the number of individual sets (via stop-rest) to complete all 25 reps as fast as possible...
... or increase the rest time and, without increasing the load, gradually reduce the rest time. Or just do 5, 5, 4, 3, 2 and then a sequence of single reps (separated by 10-30 secs, for example) until you complete 25 reps (reducing the load a bit for the singles). It's not cast on stone. Within reason, you should be able to experiment and find a good balance.
The first two options, however, should be the safest bet for most.
Also, if you are not supplementing with vitamin C (300-500mg 1 hour before training) and glutamine (5-20g a day), you should look into that ASAP. Also, consider taking either creatine or nitric oxide (I recommend Nitrix) - don't take both, most people don't really need both at all.
Hydration and taking enough complex carbs before and after are also key. We are what we eat and supplement with. You can't run a car by stuffing peanut butter on the gas tank and oil crank ;)
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On the subject of L-arginine (aka "nitric oxide") supplementation, I'm on the record as saying that the push to supplement with individual amino acids is a cash grab by the supplement manufacturers, but I figured I'd take a look and see what I could find out anyways.
This literature review of L-arginine indicates that it is theorized to have effects on growth hormone secretion, creatine synthesis and nitric oxide production.
-The GH secretion bit really caught my attention, but it sounds like they're having trouble reproducing it reliably in the lab, so I'll reserve judgment there.
-When it comes to creatine, I'm in agreement with the authors - the easiest (and cheapest) way to increase the concentration of creatine in skeletal muscle is to buy a dirt-cheap bucket of the stuff at Wal-mart and take a few grams daily and around workouts.
-Boosting nitric oxide levels (and the subsequent vasodilation and "pump") is the main sales pitch of L-arginine supplements. The question that the authors of the review raise - and I think it's an important one - is whether this vasodilation actually helps training. On that count, neither I nor they are convinced.
Beyond said literature review, I couldn't find much in the way of studies on L-arginine supplementation and weight training. this study seemed promising (though I'm not entirely clear on the distinction between L-arginine and L-arginine a-ketoglutarate), but I'm seeing red flags when I look at the results for the placebo group in bench press (they're weaker in week 8 than week 4) and peak power in the Wingate test (5.7 percent lower in week 8 than at the start). A non-double-blinded study with a placebo group that's getting worse over the course of the study does not pass my smell test.
try alternating between 2 exercises. eg. squat rest 2 min then bench rest 2 min then squat again rest 2 min etc until you complete your 5 X 5 routine?
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