Pace Yourself


Hi all! Hope you had a great weekend. We had our first ever movie night at the studio last Friday and it was so much fun. The movie was really interesting; the food from Happy Belly was amazing; and the conversation was encouraging and supportive. If you are in the Tacoma area and couldn't make it for this one, I hope you'll be able to make it to one in the future! We'd love to have you there. Okay, now for the post for today. It's probably not what you think, given the title. I want to talk a little bit today about the pace of repetitions in exercise. One of the ways to vary your workouts and increase the challenge to your muscles is to change the pace at which you complete a repetition. Changing the demand on your muscles is how you get stronger and continue to see results. Adding weight or repetitions are a couple of ways you can do that, but pace is another.

We often assume that we should complete the upward and downward phases of an exercise at the same pace. So, up for two counts and then down for two counts. But, it can be fun to switch it up a bit. Here are some ways I like to do that.

Up for a count of three and then down for a count of one. Note that in this scenario I'm maintaining control on the downward phase (not swinging or allowing the weight to drop), just moving a bit quicker.

Up for a count of one, and then down for a count of three. On many exercises (biceps curls among them), most of the work is actually happening on the downward phase of the movement. Unfortunately, that part of the exercise often gets rushed because we have gravity to help us bring the weight back down. One way to counteract that is to go very deliberately slowly on the way down.

Do the first half of your set (so 8 repetitions if your total set includes 16) at a slow pace and the second half at a quicker (but controlled) pace. So, maybe you start out at a three-counts-up-three-counts-down pace, and then switch to a one count up and down pace for the second half.

Do the first half of your set (so 8 repetitions if your total set includes 16) at a quicker (but controlled) pace and the second half at a slow pace. (See the above option and just reverse it.)

Try pulsing squats, lunges and leg lifts. Instead of a slow two-counts-up-two-counts-down pace for these lower body exercises, play around with smaller movements. For example, drop down into a squat and then instead of coming all the way back up to standing, only come back halfway and then drop down again.

Try three-count squats. Take a count of three to lower down and then push back up on a count of one.

Break the range of motion into segments. This works well for some exercises (biceps curls, for example) and less well for others. In the case of biceps curls, I do five repetitions where I only bring the weight up halfway (so that there's a 90 degree angle at my elbow). The next five repetitions are just from that halfway point at the elbow, up to my shoulder and back down to elbow level again. Then I finish with five repetitions of full curls--all the way down, all the way up.

Can you think of other ways you might play around with the pacing of exercises you love? Are there things you do now to change things up that I haven't mentioned here? Feel free to share in the Comments section below.