Which is Better…Rep or Time-Based Sets?
For years I have promoted the use of time-based sets, especially for those fitness enthusiasts whose exercise goals are focused around effort more than how much weight they are lifting which is often the case for those over 40.
Don’t get me wrong…in my 20’s and early 30’s I enjoyed lifting heavy weights and watching the bar weight go up. But as I reached 35, feeling and moving good was as important as looking good. What I discovered was that to get this, it wasn’t the weight on the bar that made the difference but rather my effort and execution of the exercise.
As a result, I began using more time-based sets versus counting reps. I instantly noticed more productive workouts and better results.
What is the Difference Between Rep-Based and Time-Based Sets??
This type of approach focuses on doing a certain number of reps with a certain level of resistance. It’s a very traditional strength training approach that typically involves the use of free weights. This is because it is easy to quantify the resistance to rep ratio which would reflect your overall strength for that particular exercise.
This type of approach focuses on working hard for a certain length of time before taking a rest. The most popular work intervals are typically 20, 30 or 40 seconds and rest sets that are the same or half the work set time. This type of program design is more frequently used in high intensity interval strength training where fat loss or improving fitness is more of the goal. It is important that with time-based sets you scale your resistance so that by the end of your work set, you have reached a high level of fatigue.
Which Work Set is Best?
Both repetition and time-based sets have shown to increase strength, power and lean muscle mass. The difference lies in what works best when it comes to evaluating efficiency, convenience and what the body tolerates best. Both rep and time-based sets have their advantages. Which one to choose comes down to the goals of training. If the goal is to measure strength and how much weight can be lifted, obviously rep-based sets using free weights will be the better choice.
However, if the goal is to work as hard as possible against a resistance that challenges the body, time-based sets can easily achieve this outcome. Also, if the body does not tolerate free weights or the goal is to create convenient and time efficient exercise circuits, time-based sets are going to be a better option. Lastly, time-based sets are easy to program in because having to adjust weights or having specific weights available, is not a concern. Therefore, it becomes very easy to workout anywhere, anytime using time-based sets.
3 Reasons Why Time-Based Sets May Work Better For YOU
1. They Make Resistance Band Usage More Effective
When training with resistance bands, it is difficult to truly measure exact pounds or kilograms of resistance being used. However, when implementing time-based sets, it is not about the resistance but rather the effort. Therefore, resistance bands become a very effective time-based strength training tool that allows you to train anywhere, anytime.
2. They Use Lighter Resistance and Higher Reps Which is More Joint Friendly
As the body ages, joint surfaces and tendons become less tolerant to free weights and the use of heavy resistance/low reps while performing straight plane movements. Time-based sets are going to typically use lighter resistance and higher reps which is more joint friendly.
For those 40+, focusing on higher levels of resistance using lower rep-based sets will often lead to unnecessary joint trauma and potential injury. Time-based sets are typically a better option for those over 40 where fitness longevity is becoming a higher priority.
3. They Enhance Strength and Muscle Definition
Unless someone is a competitive weightlifter, emphasizing effort versus the weight being lifted, will be more effective at enhancing strength, power, and developing lean muscle mass while burning fat. As long as the resistance being used is challenging and muscles are creating a high level of effort, strength and muscle definition will occur.
Best Way to Implement Time-Based Sets
The Seconds Pro App, which is available in the App Store, has become my lifetime training partner for all my workouts that implement time-based sets. It helps me create high energy in my workouts by easily programming unlimited interval workouts for strength, cardio, power or metabolic conditioning. Once programmed, Seconds Pro essentially automates the workout to the point where all I do is focus on effort and exercise execution. It also allows me to personalize the workout by overlaying my own music.
For most people it becomes a natural tendency to take longer rest periods as fatigue increases. This is where consistent time-based work and rest sets using a verbal start or stop command, becomes a workout game changer. By not having to focus on reps, rest time or work time, it allows you to really dial in on effort.
Plus, knowing how long you have to work or when you have to start, mentally creates a “Go For It” attitude. That attitude activates the chemical reactions needed to magnify fat loss and trigger the release of all those natural anti-aging chemicals that come with high intensity training. These are all factors that become far more important for those over 40 as lifting heavy weights becomes less intriguing.
As a Member of The Band Gym
Dave walks you through how to Build Your Own Workouts using Seconds Pro while also providing Done-for-You Complete Training Programs using Time Based Sets
Traditional strength training has always focused on counting reps and measuring how much weight is on the bar. However, to achieve better workout results in strength, power, endurance and metabolic fat loss, it requires a higher level of focus on your physical effort more so than weight on the bar.
Having to waste mental effort on counting reps or figuring out how much weight to put on the bar will take away from your focus on effort. Time-based sets using an automated training program like Seconds PRO that verbally cues you when to start, stop and rest, allows you to focus exclusively on effort and the exercise, making results instantly better.
A Band Gym Follow Along Workout Using Seconds Pro