When time is an issue and you want to make the most out of your 30-minutes-or-less workout, chances are you either do super-sets—alternating one strength move with another for the opposite muscle without rest—or circuits—a series of six to eight exercises done one after another with no rest. But have you thought about adding some aerobic component in between the resistance moves?
Researchers have been looking into the impact of a passive rest (waiting for a set amount time between exercises) or an active rest (aerobic exercise between the resistance exercises) on mechanical, neural, hormonal, and metabolic responses to improve strength and power.
Two for One
A recent study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that doing low-intensity cycling during the rest period of a set of squats did not show any benefits in terms of removing important chemical by-products to enhance recovery time, strength, and power compared to a passive rest.
This study may not have shown better outcomes in strength, power, and muscle by-products removal, but doing some aerobic in between the strength exercises may amplify other metabolic and hormonal responses that are important when looking to improve overall lean body mass.
Aerobic activity during the rest period of resistance training may develop mechanical efficiency and optimal muscle temperature for greater force and velocity output. This will also produce greater hormonal responses, such as the ones that affect the most body mass/fat ratio, and increase neuro-muscular activation, among other neural, metabolic, hormonal and mechanical responses, according to an article published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal.
You probably do not know how much time you have to rest in between strength exercises. The authors point out that depending on the workout, the aerobic component may take anywhere from 18 to 34 minutes. This is quite a lot considering many people do cardio for around 30 minutes.
So, combining the resistance exercises with short segments of aerobic exercises may be a way to get the most out of your workout if the goal is to increase body mass and to reduce body fat.
This workout has four super-sets. After every super-set, perform any cardio exercise of your preference for two to three minutes, such as cycling, running/walking, rowing, the elliptical machine, jumping rope, or jogging in place. The intensity may go from light to moderate, five to eight in a scale of one to 10 perceived of exertion, depending on your fitness level.
Always perform a light warm-up and stretch at the end of the workout. Do this routine two-three times a week, leaving one day in between.
Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website, martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.