Stop Counting Reps, Start Training For Time

The idea of using repetitions and sets for rehabilitation programs was popularized by Thomas DeLorme, an army physician, in 1951 with a program he designed to help soldiers recover from injury. Sixty five years later and traditional rehabilitation programs still use variations of his repetition scheme for injury rehabilitation. As we transition to training for improved function and performance, prescribing exercises using timed increments, versus sets and repetitions, becomes more beneficial. A few reasons why:

1.      Life doesn’t happen in reps.

What rep scheme prepares you for this scenario? You’re at the zoo with your kids when one decides that they're done walking and you haven’t even gotten to the elephant yard. They want to be carried for the rest of the trip (uuugghggh). Note: I don’t currently have kids but have heard that I may have been the kid in this scenario on more than one occasion.

Most of our activities require us to sustain an effort for a certain period of time, not a certain number of reps. We should be training to improve the amount of time we can sustain those efforts.

2.      Time Under Tension

Physiological changes to our muscles, joints and other tissues occur based on how long a tissue is under tension. More positive changes in strength, flexibility, mobility, and stability (along with other human performance measures) occur based on the time a tissue is under stress.

3.      Track Progress

It’s easier to mark improvement and set benchmarks using time versus repetitions. How many lunges can you do in a minute? How long can you stay in the squat position? These are tests that are reliable, easily repeatable and are good demonstrations of your functional capacity.

At Evolve Performance Healthcare, we prescribe our exercises using times. Lunging for one minute versus doing 20 lunges. We’ve found that using this approach not only gives us concrete markers to track improvement, but also better prepares us for the challenges that we face on a daily basis.