Wednesday 30 January 2019

Tic-Toc - The importance of keeping time

Photo by Linda Perez Johannessen on Unsplash

During any phase of training one of the most important acute variables which is often overlooked is keeping track of your time under tension. For most average gym goers the tempo of each specific part of a repetition is an after thought if even a thought. Some might willingly focus on faster tempo's for speed and power, whilst others focus on slower to work the muscle more.

Forgetting about what tempo is being performed, for those who do work out to specifically set out tempo's tailored for whatever phase you are in be it strength, endurance, speed, power etc. an often overlooked but vitally important and useful workout aid is a simple stopwatch.

Table of contents

Tracking time

For years I would take a stopwatch with me to the gym whether it be a wrist-watch or neck one. All I used it for was simply to ensure I kept to the same amount of rest between each set being performed. At the time that was all my interest in using one and all I thought I would need it for. Like most gym-goers my repetition tempo was the same as their's - banging out the reps basically as quick as possible.

A few year's later I started to delve more into the importance of the tempo that you need to perform each repetition at depending on what your specific phase of training is. I thus realised that the stopwatch I was using had more critical importance than I ever realised. Whilst it is easy to count seconds in your head, those seconds may be too long but often too quick meaning you may be making the exercise harder or easier than you intended and are not achieving the optimal results you are aiming for. A stopwatch helps keep you to the required tempo.

The simple Casio F91W stopwatch, one of the first digital watches released back in 1991 it is still one of the most popular and dependable stopwatch's on sale today. Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash.

For many exercises it is easy to have the stopwatch sitting in front of you within sight. Sometimes it might take a bit of creativity to ensure that it is within sight however for certain exercises it is impossible either due to the physical position you are in or doing so would prevent you from performing the exercise with proper form.

Examples of how I would try to ensure I kept my stopwatch within sight included strapping it to the bar or gymnastic rings when performing upper back rowing exercises, as well as hanging it on ledges or gym equipment for pullups. It was not always the most practical.

In exercises where you can't keep a stopwatch within sight the only option is to keep count in your head, or so I once thought.

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Today most of us now have a smart phone of some sort where you can download apps. I can't remember exactly why I downloaded it, I think it may have been to help me with my balance work, but it proved to be a major aid I couldn't do without. What was the app? A simple basic metronome, an instrument commonly used by musicians to keep time to the beat especially when practising. All that is required is to set the metronome to 60 beats per minute (BPM) to account for 60 seconds a minute and ensure it is loud enough to hear during your routine and away you go. Perfectly executed reps depending on your goal every time.

It helped me more than a stopwatch during sets as I could keep perfect time to it whilst performing each rep with the best form I could do without having to try to glance over at my watch. As such my watch is now constrained to simply keeping track of rest between sets and the total time of my workouts.

It can be amazing and quite a shock to realise just how out of time counting seconds in your head actually is and just how hard an exercise can be when keeping to tempo's with longer periods than your used to such as 4|2|0 or 2|0|2.

The only real issue is if you have it too loud much to the chagrin of your fellow gym-goers. You might even drive some mad as an endless tic-toc during your sets can be annoying or agitating. As such it can help to pause the metronome between sets but when the gym has loud background music and people are crashing weights without care making more noise than you are, sometimes you need the higher volume. If really needs be you can always wear headphones.

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A good basic stopwatch can be easy to find and use in the gym. My Casio F91W cost me only £7.99 at the time, yet it is worth it. You can find one for £8.99 at Amazon or for a steal at £7.50 at Sports Direct.

For a metronome the following app The Metronome by Soundbrenner on the Google Play Store for Android phones is the bee's knee's and is easy to use. With 4.7 out of 5 rating from 25,636 reviews at time of writing it really says it all.

If you have any questions feel free to comment below or send me some feedback!

Lyle Richardson,
Gym Pal - Your Friend In Fitness


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