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Should I Measure Exercise Time or Reps?

May 29, 2017

Lisa SnowMeasuring Time Vs. Reps

By Lisa Snow, Personal Trainer

Many gym goers are doing random activity – definitely better than being at home on their couch – but not the most efficient use of their time.  Once a person starts trying to follow a logical plan or “program,” there are a lot of things to decide: which exercises to perform, what order to do them in, and how many of each to do.  Whether you’re getting an exercise program from a book, a personal trainer, or trying to create one for yourself, a timer can help make your workout easier.

What are “reps” anyway? 

A rep is one “repetition” of an exercise – one time through the whole movement.  One “rep” is one pushup, one squat, one time lifting and lowering dumbbells.  A “set” is however many reps you do before you stop to rest.  Depending on the exercise, your strength level, and how much weight you are using, a set might be 5, 10, 15, or 20 reps.  After you rest and start the same exercise or a different exercise, you’ve begun a new “set.”
Lots of people keep track of their workouts by counting how many reps they can do of each exercise.  This is absolutely better than just showing up at the gym and doing as much of each thing as you feel like, and helps you notice how much stronger you are getting over time.  But using a timer has several advantages over counting reps:
  • It frees up your mind to focus on doing the exercises correctly (“good form”)
  • It allows you to measure what you’re doing while still carrying on a conversation with a friend
  • If you’re working out with a buddy, you can each go at your own pace while doing the same exercises.  You might get 10 reps while she gets 12, but you can both move on to the next move at the end of that minute.

If you’re doing 1 minute sets, the timer that’s part of the Clock app on the iPhone is an easy option (it’s free and comes preloaded on every phone).  Many wristwatches also have a stopwatch (which counts up) or a timer (which counts down).  Timers are a better option than stopwatches, but either will work.  Fancy fitness apps are worthwhile for some advanced exercisers, but for newbies, it makes more sense to get a general timer app rather than an app designed specifically for fitness.  Timer apps are easy to understand, easy to start using, and many are free.  (For example, “Timer+” is free, and works on both iPhone and iPod touch.  Unlike the standard Clock app, it allows you to run multiple timers at once.  For example, you could set one timer for 45 min for your whole workout, and another timer for 30 seconds for each set.)  Great apps exist for all types of phones and laptops.  However you choose to measure your workouts, pick exercises you enjoy and give yourself credit for all your hard work!

Lisa Snow
ACE & NSCA Certified Personal Trainer

President

On the Mend Customized Fitness and Massage

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