Fitness trainees and the average person looking to improve their fitness, health and body composition will tend to focus on performing a lot of repetitions of an exercise stacked within the first few sets of their workout. You’re probably familiar with these types of workouts as they usually involve training one body part in a scheme such as performing 3 sets of 10 repetitions of bicep curls and then move on to 3 sets of 10 repetitions on the leg curl and so on.
While I understand this is better than doing no activity, are there better ways to get fitness results in less time and more in tune with getting you a strong, capable body built for performance and looking great ? I think so – and I want to share this highly productive fitness methodology with you if you can dare to change up your current fitness methods that may have you frustrated, bored, and physically/mentally stagnant or depleted. This method utilizes a “rounds over reps” strategy that your body responds to very well.
Rounds Over Reps Explained
I first learned about the basic concept and approach to using the “rounds over reps” training method from coach Charles Staley. Coach Staley is a smart cat and one of the sharpest fitness personalities out there so check out his body of work. The takeaway lesson with the “rounds over reps” approach to training is that it’s not about how quickly you can drive your body to failure with a lot of front end exercise repetitions. It’s about the total work your body performs during a relatively brief and productive training session without going to muscular failure on any exercise.
So if you are used to training 3 sets of 10 repetitions on the bench press for example you would actually reverse the training scheme and perform 10 sets of 3 repetitions. Training in this fashion usually allows you to manageably handle a heavier load which will lead to a greater metabolic effect for your precious time invested. And by only focusing on say 3 repetitions at a time, you really mentally focus and dial in to using solid exercise form on each and every rep/set. Since you will not be chasing muscular failure on any set, your movement quality remains consistent avoiding potential injury.
How I Incorporate Rounds Over Reps Into My Training
You will notice that a large portion of my training activities I share with you is spent focusing on performing multiple rounds of thoughtfully combined exercises using relatively low repetitions for each exercise performed within a round while avoiding going to muscular failure on any exercise.
Why do I train like this? Because quite simply the results are phenomenal, I don’t waste my precious time and there are many ways to tweak the training variables such as load, reps, rest, training terrain and exercise selection ensuring you stay engaged and progressing.
However, I take the “rounds over reps” training model to a different level and layer multiple complementary exercises within a round in order to get the greatest metabolic effect in the least amount of time without going to muscular failure. Training in this fashion is exactly what I mean by my philosophy of Maximum Fitness in Minimum Time producing Stellar Results as found in all my taglines. I teach it, preach it, practice it and am a product of my own advice with all that I share with you.
I keep the repetition ranges low for each exercise whether they be body weight exercises like push ups or load bearing exercises like kettlebell or sandbag squats. Now just because the reps are low doesn’t mean you are not challenged – choose a repetition scheme or load where you go 2-3 reps shy of muscle failure each round. I can usually perform these training sessions in under 15 minutes. You just need to know how to program your training sessions for maximum fitness value. If you are really vested in your fitness success and desire supreme and sustainable results designed to get you a body built for go and show, then I urge you to include this method into your training routine. I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised and rewarded if you design and practice a challenging training program based on the “rounds over reps” model! Explore my site and youtube channels for tons of ideas to get you going and primed for success with this method.
I train in such a way whereby my workouts are designed to extract supreme fitness value in relation to my precious time invested. Training in this fashion can get very intense depending on my program design for a particular session. This does not mean that I train like a crazy man, extreme action psycho or maniacally obsessed movement junkie. If you want to chase those methods – good luck! I thoughtfully choose full body exercises that recruit every muscle and exercises that complement and balance your muscle groups like a pushing exercise combined with a pulling exercise.
Check out this video where I tie this concept together performing kettlebell cleans and chinups while layering in a kettlebell overhead carry for a balanced and devastatingly productive workout:
Understandably, most in the general fitness population have a hard time wrapping their head around this high round/low rep concept as they are used to being fed training programs and “universal” tips by the low information fitness media that keeps their fitness progress and results stagnant. The fitness industry is an often confusing and frustrating industry of extremes populated by characters ranging from the disingenuous Hollywood -type fitness phony and health hipster guru with their scripted backstories professing their “love” for your well being to the few truly worthwhile practitioners and coaches. It’s sad, but most of the really good fitness coaches in every geographic market I have had the pleasure of meeting get overshadowed by all the fitness hype, gimmicks and low value fitness programs high on glitz and emotionally charged mindless movements, yet devoid of any substance and lasting value.
Benefits Of Rounds Over Reps Training
It’s way easier on your joints as you don’t counter productively push and pound your body into the “red zone” when performing each exercise
You don’t come close to exhaustion in an exercise round which lets you bank a lot of quality fitness work allowing your body to productively, yet sustainably adapt and recover leading to fantastic fitness gains.
It’s an incredibly effective and sustainable fitness method making you less prone to injury. One of the problems with totally running your body into the ground and blitzing it into submission when you exercise is that your form tends to suffer on each additional repetition after a certain fatigue point which in turn increases your chance of injury.
You are physically and mentally challenged, not obliterated.
The rounds will really work their metabolic magic racking up a lot of quality work and effort without feeling weak and fried which tends to be counterproductive to fitness progress. The repetitions will productively add up before you know it.
Training this way using a challenging, yet low, purposeful repetition scheme allows you to finish your training session energized and strong giving you a feeling of robust productivity.
Really dials you in to your form and technique as you only need to concentrate on a few reps at a time
Easy on the mind, keeps you engaged and dare I say fun to perform!
It may seem like you are not experiencing a “killer” workout if you go by the flawed standards and advice of a typical media fitness phony or low information, adrenaline junkie type of coach. But by performing the work in manageable, productive chunks your body’s central nervous system is able to more effectively process and adapt to the total work challenge you impose upon it without beating you down resulting in better recovery and fitness gains.
It almost feels that you aren’t taxing or stressing your body enough, but that’s the beauty of training in this fashion. Trust in those multiple fitness rounds as the metabolic payoff will be fantastic leading to solid fitness gains as long as you eat like a sane, responsible adult.
Here’s another sample video from my coaching playbook that ties the concept together and shows you how to design and perform a “rounds over reps” style workout using only body weight exercises:
Don’t be lulled into thinking you won’t get a good workout in when you practice a low rep, multiple round training session. All that work is still a big deposit in your fitness bank that pays huge metabolic dividends. Your body treats it like accumulated work and will adapt which means you will be earning gains in strength, conditioning and priming your metabolism for greater caloric burn even hours after you end the workout. You get all these fantastic fitness benefits without killing your body and haphazardly rushing to failure and/or injury.
Make Sure You Are Challenged
On paper, this type of training may look like a walk in the park. I have had some participants scoff at it’s design and even argue it’s merits telling me all kinds of reasons it wouldn’t work. That was before I put them through a session I planned. Not one person ever told me they were not challenged after that. Most told me they felt like they had a great workout, but felt strong, fresh, energized and capable. That’s exactly how you should feel after ANY great workout, folks!
You need to be able to know the difference between a training session where you are babied, challenged or nuked. Babying yourself or nuking your body to the point of puking and crawling out the gym is counterproductive. Aim for a challenging training session where you are poised for success allowing your body and mental energy to recover in order to return stronger and more robust to your next training session. Just avoid the extremes of little or no effort(babying yourself) and nuking your body into submission and you will be amazed at your progress and results.
To be fair, I have had some folks tell me they were not challenged by these types of workouts I design.
This is almost always feedback I get from some people who have browsed one of my training videos or articles out in cyber land somewhere at some point and may have misinterpreted my program instructions. That’s perfectly understandable as I realize I have a fast, animated accent and delivery when I speak that probably bleeds into my writing style as I have never been accused of having the speaking eloquence of James Earl Jones or write like Hemingway. That’s okay because I put the real “me” out there and truly believe in all the methodologies I share with you unlike the legions of Hollywood type fitness phonies and shameful fitness gimmick hucksters that run rampant in the fitness industry. I stand by my fitness philosophies, but am always willing to tweak them upon exposure to other great ideas from the community.
If someone tells me they weren’t challenged with the “rounds over reps” method I will ask a few questions and find there is usually something in the training equation missing or needs to be balanced or tweaked in order to ensure the trainee positions themselves for success.
Here are the most common reasons you may not feel challenged when training in this rounds over reps fashion:
Not using a heavy enough weight. I sometimes find trainees are using so light of a weight that it wouldn’t even make a good paperweight or is more suited to using it in a necklace and hanging it around your neck. A rule of thumb for choosing a challenging weight is one you can do 8-10 reps in a single set with just shy of max effort for the particular exercise you choose. That is a pretty good baseline, but it is up to you to tweak and experiment from there.
Taking too long of a rest between rounds. You want to rest long enough before you jump into your next round to be able to complete your exercises with good form, but not too long whereby you sap the challenge and metabolic effect of your efforts by lollygagging too long. Try resting for 1 minute between rounds for a general rule of thumb baseline and increase or decrease it from there depending on your fitness level. There is no ideal “universal” recovery time to rest between rounds as we all inhabit different bodies at varying fitness levels/ages and are exposed to different external and internal stressors in life which will effect your exercise recovery time on any given day. There are some training sessions when I need to take over a minute rest between rounds when I feel a tad run down by life’s demands and other sessions where I feel so robust that I only take a 20-30 second rest between rounds. Just learn to listen to your body as it will never lie to you – it will tell you if you need to recover more or step on the accelerator a bit.
Don’t sit idle between rounds. Practice active recovery during your rest period between rounds. This means you don’t sit still or sit down, disengage and tap away on your smart phone. Instead, walk around or do some mobility exercises between rounds. This helps you recover better for the next round and keeps your metabolism stoked – burning more calories and keeping a productive flow to your workout. You never want to do a set or round of exercises and then completely stop moving as this puts undue stress on your body. So keep moving in some fashion between rounds keeping the blood flowing and expel the built up stress.
Doing too few rounds. This will vary depending on the amount of exercises you layer within a training round, but shoot for at least four rounds if doing multiple exercises within a round as a rule of thumb. If you are just doing one exercise like the bench press example in the beginning, you may be doing upwards of ten rounds depending on the repetition range you choose. I had one person tell me they weren’t challenged after only performing two rounds. My solution to them was to perform at least four rounds and listen to your body to proceed further or cut the training session. Problem solved. Challenge restored.
Choosing lackluster exercises. I choose exercises and movements that work every single muscle in full ranges of motion from my tootsies to the top of my head leaving nothing unworked. The more muscles you incorporate into a training session, the more fitness dividends you gain keeping your metabolism primed like a blast furnace to promote strength and muscle gains while sending nasty fat packing. And these types of workouts are extremely time efficient if you are a busy person. If you choose to do isolated exercises like arm curls, tricep extensions, leg machine curls, ab machine crunches and so on then don’t expect good total body results. Stick with total body exercises for your fitness foundation like squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings and overhead presses to name a few and throw in some weighted carries, crawls, sprints and body weight exercises for good measure. Keep in mind that when you perform exercises where you need to lift a weight off the ground and put it back down again is the ultimate expression of fitness that will forge a truly solid body. So if you are going to invest your presumably valuable time into getting fit, why not perform those exercises proven to pay you the greatest fitness dividends instead of choosing those with lesser total body value? Explore my site for tons of training examples driving this beneficial concept home.
Dare To Break From The Fitness Herd And Get Extraordinary Results
If you can break the traditional habit of doing “3 sets of 10 repetitions” per exercise as prescribed by conventional fitness wisdom, you will be pleasantly surprised with the results. If you are happy with your current results, then by all means keep doing what you are doing, but keep an open mind and give the ’rounds over reps’ method a look!
Try incorporating the concepts of ’rounds over reps’ into your training program and I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised at how effective, challenging, engaging and fun working out in this manner can be. Invite a friend or two to participate to keep things interesting and accountable which I often do.
So have some challenging fun spreading those traditionally tiresome exercise repetitions over multiple rounds of work and layer total body exercises within your rounds. You will create a devastatingly productive training session that won’t waste your time and can be performed in as little as 10 minutes.
Stay Well! Take Action! Be Consistent! Train and Eat Smart! Get Rid of the Drains and Pains in Your Life! Value your loved ones and friends and get out and have some active, safe fun!
“There’s a Sparkle in my Eyes and Iron in my Thighs!”
Seven Stars Fitness