hockey strength

Rest Times and Their Usefulness

Every well constructed lifting program all have one thing in common: delegated rest times. Rest times are incorporated to facilitate different training results. A solid program will have a correlation between rest times and the type of strength being trained for. For example, if you're lifting in the "relative strength" phase where you're hitting heavy 3 rep squats, you're going to have a longer rest. The longer rest is needed for better recovery; the nervous system needs a break to maintain its high level of performance.

Strength table.jpg

There are a few key takeaways when thinking about rest and recognizing its usefulness. A lot of folks in the gym will sit and talk in-between sets and not control their rest, these are usually those without a goal in mind or tracked numbers. Every rest period has a goal, whether it be hit consistent strength numbers or create a fatigue while still moving the appropriate weight. Here's how you should interpret and use rest to your advantage...

  1. Rest period lengths and their usefulness
    • Higher rest periods - 2 minutes+ - their use comes when you're lifting in the relative strength category performing compound movements. Also, if you're performing any form of PAP/contrast training, (the rest after the PAP/contrast movements in reference here) a longer rest is needed for nervous system recovery.
      • Examples - squats, deadlifts, bench/overhead pressing, Olympic lifts, etc usually will require more rest. These recruit more muscles than most lifts and are the lifts most often performed in the relative strength category.
    • Medium rest periods - 60-90 seconds - their use comes when training in the hypertrophy and endurance categories; aka when strength, endurance and muscle size are being trained for. You'll usually see these when you perform accessory lifts (lifts that complement the first compound movement). The 60-90 seconds allow enough rest to maintain a degree of strength, but should create some form of fatigue to facilitate growth.
      • Examples - dips, incline dumbbell presses, chin-ups, GHD, etc...movements that don't tax the system as heavily as compounds and usually have higher rep ranges.
        • Exception: when compounds are performed at higher reps/less weight (ex: 8 rep back squat) sometimes rest times may be in the 90ish second category-this is often used for beginners.
    • Shorter rest periods - 10-60 seconds - you'll usually see these used when performing training circuits, agonist/antagonist training or various forms of PAP/contrast methods. When circuit training you're doing multiple movements quickly after another, typically full body. Circuits are often used for fat loss and strength adaptation, high level of work within a short amount of time. Agonist and antagonist are opposing muscles, ex: a press then a pulling movement. PAP/contrast are when you train the same muscles quickly after one another, their use is to overload muscles by varied intensities.
      • Examples - circuit (hex deadlift, dumbbell row, GHD, incline dumbbell press, dumbbell curl all performed 45 seconds after one another), PAP/contrast performing a 3-RM back squat with 10 second rest then doing 6 reps of vertical jump.
  2. Be honest - when there's a rest time written in a program try to follow the delegated time. These times are made to facilitate different forms of growth, if you're constantly taking off or adding time then you're changing your true numbers.
  3. True numbers/progress - rest periods can help ensure you're recording more accurate progress. Like stated above having loose rest periods can influence how much weight you're actually able to move at that given time for the asked rep range.

Whether your goal is fat loss, strength gain or muscle gain rest periods are an easy variable to manipulate for results. Rest periods should always correlate with the lift and the reps, without these two factors strategic rest periods will not be as effective.

Why Tempo Matters

A lot of our athletes are familiar with tempo (the 3010's etc you see in programs), but do you understand why we use them and why they change?

Tempo involves creating a time frame for each part of the lift, the eccentric (downward movement), the concentric (upward movement) and holds at the top and bottom. This in return varies the muscle's time under tension, the time under tension will facilitate different results and adaptations. To help you understand better, we made a list of why and how to interpret tempos--this way you can utilize them in your training.

Let's look at a tempo that appears like this....3-1-1-0

  1. The first 3 is the eccentric count, so a three second descend (lowering phase) in a back squat.
  2. The second 1 is the hold at the bottom of the eccentric phase, so this calls for a 1 second hold at the bottom position of the back squat.
  3. The third 1 is the concentric phase, the upward motion or contraction phase-in this example you would stand up at a rate of 1 second from the back squat.
  4. The fourth 0 is the top of the concentric phase (top of the movement), this calls for a 0 second stop between each rep at the top of the back squat, no break in-between reps.

Now that you have an understanding of how to read and interpret tempos, here's how changing them can be beneficial and why we do so.

  • Easy to track - using a set tempo ensures every rep is the same, you're not haphazardly moving weight at different speeds every lift (which would effect results/true progress).
  • Different muscle types stimulated - fast and slow twitch muscle fibers respond differently to different stimulus's, everyone has both types just in different amounts. Fast twitch respond better to heavier explosive movements, while slow twitch respond best to slower more prolonged movements.
    • A tempo that involves a lot of 1's and X's calls for more explosive phases stimulating fast twitch fibers, while numbers like 3-4+ and excessive holds will help recruit/build your slow twitch fibers (generally speaking).
  • Increased muscle growth - when you focus on time under tension you're providing a calculated stimulus to the muscle. This in return will create more protein synthesis (which we covered briefly here) which will result in increased muscle size/growth, moving weights at inconsistent tempos can slow this process.
  • Planned training phases - all workouts should have a common goal behind them, tempos allow support a more thought out plan to reach this goal. For explosive strength increases you'll usually see lower reps and faster tempos and for muscle size/strength you'll see higher reps and longer time under tension. Together time under tension and reps performed will dictate results, use the guide below as a reference.
    • Relative strength – reps 1-5, time under tension 1-20 seconds and 85% or greater of 1 RM
    • Functional hypertrophy - reps 6-8, time under tension 20-40 seconds and 79-84% of 1 RM
    • Hypertrophy - reps 9-12, time under tension 40-60 seconds and 70-78% of 1 RM
    • Strength endurance - reps 13+, time under tension 60+ seconds and 69% or less of 1 RM

Tempo is a great tool for increasing strength when used correctly. A well designed program has respect for these principles and utilizes the science behind them.





No Belt, No Straps

When we work with athletes we don't use weight lifting belts, nor straps. Like everything, there's a time and place for both, although, we have reasoning for not employing these for our athletes. If you use belts and straps-hear our reasoning out and try avoiding them for a few lifts.


Belts are often used by elite olympic lifters, powerlifters and bodybuilders. There focus is to help maintain compression through the abdominal area (stomach) and to help prevent injury when working with heavy loads (usually 85+% maximal weight) by taking some of the force off of the body. We choose not to use them for our athletes and here's why...

  1. Foundational strength - most of our athletes are building their base of strength, using a belt could hinder their natural growth.
  2. True numbers - a belt might enable an athlete add more weight than their body is ready for, this will then lead to misinterpreted 1, 3, 5, + rep loads.
  3. Back/core growth/strength - the back/core need to have a base of strength before anyone should be worried about finding their maximal weight. By not using belts your back and core will learn to support weight on their own (and grow faster).
  4. Non-transferable - in most athletics it's not realistic that there will be a compressional force on the abdomen when performing, using a belt in the weight room could take away from lifting/performance carry over.
  5. Risk/Benefit - when pursuing true 1 rep maxes there is always a risk of injury, most athletes don't need to find TRUE 1 rep maxes. Their max without a belt should be the max used to assess other reps. 

Belts have their time and place, for most athletes they're unneeded-it's a safer/better bet to build strength without them, especially in younger athletes. In regards to straps there is a littleuse for them in our gym, but we have a strong case as to why we don't employ them in 99% of cases.

  1. Grip strength - grip is a limiting factor, meaning you can only handle a weight your grip can handle. Always strapping up to make a lift will hinder grip strength and improvement, which a hockey player needs.
  2. Forearm/hand growth - constantly strapping up will take away from natural growth of the forearm/hand musculature. When you're constantly holding a stick and having others test your strength on the puck you need a strong grip.
  3. True numbers - not using straps will help keep you true to what needs work, this usually being grip!

When building a solid base of strength you'll benefit more by avoiding the constant use of belts and straps. The back and core need to be strong, especially in hockey-you'll have better gains by not relying on a belt. Vice versa a hockey player needs a good grip, straps can hinder the growth and strength of a grip.

The Commonality Every Elite Athlete Possesses

There's one commonality that every elite athlete possesses, it's something that could be argued as the most important aspect to their success. This commonality is called...accumulation of training years.

We stress this concept so often to our athletes and their parents-if you want future success you have to put the time in now. Accumulation of training years is the concept that all of the years/time spent practicing your skill will lead to the best/optimal athletic result. Think about every pro athlete you follow, how often do you hear them say, "Well I started when I was 14." You don't. They start young, they practiced forever and put in the work, which correlates to their success.

No athlete plays a sport not wanting success for their effort, which is why we push for younger athletes to start learning basic concepts early. The picture below shows our table of critical age periods of trainability - this table illustrates which age level will benefit from different forms of training. Every age has their optimal times to learn different skills. For example, think about a skill like coordination and a midget aged athlete - if a midget didn't take the time to develop coordination at a young age it's incredibly hard (if possible at all) to catch up to someone who started when they were 5.

 /* Style Definitions */
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;


A lot of times younger athletes don't realize how much the drills and practice is building towards their success, every time they're in the gym it's building their foundation. As trainers it's easy to see which athletes started at a young age, even when we're teaching exercises/lifts athletes don't have previous experience with.

For example, teaching a back squat - if you took two athletes, one who's been in the gym and worked their flexibility, body awareness and understands basic movements and the other none of the prior, 10/10 times the athlete who understand basic concepts will learn and develop the move faster. This again can be linked back to accumulation of training years, it's the lump sum of training/athletic experiences that weighs heaviest on future success.

Every concept learned and worked on will correlate to an advanced future concept. Body awareness is linked to better lifting (understanding movements/verbal cues), basic plyometrics correlate to explosive power/strength, the list goes on forever...

Athletic success has one commonality, it's the total amount of time spent practicing and training your trade. Start working today to build your future, every day counts.