Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Countdown Timer 'UnPlugged'

One of the most important pieces in the gym is the countdown timer.  Ask any coach who uses one and they'll tell you that without it, their programming would likely have to take on a whole new twist.

Without a gym timer, much of the programming in today's functional fitness gym would be vastly different.  Why is that?  It's because of the fact that this one simple tool is capable of being the coach, the motivator and the judge all in one neat little package.

For the CrossFit Affiliate or Garage Gym athlete, the countdown timer brings on an intensity to the training that can be difficult to muster without.  For those that need the extra incentive or that extra push, the timer is up to the task.  It keeps us on track and motivated to keep moving.  No matter the workout - whether it's three rounds of Pull Ups, Push Ups and Squats or Squat Cleans and Kettlebell presses, adding the element of time into the mix increases the intensity dramatically.  And we've all seen that appropriate levels of intensity gets results without injury.

With the resurgence of the timer into the daily training routine, creative coaching has pushed the envelope and has demanded more than what just a everyday countdown timer can deliver.  Functionality that can add variety to programming allows the coach more flexibility in programming and with that variety and flexibility comes less adaptation and better results for the athlete.  And the variety also keeps interest peaked.

Because of the demand for more out of the ordinary countdown timer, many timers have quite an array of timing sequences and modes that add intensity in different ways.  Let's take a closer look at many of the popular timing sequences.

  • Countdown Timer - One of the most common timing modes that may have the least amount of impact on intensity.  The countdown timer counts from a preset number to zero.  One of the most common training programs that uses this sequence is the AMRAP - [As Many Rounds As Possible].  In this sequence, the athlete performs a shorter duration workout repeatedly  as the time counts down to zero.  In many instances the workout is one that can easily be accomplished in the time frame, therefore to add intensity, the workout needs to be repeated over and over until the timer reaches zero.
  • Count Up Timer- Also very popular in CrossFit programming is the RFT - [Rounds for Time] timing sequence.  Similar to the AMRAP, there are those that argue the RFT is a more intense style of programming.  This type of workout is one in which the athlete has to complete a set number of rounds no matter the time it takes.  Unlike the countdown timing mode which will eventually signal the end of the workout, this type of program won't allow the athlete to quit early.  You've got to finish.
  • Tabata Timer - The first of the Interval Timing Sequences in which there is 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest normally for 8 rounds.  Known to be one of the most intense and effective training methods because the forced, short interval of rest demands high intensity during the work period.  Normally this type of workout is reserved for less complex and short duration movements like the pull up, push up and air squat in which each of those exercises is performed for 8 rounds.
  • Fight Gone Bad - made popular by CrossFit - each of five exercises are performed for a full minute - Wall Ball, Sumo DeadLift High Pull, Box Jump, Push Press and Row for Calories ending with a minute rest period.  This workout is repeated for three rounds and scored based on the total number of movements plus calories rowed.  Again, a stellar example of programming intensity, moving from one type of movement to another every minute in which different muscle groups are used keeps the athletes movements strong.  And the suggested one minute rest period is short but allows the intensity to be maintained.  And because of the rest period, it is expected that there is no rest during the movements.
  • Every Minute on the Minute [EMOM] - An excellent training tool for strength movements, the athlete is expected to work at the top of every minute normally with a heavy weight movement such as a Dead Lift or Front Squat.  The reps are usually kept very low to allow the weight moved to be as high as possible.  The remainder of the minute is spent in recovery for the next round.  The EMOM is normally programmed for anywhere from 5-12 rounds.  Some coaches even mix in two movements such as 3 Heavy Deadlifts and 5 Handstand Pushups and ask the athlete to alternate every minute through the movements.
  • Custom Interval Programming - And even with the above timing sequences, many coaches demand for the ultimate in flexibility.  The gym timer that can be custom programmed to any work-rest, or work-work,-rest, etc. is becoming the norm.
The Countdown Timer at Hammerhead Fitness can run all these sequences to bring a new level of intensity to your training.