What Should You Do Between Sets?

Step into any gym and you’ll see numerous guys sitting around doing nothing 75% of the time they are training. All things being considered, this isn’t a bad thing – if you are training somewhat hard you need a little rest and recovery between sets, so in actuality I don’t really have a huge problem with this.

That being said, I feel you can still get a little more out of your workouts while still training hard and optimizing recovery between sets. Instead of just sitting around and recovering, I prefer performing a little active recovery between sets, working on other aspects of fitness that you may need a little work on. Here are four good ideas to consider between sets to optimize your training time;


A great way to get more out of your workout is to stretch between sets. Stretching isn’t intense and will allow you to make some positive change while also recovering between sets – and you could probably use it, we all have tight muscles that are screaming for a little attention.

When it comes to what you should be stretching you have a couple options. If you are on a typical upper/lower split which I usually am, you can stretch a muscle group you aren’t training that day – like a good pec stretch during a quad dominant movement or a hip flexor stretch while performing chin ups.

Another good option would be to train the opposite muscle group that you are training (antagonist). For example, if you are performing a quad dominant exercise, stretching your hamstrings may be a good bet or stretching your pecs while doing some chin ups could do the trick.


One of my favorite and good to ideas between sets is to add some core work. I personally will usually do a couple different core exercises throughout a workout, typically doing one towards the beginning of the workout and one towards the end of the workout. Some of my go to core exercise are front and side planks, rollouts, ½ get ups, anti-rotation presses and even some med ball slams – nothing crazy, just getting some core work out of the way while recovering from some strength work.

Improving Tissue Quality

One area that I think most people, if not all of us, can improve is our tissue quality. Grabbing a foam roller, a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, tiger tail, or whatever else tickles your fancy and improving your tissue quality is a great idea. I can almost guarantee that you have some areas that could use the attention, so why not get after it between sets.

Corrective Exercise

First off, I understand that improving tissue quality is in itself a corrective exercise, but what I am getting at here is what most people would consider prehab/rehab or typical corrective exercise. Things like leg lowers, T-Spine work, toe touch to squat, and hip flexor/extensor movements may be a great idea between sets. They aren’t very intense at all which would still allow you to recover between sets and they will help you flat out move better.

There you have it, four simple yet effective ideas for you to take with you into the weight room. Instead of sitting around and being the creepy guy starring at all the girls on the treadmills you can continue focusing on improving between sets all while not hindering your recover. I have personally added most of this in some way during my workouts, doing some core, some stretching, some corrective work, and sometimes some tissue quality improvement if I am really sore or tight in certain places.

Bottom line: there is something (or a couple things) on this list that you need to improve and between sets is the perfect time to tackle these issues.

Things to Read to Get You Over the Hump 1/9/13

Here are a few good reads to get you through the first week of 2013;

workIf You Can See John Smith by Alwyn Cosgrove

I thought this was a really interesting piece by Alwyn Cosgrove. This puts a whole new perspective on practicing what you preach. Never thought about it in these terms, but it certainly made me think a little.

CrossFit Champion vs. MMA Conditioning by Joel Jamieson

Really interesting video where Joel Jamieson has a former CrossFit champion James Fitzgerald go through a brutal conditioning circuit that he does to test his MMA fighters to understand how their conditioning is for their upcoming fight. Interesting to see how a CrossFit champion stacks up against MMA fighters.

Stretching Doesn’t Work by Dean Somerset

Dean Somerset has a take on static stretching that seems to be more and more common these days. I’m not where near smart enough to say whether or not static stretching works, but I’m curious to see where we are as an industry 10 years from now when it comes to static stretching.

Episode 115 of the Strength Coach Podcast

Another new episode, always worth the listen!

6 Coaches Weigh In on Pull Ups

Everything you would ever want to know about pull ups and getting better at them.

Ready, Set, Goals!

goalsAnother year has come to an end and millions of Americans will engage in thoughts and conversations about how this will finally be the year that they reach their New Year’s resolutions. Two years ago you stayed on track for close to three months while this past year you didn’t make it past week three.

So the questions begs, what does it take to actually keep those resolutions and reach all the goals that you have set for yourself? That’s a tough question because we are all different, but here are a few common reasons as to why many people don’t follow through with all their New Year’s resolutions.

Too Vague
If you really want to reach a goal you have to know exactly what that goal is. What does it mean to ‘get in better shape’, or to ‘improve my health’? That’s way too vague. If you’ve never step foot in a gym, in theory doing anything on a consistent basis will lead to being in better shape. You’d be much better off setting goals that you can actually see, goals like ‘I want to lose 20lbs’ or ‘I want to front squat 315lbs’. The more specific your goal is, the better the chance that you actually achieve your goal.abs

Not Attainable
One of the most obvious reasons that people don’t maintain their goals is because they usually aren’t attainable. Let’s go back to the example of someone who has never step foot in a gym. If this is the case, its probably not likely that you’ll be able to bench 300+lbs or squat 400+lbs within the next year…and if you do you’re a freak. Set goals that are attainable, crush them, and then make new goals, this way you’ll keep that fire burning and feel like your accomplishing something at the same time.

Setting A Timeframe
If you have a specific goal set, that is attainable yet realistic, you need to set a timeframe on reaching the goal. If your goal is to run the Boston Marathon you don’t have much of a choice since the race is set in stone, but if your goal is to drop 20lbs find a realistic time to drop the weight. Again, this needs to be specific and realistic. Dropping 20lbs in the next two weeks isn’t going to happen for anyone.

The clock's ticking...

The clock’s ticking…

Tell Your Friends and Family
Letting the people close to you know about your goals is a good way to keep yourself on track. These people will hold you accountable when you are looking for excuses or starting to wonder from your game plan. Plus, these people care about you and aren’t afraid to hold your feet to the fire – which is what many of us need.


Take life by the horns this year and make it one of your best years yet. Set goals that are attainable in a certain timeframe and make sure they are specific, black or white, goals. This way you can hold yourself accountable while your friends and your family push you to reach all your goals. No more excuse making, dominate 2013!

Top 10 Blog Posts of the Year

With the year coming to an end, I figured it would be a great time to put together what I thought were 10 of the best blog posts of the year (I know I’m not the only one that has put together a post like this). Obviously there are many great posts to pick from written by numerous great strength coaches, so I had to leave some out that I thought were worthy of being on the list. Without further adieu, here’s the list:

#1 – Don’t Forget the Coaching by Kevin Carr

To me this post hit the nail on the head. There are so many posts out there about this new movement that someone came up with, a new program they came up with and all the others things. At the end of the day strength coaches are just that, coaches and it seems sometimes people lose sight of that. Kev Carr nailed it with this post.

#2 – 8 Laws of Strength Training by Bret Contreras

This article was a follow up to his previous article of “almost” laws of strength training, which was also a great article. Again, with all the stuff out there on the internet I feel like young strength coaches or people just looking for good training advice can get lost in it all. Bret breaks it down pretty plain and simple with guidelines for people to follow.

#3 – It’s Not the Program, It’s the Coaching by Michael Boyle

Another classic post by Coach Boyle, one that couldn’t be more spot on. Everyone looks to change the program when things aren’t going as well as they would like, but sometimes it may not be the program and it may be time to look into the mirror.

#4 – Is Foam Rolling Bad for You? by Michael Boyle

Talk about stirring the pot a little with this post! Coach Boyle had a great response to the thoughts of some other strength coaches when it comes to foam rolling and decided to write a little blog post about it.

#5 – Debt Free in 24 Months at 24 by Brendon Rearick

My favorite post of the year that has nothing to do with strength and conditioning and everything to do with personal development. Anyone that has any student loan debt or any other debt needs to take a look at this and figure out how they can implement some of Brendon’s strategies into their own finanical life.

#6 – Say No to Squats and Barbell Rows by Ben Bruno

This had to take the cake for the most creative yet spot on articles of the year. I thought it was amazing how Ben put this piece together while making complete sense the entire time. Ben is a great writer and this may have been his best piece of writting in my opinion.

#7 – Warm Up by Mike Robertson

This post was put up just a couple weeks ago but became one of my favorites right off the bat. Mike runs through warming up, from top to bottom, leaving no stone unturned.

#8 – Are Pull Ups That Essential? by Eric Cressey

Pull ups and chin ups are in most all strength training programs, especially for athletes that don’t have any injury concerns with them. However, Eric has a great in-depth post on whether or not they are really as essential as everyone thinks they are. Real interesting post that will make you think a little.

#9 – Make a Difference by Dan John

The title says it all. Another post on not missing the boat as a strength coach and maybe focus on the things that really matter.

#10 – Tough or Reasonable by Dan John

It seems like these days when it comes to strength training and/or dieting everything needs to be tough in order to see great progress, which is far from the truth and what this article is all about. Plus, it’s Dan John, which means its a must read!