Rest periods

I keep on meaning to create a post with this timing  information in:

These are estimates of how long a set of reps takes, followed by the ideal rest periods between sets.

The chances are that 1-5 reps  takes  0-20 seconds , with 1-2 reps needing 300 to 240 seconds rest  and 3-5 reps needing 240-180 seconds to recover

If you are doing 6-8 reps, the chances are it takes 20-40 seconds and you need rest of 180-120 seconds between sets.

If you are doing 9-12 reps the chances are it takes 40-70 seconds and you need to leave 120-90 seconds

If you do 13-20+ reps, chances are it takes 50-120 seconds and your rest period could be 90-10 seconds.

Rest periods can really support or screw your training



You are a self fulfilling prophecy! Your early teachers, the trainers you have met, the sports you have tried and failed at  have  pretty much taught you that you are weak, uncoordinated and basically crap. So, when you look at the WODs we publish on the Crossfit London UK site, you must to be thinking: “you have to be joking!  I cant do that!”

How you account for failure and success and the feelings these evoke  is the subject of  attributions;  the perceived causes of events and behaviours. Theories about attributions focus on your perceptions and interpretations that affect your behaviour.

The attributions we make about ourselves and others affect our behaviour.

If you cannot snatch (an olympic lift) you would behave differently depending on why you think you cannot. Perhaps you don’t know how, or need more practice; in which case you may  attend a Crossfit London UK skill seminar. However if you think its because you are weak and too uncoordinated to learn, you could simply give up and go back to a leg extension machine in your local fitness centre. The attributions you  make about others also effects  how you feel about them. If you watch a classmate attempt a snatch , how you perceive their attempt will be different if you think they lack the strength or that they are lazy!

Weiner  et al (1974) has  been credited with  bringing attribution theory to prominence by developing an attributional theory of achievement behaviour. He specifically felt that the difference between high and low achievers is the difference in attributional patterns (or how you think about stuff)

According to Weiner, if you had to assess why you screwed up a workout, or came last in the Crossfit games, your explanations could fall into one of 4 categories: ability, effort, luck, task difficulty.

However these four categories are not the critical aspect, the locus of causality (where the “blame” lies) and stability are the two essential dimensions.

The locus of causality can either be internal or external, ie ability and effort are internal,  luck and task difficulty are external. Are these stable?  Your ability is stable, however your effort is unstable and can vary from workout to workout: luck, unstable.

Later Weiner added a third dimension; controllability. Some factors are internal, but not very controllable, ie aptitude and natural ability.

Often people make internal attributions for winning and external ones for failure. In team sports, external attributions normally seem to come from the loosing side (lucky breaks, officials’ calls, weather). The tendency to attribute success internally and failure externally  can be seen as setting up a self serving bias. If you complete a workout faster than class mate, you would prefer to think that your extra effort won the day, not that your rival was ill that day.

Weiner suggests that the internal/external dimension can correlate to feelings of pride and shame, with the internal attributions provoking stronger feelings: you take a greater pride in a victory you earned!

The stability of these factors also has an effect: a stable attribution  leads you to expect the same outcome: if you have failed in the snatch because you its too complicated for you, you can expect the same results in the future. The controllability of the factor effects our moral judgements: we praise those who give extra effort and  dislike those who shirk.

However, the results of studies are confusing. Some have identified winners as internal stable and controllable, others that winners make more stable and controllable, but not more internal, attributions.

Spink and Roberts (1980) showed winners made more internal attributions, more importantly  they actually found two types of winners satisfied, and dissatisfied winners who felt the victory was too easy. Satisfied losers attributed losses to task difficulty, dissatisfied losers looked to their own low ability. Essentially, McAuley(1985)  found perceived success  to be a better predictor  of internal stable controllable atttributions  than objective success.

Attributions and Emotions.

It is quite popular to link attributions and emotions. Weiner identified outcome-dependent emotions (associated with actual outcomes)  and attribution-dependent emotions (the reason for the outcomes)

Work  by Biddle ( 1993) indicated performance satisfaction (or subjective appraisal)  is one of the best predictors of emotion, and that attributions play a role.

Dweck (1978)  deploys attributional theory in the field of learned helplessness.  We all come across those individuals ( do you think this of yourself)  who “know” they are slow, uncoordinated and too un-athletic to take part in sports or get fit ( or Crossfit) Here we can help by making these people attribute their failings to unstable, controllable factors including a lack of practice, instruction and techniques.

In reality, at Crossfit London, we find that many people who have been dismissed as weaklings, or overweight, uncoordinated failures can often make substantial improvements in performance and fitness. Our focus is to get you to work on those things you can control, and make stable; we do our best to get you to forget the vicious labels that incompetent sports teachers and trainers may have lazily given you. Our teaching is made progressive so that we can take beginners and make them skilled performers. Our approach will get the best out of your efforts and enhance your feelings of personal control.

Get to 12, drop down to 8, and build up

This is a handy ” how to increase the weight you should use” tip. Its the biggest draw back of exercise regimes that they forget to increase the stress of the exercise. Once you are used to it, the exercise is no longer an exercise, its just an activity.

The body needs to be challenged so you often need to vary exercise type, angles, type of kit used, but also, often, the weight used.

One of the easiest way to increase  he effectiveness is to increase the weight used. thats ok, but when do you ” up the weight”.

If I’m building some muscle mass  for my clients, I suggest this:

Find the weight you can do 12 reps with. Once you hit 12 reps, up the weight. Aim to find a weight you can get to 8 reps with. Over the next few sessions, build up to 12 reps again (using the same weight) then,  once you hit 12 reps,   up the weight. Expect to get to 8 reps again., build to 12 reps, and so on.

To be clear I have clients starting out with a bicep curl: we find what they can do 12 with  say 6kg. So we now increase to 7kg, If they can do 12 reps, we up it again, but maybe, for example , going to 8kg becomes hard. Maybe they can only do 8kg for 8 reps . Great.The task is now to increase the reps from 8 to 12. once they hit 12 reps, up the weight again again?


Hope that helps


My name is Andrew Stemler and Im a City and East London Personal trainer. Email me at at

How to break your concept 2 rower

As part of the management team of a CrossFit facility in the UK, I always struggled to understand how anyone could break the front stand of a concept 2.

However, I have now discovered a very clever way of incurring hundreds of extra pounds worth of repair bills and putting your concept 2 rowers out of service for days, sometimes weeks on end.

Here is how


To break* your concept 2 ,  put your foot on the front foot and hold it down. If you are fussy about where you put your foot, try heavy sandbags, or maybe even weights.

This will really screw it up.

I sent the above picture to  Concept 2 to be sure.

Here is their response

“Hello, in short the legs are meant to be moved freely, by putting bags on, standing on etc… you’re putting excess pressure on bolts/joints, allowing the machine to move slightly is okay.  If the machine is moving a lot it is likely technique that needs improving.  Rolling them around constantly or storing on end can also do a lot of wear and tear.”

Consider yourself told.

*This was not my 1st choice of words

My name is Andrew Stemler and I’m probably the East London personal trainer you have been looking for. Email me Andrew@crossfitlondon




If you do not have any pull ups, no one will want to marry you

Once you have a few pull ups, its ‘easy’ to keep adding to them. The real hard one is  getting that 1st pull up. I’ve struggled for 3 months to post a genuine article about getting your first pull up. This is my first public draft.

I hope it helps.

If you have no pull ups, here are some essential things you must do:

      1. Get a pull up bar at home. I’d say this won’t guarantee success, but not having one at home will guarantee failure. Do not rely on getting to the gym, or to us for that matter. Also it’s a private matter between you and the bar: basically you have bar “issues” and sometimes its best to deal with “issues” in private. This  pull up bar is often recommended  JML Iron Total Gym Upper Body Workout Bar
      2. Understand that a pull up is not a rubbishy exercise like all those silly piltates wiggles and squirms that you do. Pull-ups are a predictive happiness test. If you have no pulls ups (and this is especially true of ladies) no-one of quality will want to marry you. If you refuse to get that first pull up, stop reading this and go and get some cats. That’s all you will be good for.
      3. . Look honestly at your weight. Pull-ups will be harder to get if you are over-weight. That does not mean you wait until you are the “right weight”. Get going now. It will be harder, but as I often say: “you ate it, now hump it”.

(If you are overweight don’t set yourself the task of losing a few pounds before you do anything; start living your life now. If you are overweight, and are miserable because you are lonely and boyfriendless/ girlfriendless/ loverless, put your details up on the raunchiest BBW site that your morality can stand, and hold on to your hat! Big girls and boys are always in demand. You can only lose weight if you are happy. Fending off would-be lovers with a stick is  a very practical and measurable marker of happiness. Sitting at home feeling fat and ugly, makes you fat and ugly.  Sorry, that not really about pull ups is it.)

Let us begin…

  • Objective 1: can you hang from the bar with your palms facing towards you (for those in the know, this is the ‘chin-up’ grip that’s a bit easier to begin with)?
  • Objective 2: can you hang a bit longer?
  • Objective 3: can you hang a bit longer than objective 2? (can you see where this is going?)

To save a lot of time, can you get to hang on your bar for 10 seconds? When you can, shout “woohoo” (loudly so as to annoy your neighbours) and start on working out how to do your first negative.

Your first what?

Well in highly technical terms, right, there’s the pulling up bit (right?) and then there’s the lowering bit.


At the moment you are not strong enough to do the pulling up bit, like, but if you were kind of already up there, maybe you could, er, lower yourself down a bit?


Does sort of rather beg the question of “how do i get up there?”…

Well here is the Andrew Stemler “Getting it up guide” (apparently this is a good title that always sells):

      1. Jumping. Grab the pull up bar but instead of trying to pull yourself up, jump up so that your chin is above the bar. This can be easier said than done
      2. By standing on something. Just stand on something that is high enough for you to start out in that already-pulled-up position. A bench, a chair, whatever. Anything you can use as a mini-ladder would be perfect. Perhaps even a mini-ladder?
      3. Stand on something “version 2”.  Grab the bar and make your loser boy- or girlfriend  (perhaps the one you got from the BBW site) grab your ass and push you up

Now, once you’re in that top position, you’re ready to do the negative part of the pull-up. So, lower yourself down as slow and controlled as you possibly can. Focus on keeping really tight. I don’t mean “refuse to lend people money or get drunk”, I mean “have lots of tension in your body”. Squeeze (your own) bottom together. Brace your abs, squeeze your legs together.

Your first lower (we will call it negatives from now on) will either be agonisingly slow and hurt like hell, or you will fall straight through as you discover you have no strength at all.

Once you have lowered yourself, pop off the bar and reflect. Negatives are very taxing. You need rest between each one and you should never do more than 6 to 8 in a session.

So here is you beginner “CHIN-UPS FOR HAPPINESS” programme

Day  1: neg, neg, neg, neg, neg ( 120 secs rest between each negative)

Rest a day ( drink, eat cake, take all sorts of drugs. Smoking is especially good for you these days as it gets you out in the fresh air

Day 2: neg, neg, neg, neg, neg (90secs rest between each negative) It’s the same but with less rest!

Rest a day (put your own joke in!)

Day 3: neg, neg, neg, neg, neg (120 secs between each negative)

Rest one day

Day 4: The next workout needs you to get that loser boyfriend/girlfriend again. Basically they are going to try and help you pull yourself up and down. They get behind you, grab you…somewhere….(experiment) then they assist you to do….three sets of as many reps  as you can with 120 seconds between. So they grab you, and haul you up and down as many times as you can. Could be 1, you could do 2 or 6. The set is over when they cannot push you anymore, not when you feel like it. You will want to stop early as it feels as it you are not doing the work: in fact it’s mainly you.

Rest 120 seconds. Do it again 2 more times.

It’s my way of getting your body to see what the actual task is. No, a lat pull down machine is not a good substitution.

But, what if you cannot get anyone to help you? Well thats beyond this article: but ideas could be to go next door and bug your neighbour, call up your ex-wife. Perhaps the guy selling the Big Issue fancies a couple of quid extra. Get creative, and find someone. Join a religious group and offer to host a scripture reading and slip your set in before you start as “movement prayer”

Rest 2 days.

Day 5: neg, neg, neg,neg, neg (90 secs rest)

Rest 2 days.

Now it’s the big test. Get someone to help you do 1-2 easy, supported reps. Rest for 2 minutes. Then do your 1 chin-up (woohoo!) or hang there trying for a full 7 seconds. Then with 120 seconds rest neg, neg, neg.

If you get that pull up come and talk to us about getting more. If not return to the beginning and start again. If you are very weak it could take many passes through to get your first pull up. But this regime works.

Feel free to suggest improvements or funnier/ruder quips to comments.


My Name is Andrew Stemler and I’m a personal trainer in London