Using Active Rest For Optimal Results


Hey, everyone. I’m hearing some great feedback from people using my programs. I’m glad you guys are getting in better shape!

A few people asked about active rest that I put in between exercises and how to do it to get the best results.

First of all I want you to understand why we are doing active rest instead of just plowing through a workout resting a little as possible in between exercises. The reason for active rest can be summed up in one word: RECOVERY.

By using active rest in between exercises, you will be able to go harder or heavier by allowing yourself some recovery time in between exercises. Remember, we’re martial artist athletes not bicep-flexing body builders. We’re looking to improve PERFORMANCE. Active rest is an effective way to keep fresh for each major exercise while still working on some aspect of fitness.. No need to believe me, try it and you be the judge!

So let’s dive right into it.

Two Keys For Using Active Rest Appropriately:

1. Determine your goal for your conditioning program. Here are some common goals:

  • Just starting to workout or get back in shape
  • Competition preparation
  • Improve conditioning
  • Working on technical elements of grappling/striking

2. Keep your HR (heart rate) in between 100-140. I’ve found this to be a very good guideline to follow.

Keep in mind the idea of active rest is to keep you warm in between exercises while working on your goal.  Do not let yourself get too fatigued. Monitor yourself with a heart rate monitor and gauge your perceived level of exertion at a particular heart rate. The better aerobic shape you are in, the closer to 140 you will be able to get without having it interfere with your next exercise. If you are out of shape or just beginning to exercise keep it near the 100-110 zone. Find out what works best for you by experimenting.

Now I’m going to give you several things I personally use depending on my program goal.



This is where you want to start if you’re workout program extremely taxing (i.e. explosive power, maximum strength, power endurance, etc). The idea here is to use light aerobic exercise to enhance recovery in between sets. Use a cardio machine such as:

  • Walking on treadmill with incline (5-15% grade)
  • Elliptical machine
  • Light jogging
  • Stationary bike




This is a good option if you’re doing a general endurance or general strength program and you’re looking to improve your endurance/technique/footwork in grappling or striking. I’m a huge fan of shadow fighting exercises.

By practicing your moves in real time with an imaginary opponent, you can develop specific conditioning as well as getting your technique smoother. Just make sure you only go as hard as you can keep good form and keep your heart rate under 140! Here is a video I did demonstrating some MMA-style shadow boxing:





Another option that works with virtually any program is you can practice your grappling techniques. I like to do techniques in sets of 5 reps and do them slowly.

For example:

  • Do 5 penetration steps for a takedown then rest a little then perform the other side.
  • Do 5 submissions (i.e. armbars from the guard, kneebars from half-guard, or whatever submission you want to work on) then rest a little then perform 5 on the other side

This is a great way to get in more drilling time. The only draw back is that you need a partner or grappling dummy to do this and people will look at you strange if you’re in regular gym…but who cares about that!




Using active rest in between major exercises will reduce residual fatigue when going from exercise to exercise. Performing active rest effectively will improve your ability to lift more, go harder during intervals or develop some technique or endurance in between sets of major exercises. Now go train!



Written by the very Talented Ted Ryce:



Ted Ryce is a brown belt with two stripes in Brazilian Jiujitsu under Daniel Valverde in Miami, Florida. He is a professional personal trainer with over 13 years of experience specializing in the areas of Sports Performance and Medical Exercise Programs. For more information visit:










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