Why do we set time caps?

Why We Put Time Caps on Workouts
-Clark Hibbs

“Today’s workout is a 21-15-9 workout of pull ups, kettlebell swings, and burpees. Our big focus today is going to be to perform the kettlebell swings unbroken, manage big sets on the pull ups, and to take as little rest as possible on the burpees. We’re going to put a 8 minute time cap on this workout, so you’re going to need to keep the breaks short and the movements quick and crisp. Any questions?”

“Yes… why do we have time caps?”

Ahhh yes, the time caps. This is an excellent question. Let’s dive into it with some physiological reasonings, as well as some practical reasonings.

Physiological reasoning:

  • to ensure we hit proper energy systems and intensity levels when training
  • to make sure we truly remain “constantly varied” in our pursuit of fitness

Energy Systems and Stimulus Levels

The human body has three energy systems in which we can most identify our training. We have the phosphagenic system, the glycolytic system, and the oxidative system. It is good practice for us to train in each energy system in order for us to have a well rounded level of fitness. We want to be able to perform in any time domain be it short, medium, or long.

Because if you think about it… these are the tasks you’re going to face in every day life.

Short: “Omg my toddler just took off running and I have to go catch’em!”
Medium: “Let’s go play in the yard with the kids for a while.”
Long: “Looks like we have about 5-6 hours worth of yard work to do today. No worries. I got this.”

We want you to be ready for anything.

This could be an entire post on its own, but I’ll keep it short. I like to relate these systems to running speeds (because we can all relate to that a little easier).

-Phosphagenic = 100m sprint – you can only maintain this pace for a very short amount of time (less than a minute)
-Glycolytic = 400m-800m run – a hard and fast paced run that you can sustain (1-3 minutes)
-Oxidative = 1 mile+ run – controlled and sustainable pace

Our bodies will train in each of these systems no matter what. Just look at the graph below. Every energy system starts when you start moving! But we can maximize the effectiveness of these systems by working in the correct time domains.

Phosphagenic system isn’t only trained in cardio sprints like a 50 yard dash or 50/35 calorie bike sprint, but could also be trained in a heavy power clean double.

The glycolytic system will be trained in our short bursts that we can remain in control with. Think tabata workouts, 1 minute on 1 minute off style, or any other sort of interval work.

Our oxidative system is *always* on, but we’re really going to maximize that system in anything that is perceived as a medium to long workout.

Every energy system is trained in some way each and every time you workout, but your perceived level of intensity is really the determining factor in which systems you’re training in. It’s our job as coaches to help you get into the right mindset and intensity level for the workout. That’s why you hear us use words like “sprint” or “all out” or “8/10” effort or “nice and easy pace.”

These energy systems are a fun way to re-frame the time cap question. We’re just trying to prepare you for life’s situations!

Remaining Constantly Varied

Time caps are a great to make sure our community is truly staying constantly varied in our approach to metabolic conditioning. If we performed a sub 3 minute spring workout every day, we would get really good at short burst efforts.

….but what happens when you’re faced with a task that requires effort for 20+ minutes? You might not be able to handle it! Vice versa if we only train 20+ minute workouts.

By establishing time caps, we make sure we consistently train in all areas and levels of intensity and time domains.

So those are the physiological reasons… but about the practical?

Budgeting Time for Classes

Our number one service at Yellow Rose is world class coaching. Part of world class coaching is making sure that our classes are run professionally. Professional classes are well thought out, planned, and executed accordingly in a timely manner. For us coaches, knowing we have X amount of time for the workout makes executing a professionally run class all the better.

Here’s an example. Let’s say we’re going to back squat for 20 minutes today, followed by the workout I stated earlier in the post with a 10 minute cap. (Fun fact – a good goal is always to try and “beat the cap” by around 2 minutes!) Here’s what my lesson plan would look like.

Class from 9:30AM – 10:30AM

  • 9:30-9:32. Board brief and intention
  • 9:38-9:47. General warm up
  • 9:47-9:50. Squat breakdown and intention
  • 9:50-10:10. Back Squats
  • 10:10-10:13. Put away bars and get out equipment for workout
  • 10:13-10:17. Reminders of intention for workout, as well as movement standards.
  • 10:18-10:28. Workout (If all class finishes under cap, add time to cool down section)
  • 10:28-5:30. Cool down/put equipment away.

Running well timed classes is critical for us, and critical for YOU as well. The way I see it, one extra minute that we hold you over is one minute less with your family. That’s valuable time that we never want to take away from you.

So there it is. There’s the secret behind time caps. Nothing too crazy… some physiological and scienc-y reasons, and some good old fashioned practical reasons as well!

Hope this answers your question!



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