Merry Fitmas guys! So, I’ve been personal training for a few years now, and one thing that I’ve noticed about my clients is that they will either take full advantage of their rest times and even try to extend them by distracting me with conversation, OR after about 20 seconds of rest they think they’re ready to jump right back into the exercise as if them resting is wasting time when they could be burning more calories. With this article, I plan to explain the importance of resting properly between sets and how it can actually improve your performance in the gym!
When I train on my own, I always time my rest in between my sets. That way, I’m not wasting time, and I’m staying on pace with my workout. It also allows me to have consistent rest in between my sets, so that I can better keep track of how I’m improving. With proper rest, your body should be able to perform the exercise with the correct form to the same degree of strength or better. If not? Then you may need to increase your rest time in between sets, or start to drop down your weights. Either way, by keeping track of not only the weights you use, but the amount of time it takes you to recover in between sets, is a good way to see how much your body’s strength and endurance is improving.
Having proper rest in between sets is even more important when you’re doing a strength based workout. So when you’re doing power lifting, doing heavy olympic lifts, or doing heavy sets of 3-5 reps trying to increase your overall strength. It is important to make sure your body is getting adequate rest so that you can avoid any potential injury. When you are doing a heavy lift, it requires a ton of mental and physical strength to be able to do it, and performing the exercise itself is very taxing on the body. That is why you may often see these big guys or athletic women in the gym, loading the bar with heavy weights, performing the exercises for 3-5 reps and then resting for what seems to be a long time. Now, I’m sure some of these patrons of the gym are taking way too long of a rest time in between sets, but for some of these heavy lifts you may actually need about 2, maybe even 3 minutes of rest depending on the person. Obviously the more athletic the individual, the faster they will be able to recover from the exercise, but if it is a style of training that you have never done before, or haven’t done in a while, it may take you a little longer to regain the strength to perform the exercise again properly.
Rest is also very important when you are training as a beginner, and it’s funny, because it is the beginners that I see either resting too much and not actually training, or they are not resting enough and forcing their body to do movements they don’t quite understand how to perform properly. It is mostly men who do the latter, and women who rest too much, at least in my own personal experience. As a beginner to the gym, it is very important to take the time to learn how to perform the basic movements properly, like a plank, squat, lunge, row, push up and so on. Once you have the basics of these movements, then you can begin to add-on accessory work, and variations to these movements. However, when you are learning these movements, you want to start off with using mostly your own bodyweight, taking the time to slow the exercise down. Let your body understand how it should feel like when you do it properly (have someone help you with this who has more experience in the gym, or professional help). Then have adequate rest in between your sets so that you are not tiring yourself out too much, that you start to forget and loose the proper form you’ve been working so hard on trying to achieve. You need to give yourself enough rest so that 1) you’re not tiring yourself out, loosing form, and therefore setting yourself up for potential injury, and 2) you are giving yourself enough rest so that you are not too tired to focus on the following set, therefore giving you a greater chance of creating muscle memory and learning how to do it on your own properly.
There are styles of training out there that don’t require a lot of rest, or they have “active rest periods.” These are perfectly fine, and are mostly circuit style training, and cardio training. These types of training don’t allow you to lift weights that are super heavy because you are not giving your body enough time to recover to be able to continuously do heavy sets. Instead, these styles of training are meant to keep your heart rate up, and get you nice and sweaty. These are great for people who want to improve their cardiovascular endurance, it’s great to incorporate into a weight loss training routine, or to incorporate into the days where you are on a time crunch. Even with these types of training, you should still time your rest periods, even if they are very short. That way, you are still getting consistent rest in between your sets, and you are not allowing yourself to rest too long, therefore, bringing your heart rate down too much. Obviously, if you are feeling sick, or you can no longer perform the movements properly, you should extend your rests, or modify your exercises. But at the end of the day, you should be using whatever rest time you have effectively. Use it to take a sip of water, to towel off quickly, or even to just regulate your breathing so you don’t tire yourself out too quickly. Rest is very important and it shouldn’t be wasted on social media. Make sure you are taking proper rest between sets, time them so that you are not taking too long of a rest, and record the amount of rest it takes for you to be able to perform the same exercise again properly. Obviously you may start to fail at the exercise but if it takes you about 40 seconds to be able to do the exercise for the majority of the sets you do, even if you fail on the last few reps of the last two sets, eventually you will be able to do it without failing with the same amount of rest. If you keep the rest consistent you will eventually be able to up the weights you’re using, with the same rest times! But you will never actually know this, if you are not resting properly, or timing and recording it as well. Rest, along with tracking the weight you use is a great way to measure your improvements at the gym.