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Give it a Rest! Making Sense of Rest Times While Strength Training

By August 21, 2018December 10th, 2018Uncategorized

By David Weaver

I walk my new personal training client over to the kettlebell rack and proceed to demonstrate and explain proper technique for a kettlebell goblet squat. I then hand her an appropriate weight and allow her to perform the movement for herself. After observing her first set and telling her that she is performing the movement with proper technique, I turn around to grab my water bottle. Upon returning to our workout area some 45 seconds later I come to find out that she has completed all three sets of squats and is ready for her next exercise. Exasperated, I explain that while I’m happy that she’s excited to work hard and “power through” her workout, it’s important that she rest in between sets instead of simply racing through. I begrudgingly move on with the workout, trying to think of ways to fill up the next 59 minutes of her session.

Clients moving too quickly through their workout is something every personal trainer deals with on a regular basis and is all too common among gym goers worldwide. It’s important to understand that this habit is not only potentially irritating your personal training studio trainer, but it also dramatically affects the quality of your workouts and the subsequent results you see from those workouts.

Let’s start by establishing a simple fact, YOU NEED TO BE RESTING IN BETWEEN SETS WHILE LIFTING WEIGHTS. When lifting weights, your body primarily utilizes energy stored within muscle tissue to generate movement. As a result, your body needs time to recover and restore some of these energy supplies prior to your next bout of exercise.

Simply put, if you do not rest long enough before starting your next set, your body has not had sufficient time to recover and the performance on your next set will undoubtedly suffer. It’s also important to note, if you are even capable of completing all your sets without resting, YOU ARE NOT LIFTING HEAVY ENOUGH. Strength training is SUPPOSED to be difficult. Choosing a weight that’s challenging enough to warrant some sort of rest period is essential to creating adaptation and gaining the results we seek in the gym. So grab some heavy weight, move it around, and make sure to stop and breath in between rounds. Your body will thank you and the results will speak for themselves.

Okay, we’ve established that you shouldn’t be sprinting through all 3 sets of goblet squats without any rest. This still leaves the question, how long should you be resting then?

Rest Period LengthUnfortunately there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but there are definitely guidelines that can help us navigate our workouts with a little more effectiveness.

The appropriate rest period during strength training is essentially a product of the goal of the training session. Generally speaking, our goals with regards to strength training fall into one of three categories; Strength/Power, Hypertrophy, or Muscular Endurance.

For those unfamiliar with these terms, strength/power is associated with increasing how much force your body can produce as well as how quickly it can do so, hypertrophy refers to an increase in muscle mass, and muscular endurance is how well your body can sustain repeated muscular contractions over an extended period of time. Refer to the figure above to see how rest periods vary based on the goals of the training session.

As depicted, rest periods can range from as short as 30 seconds to a lengthy 5 minutes! It’s obvious that giving a generic rest period for all weight training is a dubious notion at best and in no way paints the entire picture. Now For those of you who aren’t about to spend 50% of your time in the gym just sitting around, I would encourage everyone to consider utilizing active rest techniques to increase training density and get more “bang for your buck” while resting. There are a myriad articles on the internet detailing the benefits and components of active rest (one such article can be found right here on the Pulse Fitness website). So the next time you’re in the gym and ready to hit the weights, think about what your current goals are and adjust your rest periods appropriately.

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