How to Boost Your Strength by Taking a Break

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Today we’re going to look at rest times.

Specifically, how long you should rest between sets.

This is a topic that’s often overlooked by people starting out in the gym.

On the other hand some experts take it to an extreme in my opinion. You don’t need to measure your exact rest times between every set.

But you should try to be at lest reasonably consistent.

The reason is obvious, the shorter your rest period, the more tired you’ll be.

A fatigued muscle won’t be able to lift as much weight as a fresh muscle.

However that doesn’t mean you should take 10 minute breaks between sets. Some strength athletes might do this, but for most of you it isn’t necessary.

And do you want to spend more time than necessary sitting around in the gym?

That’s right, you don’t.

You should spend as little time as possible in the gym while still achieving your goals.

Lifting weights shouldn’t be your whole life.

Instead, make fitness a priority without obsessing over it.

Losing weight and gaining muscle is one of the best goals any person can have.

But once you start seeing results, you need to actually enjoy the body you have worked so hard to build.

I can’t stress this point enough.

I seem to be drifting away from todays topic…

rest times between sets

How long should you rest between sets?

It depends.

You probably hate seeing that answer. (I know I do.)

Everyone hates that answer.

But it’s usually accurate in the fitness area of your life.

So what does it depend on?

It mostly depends on what exercise you are doing and what your goal is.

Rest times for compound exercises

Between working sets (= not warm-up sets) I recommend you take at least 3 minutes rest.

This will allow you to recover from the effort and go into the next set fully prepared.

The goal of strength training is to gain strength.

If you are tired from previous sets, you won’t be as strong and you won’t gain as much strength.

That’s clearly not good.

On the other hand anything above 5 minutes is excessive in my opinion.

You will start to lose focus and your gym sessions will drag on for an eternity.

Also not good.

So you want to rest between 3-5 minutes when doing compound exercises.

Rest times for isolation exercises

I have mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating…

Isolation exercises are less important than compound exercises.

They are still valuable but they won’t affect your overall progress as much.

Thus, it makes sense to focus most of your time and energy on the big compound exercises that will lead to most of your success.

“But I do higher reps on isolation exercises, so they take more time!”

That’s true, a set of curls generally takes longer than a set of squats.

However, you (hopefully) aren’t doing as many sets of isolation exercises as you do of compound exercises.

If that isn’t the case you need to take a look at your weight training program

But even if you did the same amount of sets, the isolation exercises will step use less time.

The reason is simple, you don’t rest as long between them!

For isolation exercises 1 minute is generally enough.

Feeling fatigued and losing strength on later sets is fine during isolation exercises.

Oftentimes creating a tired muscle is actually the goal of high-rep isolation work.

You use compound exercises to build most of your strength. Isolation exercises are then used to improve your weaknesses in either a performance or aesthetic sense.

If you want to be very efficient you could even use “Supersets”. What this means is that you perform two different exercises back-to-back without resting. But that’s a topic for another post…

rest-between-sets

Closing thoughts

I could make this post a lot longer.

But it doesn’t need to be any longer if I’m honest.

Rest times are important.

But there’s nothing complicated about them.

The key point is that you rest at least 3 minutes between compound exercises.

If you fail to do that, you won’t gain strength and muscle as quickly.

On the other hand isolation exercises are meant to fatigue the muscle.

If you are taking long breaks between sets of curls you are not only wasting your time, you are also getting less growth from muscle fatigue.

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