You may have noticed people taking breaks in between sets at your local gym. Some take a quick second to rest before starting up again while others appear to be writing a novel on their iPhones with no sense of urgency in the world. With no specific guidance, each is left to their own devices (quite literally) regarding breaks.
Today I want to take a minute to explain why you should limit rest time between sets, no matter what your goal might be. But first, let’s talk about the ideal rest time. In between sets, breaks should be as short as possible and no longer than 60 seconds. A minute may seem like a lot but trust me, it can go by in a flash when you are tired. For that reason, I suggest using the timer on your watch or phone rather than estimating it yourself.
If you’re used to taking longer breaks, then shifting to 60 seconds or less may seem impossible but your body will learn to adapt. As I’ve mentioned before, keeping good records is helpful to know how you are progressing so keep track of your break times and work to decrease them eventually. In the beginning, if you absolutely can’t do another set at the end of 60 seconds, then lower your weights slightly so you can keep moving.
So what’s the benefit of short breaks?
- Continual movement keeps your central nervous system primed (which you need for best results)!
- Hormone production stays higher during your workout if you remain active. When they stay peaked, the training effect is enhanced.
- Your metabolism and heart rate stay higher which burns more calories in a shorter amount of time (who doesn’t like that?). In addition, training your heart gives you the additional benefit of a cardio effect!
- Short breaks keep your joints and muscles warm, which reduces your chance of injury.
- Lactate levels remain at their peak which means you can sustain a contraction longer without burn out (because we all want to get stronger or we wouldn’t be here! Well, except those novel writers…).
And just in case you need another reason, the sooner you finish your workout, the faster you can hit up the smoothie bar so keep those breaks short and enjoy!