Rest time during a workout can be a misunderstood concept. A lot of people want to rush their rest time between sets because they feel as if they’re wasting time or not getting enough out of their workout; but resting between sets is an important part of a workout!
You need rest in order to allow your muscles and your central nervous system to recover. If your goal is building muscle or gaining strength, your body needs that recovery so that you can keep your exercise performance levels up. If your rest periods are too short, your recovery could be compromised and your performance for each subsequent set will be diminished.
Picture this: you rush through your sets, without resting adequately between, and instead of getting the 8 reps that you programmed, you might only get 4. When you do this over 3-4 sets, now your total reps for the workout has dropped drastically from where you were supposed to be – or maybe you had to lower the weight just to get your 8 reps in, when if you had rested fully, you could’ve stayed at the same weight AND got all of your reps in. Don’t sacrifice your workout volume or intensity just because you’re impatient!
Another overlooked benefit of resting between sets is to decrease your risk of injury. Fatigue is the enemy of technique. The more tired you get, the less likely your technique is going to stay optimal. Remember, just because something makes you tired, does not mean it makes you better.
How much should we be resting? A good rule of thumb is between 1-5 minutes between sets. The lower the rep range, the higher the rest length. So, if you’re doing your one rep max, then 5 minutes will be better, while doing sets of 15-20 reps will require much less rest. If you’re staying around the 6-12 rep range, 1-3 minutes will be great.
One way that we like to make our rest time feel more productive is by adding low effort mobility work between sets. Some of our favourite pairings are T-Spine Sweeps between Deadlift/Squat sets, and 90/90 Hip Rotations between Chin Ups or Bench Press.
Another way that you can make your workout more efficient is to utilize supersets of non-competing muscle groups. An example of that would be to superset a pull exercise with your squats or a push exercise with your deadlifts. Therefore, during your pull exercise, the main muscles used during your squats can rest and recover. This doesn’t allow your Central Nervous System much rest, though, so make sure you are training smart and balancing overall volume during your sets.
Have you given enough thought to how you’re spending your rest time?