When it comes to your workouts, it’s not just the sets and reps that matter in the gym — it’s also how you rest.
The truth is the time you take between your sets affects your results. Rest should be based on what you’re trying to develop and improve (strength versus fat loss versus endurance, etc.); it’s not empty time.
Read on to learn how to rest more effectively (Read: Not just looking at your phone):
Take 2–5 minutes between sets if you’re focused purely on strength — increasing the maximum amount of weight you can lift for a squat, deadlift, bench press, etc.
It might seem like more than you’re used to, but taking a long break allows you to maximally recover your force production, technique and cellular energy. If you want to increase your absolute strength, this is critical.
Take 30 seconds or less if you’re focused on fat loss. To boost fat loss, you need to increase your calorie burn and metabolic demands. In other words, you probably want to push yourself to the point where you’re breathing pretty heavily.
With such a short break, it’s hard to repeat the same exercise over and over again. That’s why, to get an incredible and demanding workout, use circuits, where you do several exercises in succession. That way, you can jump from one exercise to another (e.g., from squats to rows to pushups), keep your heart rate up, keep your rest periods short and still give your muscle groups a break before targeting them again.
If you have an interval workout, you’re trying to improve your anaerobic conditioning. But there’s a fine line with rest.
If you rest too short, you’ll mess up your workout. First, you’ll turn the training into “aerobic” conditioning and miss all the improvements you’re aiming for. Second, you’ll continually get slower and slower from one sprint to another, which will not improve your speed or power.
If you rest too long, however, you won’t improve your body’s ability to quickly recover and replenish its energy.
For anaerobic intervals (durations between 60–90 seconds), rest long enough for your heart rate to drop below 130 bpm — or for you to breathe comfortably through your nose. That way, you can rest adequately enough for you to give your full effort for the next sprint.
For low-intensity conditioning, the goal is to improve your aerobic conditioning — the best way to do that is to keep your heart rate in a zone.
Keep your heart rate between 120–150 bpm. As long as you stay in the zone, you’ll target your aerobic energy system and make all the improvements you want.