Obstacle Training

Rest Periods – Maximizing Your Workouts

Posted on: July 27th, 2012 by Brian No Comments

If you go to a gym, we’ve all seen it or have been guilty of it. There are scores of folks that hang out at equipment talking with their buddies, staring off into the distance or watching the TVs – paying zero attention to how much rest they are taking in between sets. While I’m all for being social, to borrow a phrase I use pretty frequently “it’s called ‘working out’ and not ‘playing out’ for a reason.” You can have fun working out – I do – but the main purpose is to make yourself healthier both physically and emotionally. Physically by keeping your ticker strong and emotionally by helping you work through the stress of the day.

How do you keep track of rest?
The first thing is get a method for keeping track of time. Most gyms have a clock on the wall – some digital and some analog – but there are two issues with this:

  1. Digital – you have no way of knowing when during the minute your rest time started
  2. Analog – you have to stare at the clock for the full rest to know how many times the second hand has gone around.

So get a watch.  
A wristwatch is pretty easy to use and also very inexpensive. Providing you keep them on your wrist and don’t put them on the floor while you’re working out, they should also last a very long time. The only question that will come up with watches this cheap is when the battery runs out if it is better to replace or buy a new watch.
If you are stocking your own gym, you might want to splurge a little and get an interval timer.  Personally, I use a free app on my iPad that I’ve programmed a “Tabata” and “30sec on, 2min off” intervals in.  I believe Tabatas were mentioned in a prior post. The app works like a dream.

How much rest do I need?
The rest periods between sets you choose really depend on your goals. Rule of thumb is typically that shorter rest periods are for weight loss and longer rest periods are for strength building. Personally, I do 1.5 to 2 minute rests and 12 sets per body part – which I find out works out to almost exactly an hour. I’ll go from least to most amount of rest in the explanations:
30 to 60 seconds – increases the cardio component of lifting as your heart rate can stay relatively elevated and your muscles don’t have too much of a chance to rebound between sets
90 seconds to 2 minmuscle building rest time, which allows your body adequate time to recover, but not to the point where it isn’t like you did the previous set at all.
3min + – strength building rest time, which gives your body time to fully recover from the previous set.
For most readers, keeping your rest under 2min will be the most useful and practical for your lifestyle. Anything more simply drags out the amount of time you’re at the gym and over time you’ll be less likely to go. Most people are lifting to lose weight or look better, which is also mostly defined by rest of less than 2min.

So the long and short is, get a watch and keep your rest periods shorter than 2min unless your training for a strongman competition.
As with everything, please review workout programs with your doctor prior to starting. They’ll be able to take your overall physical health into account when making recommendations on your program.

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