The Importance of Rest Between Sets
In general, we all know that we need some rest between workouts to allow for recovery and to achieve the best results. What a lot of us don’t know is that rest between sets during a workout is just as important (if not more important) and can greatly affect your results.
So why is rest between sets so crucial and how much is enough?
How much rest you need is an important gauge of how hard you are working. If you don’t need to rest between sets, then chances are you’re not working hard enough. When performing a set of a weighted exercise, you should choose a weight that is challenging enough so that the last few reps are difficult to perform. For example; if you are performing sets of 10 reps, then the 8th, 9th and 10th rep should be a bit of a struggle, somewhere around an 8 or 9 out of a scale of 1-10. If you are using the correct weight then you will need that rest interval to recover for the next set. If you feel like you could go right into your next set without rest then you probably need to up the weight.
Resting between sets also gives your muscles time to recover and prepare for the next set, tapping into fuel sources for energy. The most immediate fuel source, glycogen, is right inside the muscle cells and is used for short bursts of activity such as weight training. When you perform a set, you use up a certain amount of this muscle glycogen. But you only have a limited supply in the muscle cells and it is quickly used up. Luckily it can be replenished pretty easily and relatively quickly. It takes approximately 2-3 minutes to fully replenish muscle glycogen stores. Resting between sets allows for a certain amount of replenishment. The amount of rest required between sets to replenish muscle glycogen varies depending on the type of exercise, the number of reps performed and ultimately the desired goal. A good rule of thumb is; the heavier the weight and the lower the number of reps then the longer the rest period needed.
Another major reason for resting between sets is to reduce the risk of injury due to fatigue. As fatigue levels increase, form suffers and the risk of injury therefore increases. Although you do want to be nearing a stage of muscular fatigue towards the end of a set, you do not want to completely exhaust yourself to a point where your form is compromised or you are no longer able to control the movement adequately. By resting between sets, you allow for that all-important recovery to take place so you can execute your next set with proper form.
While taking enough rest in between sets is vitally important for results, taking too much rest can be totally detrimental. There is a rest interval sweet-spot. The amount of rest you take between sets depends on the type of exercise you are performing, the intensity you are using and ultimately the results you are looking for. Here are some general rest interval guidelines for specific goals:
Power: 3-5 mins
* Its important to note that there is always crossover between goals. These guidelines are not an exact formula and adjustments can be made.