Rest Periods: The Missing Link in Your Training

Rest Periods: The Missing Link in Your Training

By Mackennon Klink B.S., CSCS, PN1

 When it comes to training, recovery and rest periods are often overlooked.  People spend so much time and energy focused on their exercise, reps and sets, and nutrition that it’s easy to overlook their rest periods.  Once you understand the importance of proper rest periods, you’ll break through plateaus and get that physique you always wanted.

So, why does rest periods matter?  Well, they play an integral part of your training and has a huge influence on your overall success.   Unfortunately, most people don’t know if they are spending either 45 seconds or 5 minutes between sets. This concept can be quite foreign and difficult for some individuals who feel they need to make every second count, and completely crushed at the end.

The end result?  Their workout sucked, they get hurt, and burnout faster than a nervous 12 year old hitting on a girl .  Don’t get me wrong; there is a time and a place for those soul crushing metabolic circuits, especially when the goal is to shred body fat and/or improvement conditioning.

Metabolic Circuit training will be your golden ticket to both shredding fat and building muscle at once. Circuit training is designed to prove a happy medium between strength and aerobic training.  You should be breaking a sweat, and your muscles screaming. Metabolic circuit training incorporates minimal rest periods (<30 seconds) to challenge your muscles and aid in conditioning. However, keep the weights between 30-50% of your max to prevent injury. For example, if your goblet squat max is 100lbs, goblet squat with either 30-50lbs.

Now, if your goal is to add bulk and mass to your frame, (i.e. hypertrophy training) keep your rest period between 30-120 seconds.  The more intense the exercise (i.e. more weight and/or reps), the closer you’ll be towards 120 seconds of rest. Push yourself with the weight and earn your rest.  To quote the legendary Dave Tate, “If you are capable of sending a legitimate text message between sets, you’re probably not working hard enough.”

Lastly, if your goal is to build pure strength, keep your weights high, reps low (1-5) and the rest periods longer.  General rule of thumb is to keep the rest periods longer between sets at 3-5 minutes.

Because I’m a nice guy, here’s a quick cheat sheet for you:

Here’s your Rest Period Cheat Sheet:

  • 0 - 30 seconds    ~50% metabolic recovery (i.e. metabolic circuit conditioning)

  • 30 seconds - 2 minutes   ~ 90% metabolic recovery (i.e. hypertrophy training)

  • 2 – 3 minutes    ~ Near complete metabolic recovery (i.e. strength training)

  • 3 – 5 minutes    ~ near complete neural recovery (i.e. pure, raw, unadulterated strength training)

  • 5 - 10 minutes    ~ Complete neural recovery (idk…. Waiting for the world to end?)

Now, that we covered the importance of rest periods, I want to ask you: what are you training for?  Are you trying to get shredded, adding mass, or get as strong as possible? You should know this answer even before you enter the gym.  If you don’t have a plan while in the gym, then anywhere will take you where you need to be. So, the problem lies with first identifying what your goals are.  Once you can identify your goals, then your rest periods should reflect those training goals.

If your training goals aren’t in line with your rest periods, simply put you won’t see your intended results!  For example, if you are looking to improve your body composition and/or get bigger, the rest period should be between 30-120 seconds max, not talking to the cutie next to you.   Focus on the task at hand! (if your sole task is to hit on people at the gym, then why are you even reading this article?)

Also, keep your workouts within 60 minutes.  Your testosterone levels are at their highest level within 20-50 minutes.  After that, testosterone levels begin to taper off and cortisol levels (stress hormone) will dramatically increase.  

These simple changes will put you into the driver’s seat on achieving your training goals. Regardless if you are a complete beginner or a seasoned veteran, monitoring your rest periods will help you crush your training, shred body fat, and get that body you want.  Beginners usually need more rest between sets, while the seasoned veteran may benefit more from a shorter rest period, due to their ability to recover quicker

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