The value of rest periods
There is no question that exercise is vital to the development of fitness. Exercise is basically a form of stress that, by breaking down your body, triggers a rebuilding process called anabolism. Movement makes your body’s structures and systems stronger and more efficient, so your body is better able to do the work it needs the next time you work out.
While exercise is the trigger for improved fitness, your body only adapts to rest periods and recovers between workouts. For fitness success, you not only have to exercise, but also rest.
Different concepts of rest
In practice, rest means a number of different things: rest between exercise sets, rest between workouts, and rest between hard workouts. Ignoring any of these forms of calm can lead to burnout, or at least slow or minimal fitness progress.
Pause between sentences
Have you ever seen a couple of guys exercising where they stop and chat for five minutes after each set before continuing with their workout? Perhaps you have seen the athlete who interrupts every sentence of his workout with a text message or by updating his Facebook page? Chances are these practitioners are making little or no progress and will look exactly the same at this time next year.
For exercise to be effective, it needs to be overloaded – in other words, it needs to be pushed slightly beyond your comfort zone. By taking long breaks between sets, these lollygagging trainers are almost completely recovered from one set to the next, reducing the overall intensity of their workout. Too little intensity means next to no incentive for improved fitness.
It really pays to keep an eye on the clock (and turn off the phone!) If you want the best possible results from your workout. How long should you rest between sets? That depends on your training goal. Here is a practical guide to the most commonly accepted rest periods according to your training goal …
- Muscle Endurance – 13 to 20 reps, rest 30 to 60 seconds between sets
- Hypertrophy (muscle building) – 6 to 12 reps, rest 60 to 120 seconds between sets
- Strength / Strength – 1 to 5 reps, rest 3 to 5 minutes between sets
As you can see, chatting or texting is likely to mean that you are not following these rest periods, which can all but affect your workout progress. Sticking to these time frames means any workout you do will be much more productive.
Take a break between workouts
The time between workouts is the time your body goes through the process of growing and repairing. This means that daily exercise is generally not recommended. Even if you do different exercises on different days, your central nervous system and endocrine (hormonal) system are involved in each workout.
Unless you’re a top athlete, make sure you have a day or two a week that you don’t do demanding exercise, and most of us would actually benefit from only exercising three to four days a week. If you feel that you need to exercise more often for weight management purposes, you may actually find that your diet is the problem, not your exercise routine.
Break between training periods
While you should strive to work harder week after week and month after month to improve your fitness, there usually comes a point where you stop making progress. This is known as a plateau and is often caused by following the same exercise routine after the “sale date”. While it is important that you try to work harder from one workout to the next, it is important that each climax of the exertion be followed by a period of stability and recovery in order to make further progress.
This is sportily referred to as periodization.
Periodization simply means increasing the intensity and duration of your workout to peak, and then pulling back slightly before building up again – a kind of three steps forward and one step back.
Following a periodic approach to training should ensure that you keep making progress for years while other athletes either fall by the wayside or don’t make significant fitness improvements.
If you are serious about your workouts, understanding how to manipulate all of the concepts of rest to ensure that you progress week after week, month after month, and year after year is important. In combination with great exercises, good programming and excellent nutritional advice, we can almost guarantee you fitness success by implementing the right rest strategies!