There is a saying in the bodybuilding community that goes something like: Rest 30 seconds if you want to burn fat, and rest 60 seconds or more if you’re trying to get strong.
The amount of rest you take during a particular workout reflects the workout’s goals. And when you’re trying to do more work in less time, there doesn’t seem to be much room for rest in the equation. But rest periods between exercises are an important part of strength and conditioning training. Yet it’s often overlooked.
We use rest intervals to enhance the effects of our training program. The right amount of recovery between efforts helps us to train smarter, which allows us to work harder and go longer.
So how much rest should you be taking between exercises? Several things including the exercises being performed, the number of sets and reps being performed, and the desired metabolic response determine the amount of rest you take between exercises. For example, if you’re training affects the nervous system, such as during explosive training or powerlifting, then you want full recovery so your rate of force production can be at its highest. Where as if you’re training to improve your metabolic conditioning, then you want to keep rest periods short.
Rest periods also affect our hormone levels during training. Short rest periods (30-45 seconds) optimize growth hormone output, which affects muscle growth. Longer rest periods (60 seconds plus), increase nervous system recovery.
We want the right metabolic response from our training. As a general guideline, match the rest to the amount of muscle recruitment and the range of motion of the exercise being performed. For example, a movement like the back squat uses more muscles, recruits more of the nervous system, and causes more global muscle fatigue. All of which require more time for adequate recovery.
It’s important to match the amount of rest you take to your individual experience, conditioning, and overall training goals. So don’t neglect your rest intervals. Take the time to recover properly.