When I was young (aha…those days), exercise always conjured images of bombastic ‘Officer and Gentleman’ boot camps, with severely stressful, catatonic commands and fast-forwarded hurried, harried Harrys.
Cut to today when I watch these incredible hulks in gyms (contemporary akhadaas)
Grabbing abnormally high weights, screaming loud, unbearably obscene guttural groans, after dropping oversized weights from their abnormally pumped-up biceps, surreptitiously scanning their ambience as to who is (‘nt) looking at them.
And then comes “The Walk” or the narcissistic pacing in front of the mirror. While this pacing or break is followed by one and all, my dipstick informs me that its perpetrator has no idea why he or she does it.
So let me explain this one.
Why do people NEED to take small breaks or rest intervals between sets of exercise?
Does it not defeat the very purpose and intent of ‘the burn’?
First of all, rest and recovery intervals are meant for Anaerobic workouts; the kind that depend on the anaerobic energy cycle. In daily parlance, this would refer to strength or resistance training. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, “the duration of rest period significantly influences the metabolic, hormonal and cardiovascular responses to a short-term bout of resistance exercise.”
“Like good comedy, when it comes to working out, timing is everything,” says Joe Stankowski, C.P.T., a trainer in Wilmington, Del.
“In other words, the amount of time you rest between sets can have a major impact on how the exercise you’re doing affects your body.”
Why do we need this rest period? It is because strength or resistance training relies on energy system called the ATP (adenosine triphosphate) that takes up to 3 minutes to refurbish and is the one used for muscular endurance and hypertrophy and strength gains.
That said, how much do we rest between sets? It differs, based on your goal.
If you want Weight or Fat Loss, you’ve got to be on fire! Burn, burn, burn! Exercise continuously, with small or almost no breaks (follow your body’s signals, however and don’t faint on me). This is the principle that Circuit or Interval Training Programs utilize. If you need to take breaks, use 20-30 second rest periods.
If you want Muscular Endurance, take short breaks of 30-45 seconds between sets.
If you are looking at Muscle Development or Hypertrophy, you need anything from 60 to 90 seconds rest intervals for the energy system to regenerate.
You may not belong to this unique category, but if you are looking at Muscular Power as do Power-lifters or training for powerful explosive bursts of energy, your rest intervals will be between 3 to 5 minutes.
The basic principle in Strength Training is, the higher the weight and intensity, the longer the rest period since your muscles and central nervous system need time to recover from the effort of lifting heavy weights. Again, this will vary according to where you stand in your training cycle, how tired or not your body is on a particular day, or what your overall or day-specific goals are.
Rest you must as oxymoronic as it sounds.
But just remember, if your rest periods are too long or too short, you’ll end up sacrificing the results you want to some degree. BUT. Regardless of what I advise you, listen to what your body tells you and find that sweet spot between too much or too little rest.
Life is about balance. So is fitness!