Reps, Sets, and… REST!

The Rack Front doors

A good training program details sets and reps, but a really good one also includes rest periods. Rest is a very important factor in any training program. It literally can determine the stimulus and intensity for that day. Now, I know as a fitness professional how important taking rest between sets is and even between different exercises. However, the client or athlete may not. They may find it as a “waste of time” or just a lazy way to make the session go by. But, that couldn’t be far from the truth. Yes, we have our good days and feel like we can zoom through all the exercises in a breeze. However, we would miss the mark on the stimulus the trainer wants to demand on the client’s body. Take a strength-focus movement, the deadlift for example. Trainers would typically have clients perform 3-5 reps at an RPE of 7-8, then take 2-4 minutes of rest. The reasoning behind the long rest periods is we need to have the client’s nervous system recover from the neurological demand of the lift and the skeletal muscle to replenish energy stores. If the client goes too soon, the body wouldn’t optimally be ready for the next task, which could result in increased chances of injury when lifting or a missed lift.

On the flip side, what happens when the prescribed rest is short and the client/athlete takes too long of a break? Well, again, the demands of the training stimulus will not be met and the client may not get the results they were looking for. For example, a superset of tricep extensions and bicep curls for 10-12 reps can elicit a nice “pump” for hypertrophy training, especially when the rest is about 30-60 seconds between sets. But, if the client rests longer than that, the “pump” may dissipate, blood and nutrients that were once going to the muscle are now just being flushed back into the rest of the body, thus hypertrophic effects are not as prevalent.

So clients and athletes. I know most things in the world are always on the go. But take some time to slow down and rest. Not only will it benefit you in the weight room, but it can have positive effects everywhere else in life.

Brandon Bailey
MS, CSCS, CPPS, USAW, CFL2

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