Think fast: The absolute easiest thing you can do to get more done at the gym is rest between intervals.
What do you do between sets when you’re strength training? Chances are, you stand or walk around to shake off the burn.
That’s not bad per se, but you could do better. A recent study found that when people sat or lied down instead of standing between sets, they completed more work in the remainder of their session. In other words, they crushed more and harder exercises in the exact same amount of time—by doing less.
Resting Allows You to Take on More in the Next Set
“If you rest passively between efforts, your heart rate and breathing rates come down faster and lower than if you stand up and keep walking around,” says Kristen Ouellette, study author and assistant professor of exercise science and sports studies at Springfield College. That means your body is able to recover better and more quickly, and thus able to fully reset for your next round.
HIIT Technique Calls for a Rest
The research is right on point with a growing concern among trainers: With the rise of high-intensity interval training, people aren’t resting enough.
“Rest periods are one the most overlooked components of training,” says Sabrena Jo, senior exercise scientist for the American Council on Exercise, who was not a part of the study. “Many people end up lowering the amount of resistance they’re using because they’re too fatigued by their second set, but often times, that fatigue could be eliminated by extending their rest break.”
Jo says rest breaks lasting anywhere from one to three minutes (versus the common 30 to 90 seconds) may be better for those looking to improve strength and build muscle. “When you give your muscles enough time to recover and prepare for what’s next, you can apply all their force into every subsequent rep, maxing out your results.”
Resting is Productive
Bottom line: Ironic as it may sound, resting is one of the most productive things you can do at the gym. Rarely do we give you an excuse—reason, rather—to take it easy. Enjoy it!