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With the amount of time most people waste in the gym, you’d never guess that “I’m too busy” is one of the top excuses for missing a workout.
Texting, socializing, answering emails, checking themselves out in the mirrors, checking others out in the mirrors, posting workout selfies, monitoring how many people like their workout selfies—it’s safe to say that the average gymgoer spends way more time “working out” than they actually need to.
All of that wasted time has a name: unnecessary rest. And when it comes to strength training—or any other kind of training for that matter—unnecessary rest equals slower gains.
The reason is that every strength and conditioning training goal has a specific amount of rest for optimal results. If you’re trying to increase muscle size (i.e., hypertrophy), you don’t want to rest any more than a minute and a half between sets, for example. Why? Because any more than that will diminish the amount of metabolic stress that helps to maximize muscle growth. Excessive rest is even more of an issue if you’re trying to build muscular endurance (e.g., through circuit training or high-rep sets). In that case, resting too long won’t optimally train the specific energy system (i.e., glycolytic) or the specific muscle fibers (type I) needed for that goal.
Your move: Start timing your rest periods. Rest no more than 30 seconds between sets if your goal is muscular endurance (2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps at less than 67 percent of your 1RM). For hypertrophy, rest between 30 and 90 seconds between sets (3 to 6 sets of 6 to 12 reps at 67 to 85 percent of your 1RM). And for strength or power, your recovery sweet spot is two to five minutes of rest between sets (3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps at 75 to 85 percent of 1RM).
Each of those recommendations is designed to allow you enough recovery time to maintain a high level of performance while optimizing a host of key adaptation stimuli (mechanical stress, metabolic stress, micro-damage) for your specific goal to help you reach it in the shortest amount of time possible. In other words, no more wasted time in the gym—just time well spent.