| October 7, 2021

Rest Periods

Sometimes when we train, we tend to take extended break periods, meaning that when we should really be getting back to that next set, we delay it by whatever may be a distraction at that current point in time.

By Steven Fitzpatrick

Read time: 3 min.

Sometimes when we train, we tend to take extended break periods, meaning that when we should really be getting back to that next set, we delay it by whatever may be a distraction at that current point in time. Each sport or training method favors different break periods in order to perform effectively.

As a powerlifter, I do my best to keep a close watch on my break periods for my athletes and for myself. Depending on the percentage or RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) of the current exercise that I am doing, the rest is relative. There are so many variables to how long you take, if training for hypertrophy, break periods can be anywhere between 45 seconds and 1 minute and a half to 2 minutes (this again is relative to intensity, grouping, and how isolated the exercise is).

If you take breaks whenever you feel like it, you are allowing your body to tell you when it is ready. We do not change when we are comfortable, and there would be no need for adaptation and growth. This is not to say we should not listen to our bodies, in fact we should more often than we typically do, but if you are new to exercise and still learning, you should put on a clock and match it to how you are feeling, as well as compare it to when you should start your next set based on your program. Personally, I love listening to music while training, and have been subject to jumping my break periods too soon because one of my more liked songs starts playing, so this method can definitely play in both directions. On the contrary, you might feel like it has only been 30 seconds to a minute when in reality you have been resting for two to three minutes.

The way I do it is base the percentage versus a rest period, versus how compound an exercise is versus the accumulation of sets and overall repetitions for that exercise. This takes practice and experience. Sometimes I may extend the break periods, but when I do, I make sure to record how much longer I took, and the reason why I felt that I needed to, such as overall fatigue (typically) which might draw away from form. Where form and safe lifting are crucial, taking these rests a tad bit longer will improve the “quality” of the subsequent repetitions, but if you take TOO long a break, you are pulling away from the adaptive curve of the body. It is important to pay close attention to the metric of time so that overall, you can narrow the gap between true fatigue and taking a longer rest, and getting a bit slack and making sure to shorten your breaks.

Rest periods are not only relative to day to day training while in the gym, but also outside of the gym. It is important to pay attention to the amount of taxing not only physically, on the muscles themselves, but also how much of a stressor you are putting on your central nervous system. Typically the timing in my blocks that I get hit the hardest is where the higher volume and heavy loads cross roads: the intensity is high and it will feel pretty exhausting. When you feel that your body needs a rest, you should probably take it. The gym will always be there tomorrow and chances are that you will be able to train even harder the next day. I am a believer in incorporating remedial/active rest days in my higher training frequency clients as well as for myself on a 5 day split program. One of those days is always a remedial day. This is where I keep the intensities lower and work on speed, velocity and acceleration, and make sure that my body stays mobile so that I can perform effectively. This includes stretching (with and without bands) taking care of the hips, rotation of the feet, making sure that all of the ball and socket areas are healthy, covering all planes of the scapula rotation and movement. I strategically place this in the middle of the week so that my mind is still stimulated meanwhile getting the rest and recovery that it needs.

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