Patiently Waiting

July 21, 2017

How Long Should you Rest Between Sets?

During Monday, Wednesday and Friday's strength workouts, we often stress resting between your sets. Sometimes, it can be a struggle to get out of the traditional CrossFit mindset of “3..2..1..GO!” In order to make strength gains, it’s critical that we implement some sort of rest periods in our training. It’s pretty simple, the longer you rest, the better you perform on the next set. Now, that doesn’t mean a “Rest” period is a time for you to go to your local Chipotle for a double steak burrito nor is it a time for you to have a 15 minute conversation about how you heard from a friend of a friend that Reebok is coming out with a waterproof CrossFit make-up that doesn’t smear when you sweat. (They aren’t) 

Rest is there for a reason, and in order to understand rest, you have to understand the energy pathways.


ATP-PC System-This is your V-8 of energy systems because it provides the most “power”. Its downfall, however is that it burns out very quickly. I like to keep things easily relatable to everyday life. So, imagine you are being chased by an incredibly lazy bear. You come face to face with the beast, and instinctually turn and run at an all out sprint for 50-75 yards (10 Seconds or so). You look back to see the bear has given up and moved on. Congrats, you just used your ATP-PC System AND survived a bear attack. This energy system is also used in golf swings, powerlifting and other short and powerful bursts of activity. (Like dropkicking a bear in the chest.) It is also worth noting that system doesn’t use oxygen or produce lactic acid, therefore it is referred to as “alactic anaerobic”.


Anaerobic System (Lactic Acid System)- This system provides energy for exercise lasting from 10 seconds to 2 minutes approximately. Back to the hypothetical bear attack. This time he is a little more relentless because you stupidly keep fresh wild caught salmon in your back pocket, and he wants it….BAD. He chases you for about 400 meters before he finally gives up. Some of our workouts fall in this time domain. (Think a long the lines of 3 rounds with 3 minutes rest of 15 KBS, 10 Cal on A/B and 5 burpees)


Aerobic System: This pathway kicks in for the long haul. Dominant in low intensity exercises lasting more than 2 minutes and can go for several hours. In our hypothetical situation: You decided to pitch your tent at a campsite surrounded by elite, marathon running bears. Lucky you! Upon coming face to face with one, you stare eye to eye as he laces he sneakers and eats a Powerbar. You know your f*cked. This bear runs marathons for fun. You take off at a slow, steady pace and hope its enough. You continue at this pace for 3 and a half hours. Luckily, the bear gave up and again, you get out of a dangerous situation alive. It’s your lucky day. Now, depending on the activity, the body will pull from one energy source over the other, often using the three in concert to make the most of the movement.



Now, back to the original question: How long do you rest?

The answer varies. No two people are alike and peoples goals vary.


2-5 Minutes Rest: This is useful for people who are trying to improve their explosive activities of a short duration. That means that longer rest periods are generally better for people who are training for strength and power and should be used together with lower reps. This is because your body requires just about 3 minutes to restore the ATP-PC stores for your next set. Once the ATP-PC energy system gets back near 100% you’ll be to lift a heavier weight for more reps. So, you should rest longer to get the energy to go heavy.



45-60 Seconds: Taking a shorter rest works better for hypertrophy and building overall muscle mass. The point here is not to lift the most weight you can possibly lift. Your purpose is to keep the stress on your muscles and work them again before they have the chance to fully recover.This gives your muscles intensity over a longer period of time and allows you to keep your muscle “pump” between sets. This is best for the 8-12 rep range that is typically seen in bodybuilding programs, and is optimal for increasing muscular mass and hypertrophy.


Bottom line: In order to add WEIGHT to your lifting program, you need to add some WAIT. See what I did there?


*Side note: Grizzly bears run at a top speed of 30 MPH while the fastest human on earth runs about 23 MPH, so uhh, yea, we wouldn’t stand a chance.



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