When I first started going to the gym and working out, I wanted to get it over and done with as soon as possible. This meant that I almost never took rest in between sets. The best I might do was if I changed machines or had to get a different piece of equipment at the gym; the time I’d take to do that would often be the longest rest I’d get in the middle of a workout. Then, I attended a Police Academy, where rest in between exercises DEFINITELY was not something that they encouraged, so this only fed my bad habit.
I spent the early years of my endurance journey constantly battling with injuries, and I sustained a major overuse injury when I was in the Police Academy. It took many years, many injuries, and some consistent thunking on my thick skull, but I finally learned how important it is to rest within a workout.
I learned that the way a workout is written is REALLY important. If something is written as “2 x 12”, it’s 2 x 12, not “24”. And that’s a really important distinction. If it was meant to be completed as 24 consecutive repetitions, it would be written as such. If it’s written as 2 x 12, it’s meant to be completed as two, complete, separate rounds of 12. In order to do this as written, that means resting in between each of those sets of 12, not pounding out 24 in a row.
There are situations where a high number of consecutive repetitions might be a great idea. But often, especially in strength training, there is a very specific reason why the number of repetitions is what it is. In order to elicit the intended purpose and corresponding change in the body, the number of repetitions needs to be controlled for maximum benefit.
Looking back on this, I realized that in my own life, my “rest skipping” was pretty contained to strength training. Never in my life would I have taken a workout that said “10 x 400 meters SPRINT / 200 meters walking” and combined it so I would be sprinting 4000 meters consecutively. That would be several things:
So, if I saw the logic in keeping sets separated in workouts like that, why couldn’t I apply that same line of thinking to strength training?
This week, my tip for you all is to do just that: see the value that exists in treating a workout in the sets that it is written in. Don’t try to “shortcut” the workout and get it done sooner by skipping that rest. If you are pressed for time, it’s better to cut some of the exercises (or repetitions) in the workout themselves out so that what you do complete is high-quality.
Like so many things I write, this advice is not specific to strength training. It applies to ALL workouts, so if you're guilty of skipping or shortening the rest in a swim workout, run workout, cycling workout, etc., this tip to actually rest for the specified duration of time or distance applies to those, too.
Quality over quantity every single time, my friends!
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.