Rest periods, the time you spend resting between sets during your workout, might be more important in getting a good workout and seeing the results you want than you think. Most people spend most of their workout worrying about how many reps or how many sets they should do, or what exercises will give them six-pack abs. These days, most people pace the gym floor between sets, socialize with friends or fumble with their iPods instead of paying attention to how they’re spending that time. However, rest periods play an important part in helping define the body you want and shouldn’t be ignored.

How rest periods relate to exercise is one of the most researched topics in weight training; that says something about their importance. If your goal is strength development, such as a lower rep with higher weight routine, then you’re going to want full recovery – which means you want a longer rest period. If your goal is to get lean, you’re going to want a higher rep with lower weight routine and a shorter rest period. This keeps the lactic acid in your muscles high and your blood pH low.

Just remember, “rest for 30 seconds to burn fat and rest for 60 seconds to get strong.” For example, a bodybuilder who’s trying to build muscle and bulk up would keep his rest periods higher, around 60 seconds between sets. Then he would drop his rest periods to about 30 seconds and superset his training to get lean.

Using rest periods is another way to target your training. You can use rest periods to grow and build mass or use them as a way to burn fat. Consider this: Try dropping your rest period by five seconds each week. Doing so will give you a more intense workout and lead to more calories burned, which leads to weight loss.
The next time you exercise, remember rest periods and the important role they play. Use them to help you get the most out of your workout and achieve your best results.