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If your progress in your fitness goals is slowing down or coming to a halt, you should consider giving active rest a go. You’ll notice an increase in endurance and strength, relieve joint pain and notice even faster fat loss. Your general fitness levels will increase over time too, all without needing to change up your routine of exercises that you have built for yourself. You won’t even spend extra time in the gym!
Active rest is simply the process of staying active in your rest time between sets. So instead of sitting on the bench thinking about what you’re going to eat after your workout, you are moving and staying active. You can do this by doing very light cardio such as Skipping, you can stretch the muscles you just worked or you can fine tune your form with much lighter or no weights. Or better yet cycle all of these throughout your workout!
Essentially you are improving your performance and function from recovery during your workout not after. It shouldn’t be confused with Active Recovery, which is the process of staying active on your rest day in order to recover faster. Click here to find out more about active recovery.
Light cardio between sets increases your overall cardiovascular fitness level, adds a fun intensity to your workout and increases the amount of calories you burn as you train! If your goals are fat loss and general health then keeping your heart pumping at a moderate pace in your workouts between sets is sure to help.
It is excellent cardio, and allows your body to shuttle more nutrients to your muscles. Just don’t burn yourself out! What I like to do is skip or jog on the spot for 45 seconds right after my set and then move around or stretch for the remainder 45 seconds of my rest.
If your goal is purely strength and power however, I recommend against this method as you definitely need to let your central nervous system get adequate rest between sets.
Light cardio between sets is easily my favourite form of active rest however it should only be used between exercises less intensive on your body. I don’t recommend skipping or jogging on the spot after you’ve gone balls to the wall while squatting! You’re much better off stretching after a heavy set of squats.
Light cardio is best used after you have finished your main compound lifts, and are training more targeted muscles, think bicep curls or dumbbell flys.
Stretching is incredibly important to staying healthy, pain and injury free. Most guys don’t bother stretching and so their muscles become very tight which causes discomfort or even pain. Tight muscles can cause very poor posture, which can be incredibly detrimental to your health and wellbeing.
Not everybody has the time to spend 15-20 minutes stretching if they’re spending an hour in the gym, so what better way to fit in a good stretch than between your working sets?
Stretch What you Train – Stretching the muscles that you are currently exercising will help them recover between sets. If you are deadlifting, stretch your hamstrings and ankles between sets. A stretched muscle can work 10% more efficiently than a tight muscle. It also helps buffer the lactic acid that builds up as you lift.
Stretch Your Tight Muscles – Common tight areas include hamstrings, hips, ankles, calves, chest and abs. Stretching your tight muscles will provide a much safer workout, and make your lifting ability more efficient. Tight ankles and hips can make a squat feel much heavier than it is! So make sure to stretch well between sets.
Breathe – You’ve just finished a set and your heart is beating fast, you need to calm it down fast enough to have adequate rest between sets or you will burn out too quickly in your workout. Breathe very deep and slow breaths while you stretch in order to calm your heart and nerves. Breathing deep into your diaphragm will provide more oxygen for your muscles to recover, and allows you to go deeper into your stretch.
Work your Form
Think of it like dynamic stretching. Repeat the exercise you are currently working without any of the resistance. Do the exercise very slowly and be very weary of your form. Keep your muscles firm while you do the movements, and pause for several seconds at the bottom of each rep.
Are your shoulder blades synched tightly together in pushing exercises? Do you keep your hamstrings and glutes tight on the way down into a squat? These are questions you should ask yourself as you go through your form between sets.
Whichever your goal is whether you want to keep healthy and fit, lose body fat, gain some muscle and tone or want to get stronger incorporating active rest in your workouts is incredibly beneficial to your progress. From shuttling nutrients to your muscles to buffering the lactic acid from them keeping active in your rest period will help speed up your progress toward your goals!
Read More: Cardio - Do I need it?
Read More: Active Recovery - What is Active Recovery?