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Why you shouldn’t skip the rest periods


A lot of Freeletics Gods and interval workouts feature rest periods between sets. Instead of taking a break, many athletes would rather add more repetitions during this time to try to get even more out of their session. While it may sound like a good idea, not following the outlined breaks could be counterproductive as training expert Florian Nock explains.

It’s only HIIT if you take a break

High-Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT) is a training method that alternates between sets of high intensity exercise and recovery breaks.

During these short bursts of movement, your body is using the anaerobic energy pathway and the effort should be 100%. During the rest periods, your aerobic system helps you to recover by regenerating your phosphocreatine, or the way in which your muscles produce energy. While the anaerobic pathway produces more energy, it can't be sustained for an extended time.

While training intensely without rest for an extended period has some benefits, it's simply not HIIT anymore. That means you’ll miss out on the specific benefits to this type of training.

The perks of pausing

Taking breaks to recover between working periods offers several benefits and will help you to improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Muscle recovery

Taking time to recover gives your muscles a well-earned rest. When you exercise anaerobically, metabolic waste is produced. This refers to all of the waste products that are left in the body as a result of intense exercise, including water and carbon dioxide.

Taking rest breaks reduce the levels of metabolic waste in muscle tissues, ensuring that they’re ready for the next round.

Maintain technique

Tough HIIT sessions require an immediate anaerobic energy release. During long sets, the lactate levels in your working muscles increase and you start feeling some pain. To keep your pace up, you might compromise on technique, which can lead to injury. Following the prescribed breaks will make sure that you keep improving your performance safely.

Keep up the pace

Performing set after set without a break means that you’re training aerobically. If you want to maintain a certain pace throughout the entire session, you may need to compromise on speed. When you take some time to recover, your heart rate will reduce, and you'll be able to maintain higher speeds during each set. Remember: intensity and time are inversely linked. If you don’t take the assigned rests, you won’t be able to exercise at a high intensity.

What to do during your break periods?

After working so hard during your training period, you should make sure to use the breaks wisely; with only 30-90 seconds, every second counts. Try not to move too much during the rest periods; the primary purpose of this time is to conserve energy to achieve a higher intensity during the working sets.

The most important thing is to breathe slowly, calmly and carefully. This will help to reduce your heart rate and improve muscle recovery, and also help you to regain focus for the next set.

Specifically for upper body workouts, moving your arms in slow circles can help to release pressure in the neck or shoulders and decrease the tension around your scapula.

Finally, to stay hydrated during your entire training session, use your breaks to drink water, making sure not to drink too much.

Let’s recap:

HIIT combines short sets of intense work periods and regular recovery breaks. If you want to give your best during the sets and improve your performance over time, the rest period shouldn't be neglected. During this time, breathe, relax your muscles, and stay focused.