Regardless of the type of fitness you do, you’re probably familiar with the practice of reps and sets. As a quick refresher, reps–or repetitions–are the number of times you perform an exercise or movement. Sets are the number of times you perform that quantity of reps. So if you were told to do three sets of push-ups at 15 reps, you would be doing a total of 45 push-ups with a period of rest after each 15.
The period of rest between reps and sets changes according to your workout plan. For example, if you’re doing more high-intensity interval training (HIIT), your recovery time might be less than a minute. However, if you’re building maximum strength by lifting low reps of high weights, you might need in excess of two or three minutes before you can get back to work.
The Pros and Cons of Rest Between Reps and Sets
Just as sleep and rest days can help your body recover and build more strength when not working out, taking small periods of rest in between sets and exercises can help you avoid becoming fatigued. This may allow you to maintain your stamina and good form over the duration of your workout program.
That said, resting also has its downsides. First, it obviously takes time, which means your workout may require more of your day than you have to offer when factoring in your job, errands, family, and personal commitments. Second, rest may impede your progress should your fitness goal be to burn fat. With fat burning, you want little to no rest depending on your fitness level. You will know if you’re in the fat-burning zone as it should be difficult to hold a normal conversation, and you should feel nearly out of breath.
Three Types of Reps and Sets for Success
If you’re new to fitness or used to taking longer breaks, this no- to low-rest style of working out is going to test your limits. Unless you were born with perfect conditioning or the superpowered lungs of Michael Phelps, aiming for 15 seconds of rest or less your first time out is going to leave you gassed.
To ease into lowering your rest time, and thus increase your fat loss, change up how you approach your sets. Instead of doing single sets of an exercise followed by a period of rest before the next exercise, try a different method:
- Superset: Two exercises done back-to-back with little to no rest time.
- Triset: Three exercises done back-to-back with little to no rest time.
- Giant set: Four or more exercises done back-to-back with little to no rest time.
Setting Up Your Sets
The great thing about these set options is that they are versatile, offering all kinds of ways to work your body. For example, you can combine upper and lower body exercises in a superset to work your entire body. Or you can concentrate on the way the muscle works, such as a combination of push and pull exercises to really blast one area of your body. And if you’re short on time, completing three trisets will be a lot faster and likely more efficient than doing nine individual exercises.
Total Body Sets Workout
Ready to give it a try? Below is a total body plan to get you started. Do three sets of 15 reps of each exercise with no rest in between. Start with 60 seconds of rest between each set, with the goal of lowering or eliminating your rest time as you progress.
- Walking lunges (15 reps each leg)
- Dumbbell shoulder press
- Jump squats
- Overhead tricep extensions
- Resistance band curls
- Mountain climbers (15 reps each leg)
- Lateral lunge (15 reps each leg)
- Dumbbell bench press
- Ab crunches
What are your go-to exercises in a workout? Share with others in the comments so that they can add the reps to their superset, triset, or giant set!