If you’re doing a strength training regimen as part of your fat-burning program, you’re definitely going to want to hear this. There’s a number of good studies out there that indicate that the less you rest between sets, the more fat you burn!
Now, if you’re in constant motion, you’d obviously expect a small increase in calories burned. But this is much more than a small increase — studies in which participants did squats showed about a 10% decrease in overall energy expenditure for each minute that they rested!
The Fat-Burning Science Behind Low-Rest Sets
The main study we’re interested in was just published last year in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
The participants performed both a set of squats with weights and a set of bench presses. Some participants did the squat first, while some led with the bench press. Participants also alternated between one, two and three minutes of rest between sets.
Regardless of the order of exercise, participants gradually expended less and less total energy the more they rested between sets. The biggest difference was seen in the rest period during squats, but there was also a smaller decrease per minute in between the bench press sets.
An interesting side note is that energy expenditure actually decreased less overall when the squat was done before the bench press — no real conclusions as to why that might be, however.
Regardless, the results seem to indicate that your metabolism very rapidly comes down from its elevated state during rest periods. The faster you’re moving between sets, the longer you’re sustaining that elevated peak, which means greater fat burn when all is said and done.
A Cardio-Strength Connection?
This particular study is noteworthy because there haven’t been any significant studies that have taken on rest periods in strength training before. However, there have been a number of studies that have focused on high-intensity interval training (or HIIT), which we’ve talked about here before as a time-saving cardio alternative.
The best recent analysis is a 2011 literature review of most previous studies. The review concluded that there was good preliminary evidence that HIIT (or HIIE as it is phrased in the study) programs show reductions in both subcutaneous and abdominal body fat in all populations, but works particularly well in overweight populations with Type II diabetes. Improvements in skeletal muscle capacity and lower insulin resistance were also noted.
While it’s important to reiterate that these studies are preliminary and further studies are needed, the evidence here helps support the general idea that limited rest periods between bouts of high-intensity exercise are very effective for keeping the metabolism elevated and engaging stored fat for burning.
More Muscle, More Fat Burn
Another interesting possibility to limiting rest time between sets is whether it can potentially increase muscle growth. More muscle means a higher basal metabolic rate and more calories burned per day at the baseline!
Research here is also preliminary, with just a few scattered studies so far that don’t entirely build on each other’s results. But they do tend to support the idea that resting for no more than two minutes between sets may be at least as good as resting for longer periods, at least for certain types of training.[3,4]
While these results have to be carefully examined for those training primarily for muscle size and strength, it’s good news if you’re looking to primarily burn fat and keep your metabolism elevated with rapid sets.
Easy Does It!
Of course, it’s important to not push yourself too hard, especially if you’re just getting back into strength training. There’s nothing like an injury to wreck your fitness progress. You should be getting enough rest that you’re not feeling serious pain or discomfort between sets, even if your metabolic rate has to take a hit.
Rock Your Workout With Pyroxamine
If you’re cutting rest between sets, you need energy enhancement. Pyroxamine has you covered with hordenine, higenamine, theobromine and good ol’ caffeine. And that’s in addition to all the fat-burning goodness!