Last night, post-run, I dropped down to the mat for a 10-minute ab workout. After a particularly grueling bout of bicycles—which were made harder than usual by holding a towel over my head—I felt the need to stop and take a break shortly before the 30 second set was up. Whoops.
So sue me—I’m only human. And my abs were burning. Surely I’m not the only person who’s ever needed a break in the middle of a sweaty strength training sesh. Something I recently learned, though? It’s totally fine to take that break—just make sure to keep it under 3 seconds long.
Last night, my Peloton instructor Oliver Lee said that you can take a 3-second break to breathe, then get back into the move. I (literally) breathed a sigh of relief, stopped doing the bicycles for three quick “Mississippis,” then went back into it—and guess what? My abs are sore today, so clearly the workout was still effective.
Certified trainer and owner of Fitness Together studio Derek Maxfield agrees. “Three seconds is the ideal amount of time [to rest] between reps,” he tells me. “If you are consistently going over 10 to 15 seconds in between each rep, you’re not going to keep your heart rate in its optimal zone. In turn, you won’t make the best use of your workout.”
It’s the golden rule for all methods of strength training, whether you’re suffering through bicycles (like moi) or lifting weights. “This applies to all workouts in terms of reps,” says Maxfield, noting that it’s different in workouts like HIIT where you can increase the timing and intensity of reps. “But in terms of strength training, 3 seconds is ideal, with 10 seconds as a maximum for all.” So if you’re truly dying, you can breathe it out for up to 10 seconds and still crush that workout. Anyone else breathing a sigh of relief?
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