What to Do Between Sets

I'm sure you've witnessed people at the gym yapping away between sets to the point that their workout turns into a marathon. Three hours later, they haven't done anything except give their jaws a workout. Maybe people have nothing better to do or maybe they just don’t realize that the time between sets is very valuable and can be used to enhance their efforts.

Before I lay out a few tips for what to do between sets, know this—your rest time should only be long enough to accomplish specific things before the next set (such as soft tissue work) or recover the energy system you're training enough so that performance doesn’t decline. Everyone is different, so telling someone to rest X amount between sets and telling someone else to rest the exact same amount of time is usually pointless. Instead, gauge your biofeedback (oxygen debt, pump, focus) and how you feel that day in terms of your mental game and strength levels.

Enough gabbing. Here you go. Put it to use and I guarantee you'll have taken your iron game to the next level…

  • Pose: I don't mean take your shirt off and run around the gym like a narcissistic idiot, but flex and contract the area you're trying to work. This will lead to a better pump, an increased neuromuscular connection, and an increased amount of muscle fibers being recruited. For those of you who have never competed before, isometrically contracting your muscles is very tiring and hard, so start with three mini-sets of 10 seconds each between sets.
  • Visualize: I'm literally shocked by the large amount of athletes who don’t use this in their workouts. In every other area of life, we hear about the power of visualization to attain success, so why not use this in the weight room? Our nervous systems don’t know the difference between imagining a feat and actually performing one. This has been proven time and time again. Arnold used to imagine his biceps growing and expanding so much that they filled the entire room. It will take time to get proficient at it, but it's one of the most overlooked secrets to getting better in the weight room.
  • Soft tissue work: Many times fascia can get ‘glued’ down and cause us pain, mobility loss, and smaller muscles. If you can really iron out the fascia in the region that is getting worked, you may have some new found muscle growth, better movement, and better recovery. A foam roller, PVC pipe, or lacrosse ball works best. Try doing each quad separately for one minute while pinning down and flexing after a long set of squats.
  • Core work: Too many people forget about core work all together or they're on the opposite end of the spectrum and do way too much of it. Usually this is done before or after the main workout, but it could just as well be done between sets to enhance breathing patters and strengthen the core while in a real life, fatigued state. Plus, it’ll save you time.

I'm sure there are many other things the ‘average folk’ would rather be doing between sets, all of which are designed to make things easier. But you aren't average, so try implementing some of the above for better results.