Why what you do between sets can make or break your workout

by Mary C. Weaver, CSCS on June 22, 2012

Woman doing leg pressesWhat do you do with your time between strength-training sets? At the clubs where I work out, here’s what I usually see: people sitting on a piece of equipment for long periods of time between sets, zoning out, checking their phone messages, or chatting with others.

The sitting around part can be a pain for others because in a crowded gym, chances are good someone else would like to be using the bench or machine you’re perched on.

Now I’m going to sound like an old crank. But when I first started working out seriously, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, it was common gym etiquette to allow others to “work in” with you.

Nobody took offense if you approached someone to ask whether you could work in. And if you were using a piece of equipment and saw someone standing around nearby, you’d ask him or her, “Would you like to work in with me?”

That’s a phrase I rarely hear these days.

But parking your butt on the equipment for 15 minutes straight isn’t just a matter of potentially being rude. It also diminishes your workout. When you’re sitting around vegging, you’re losing an opportunity to keep your heart rate up, to burn a few more calories–and you’re losing focus and intensity.

Here’s what I like to do upon finishing a set: immediately move to another exercise for the same or a different body part, walk around the gym, or even jump on a treadmill for two minutes.

Staying in motion keeps my energy up, and while I’m walking, I start thinking about the next set and what I hope to accomplish with it.

If I just sit and wait, I can feel my energy draining away and my intensity fading. And although I don’t want to be antisocial in the gym, there’s only so much time I’ll devote to chatting with people until the workout is over.

During those precious minutes I have to spend in the gym, I want to be fully engaged–just me and the weights, doing our customary dance.

So what do you do between sets? And are you happy with the energy level of your workout?

Flickr photo by Jagrap

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisa
Twitter: lisaeirene
June 22, 2012 at 11:21 am

I try not to let my rests in between sets be too long. It seems like a waste of time. I see the bad etiquette at my gym ALL THE TIME. One time, this woman sat on a machine talking on her phone for over 15 minutes. I used all the machines around her and she was still just sitting. I finally asked her if I could work in. She said she was using it. Um, what? I said “Really? Cause it looks like you’re on the phone. Can I use it?” She gave me a nasty look, put her phone in the crook of her neck and then tried using the machine (chest press) while she was on the phone. So incredibly rude. I hate people like that!


2 Mary C. Weaver, CSCS
Twitter: themusclediva
June 22, 2012 at 11:49 am

Oh my gosh. That’s about the worst case I’ve heard!

Although, this might be even more dramatic: about a month ago I was at the local YMCA, and a woman was using the (only) leg-press machine as though it were some sort of cardio equipment. She had the resistance set really low and was pressing continuously for–I am not kidding–20 minutes or more. Another woman and I kept checking to see if she would ever get off.



3 Lisa
Twitter: lisaeirene
June 22, 2012 at 11:56 am

That is so bizarre! She wasn’t even getting any benefit out of it! People….sheesh.


4 Mary C. Weaver, CSCS
Twitter: themusclediva
June 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I know, right?!?! Total face-palm!


5 MyTravelFitness.com
Twitter: alveohealth
July 4, 2012 at 6:52 am

Yeah, it’s about the precious momentum, we need lots to enable us to complete the set. mytravelfitness.com


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