Photo by Caitlin Covington

Experienced lifters may have a routine down pat, but everyone benefits from mixing things up once in a while—novice or expert! This week, we’re talking numbers— and we don’t mean the weight on the bar. The amount of time spent resting between sets (or a grouping of repetitions) affects how fatigued muscles get during a workout. Those aiming for better endurance may want to lift slightly less weight and take shorter rests (less than 90 seconds). But lifters looking to max-out strength should give muscles a few minutes to rest between sets to allow muscles to recover.

On the other hand, many lifters prefer lifting in supersets, or repeating multiple sets without resting in between. Supersets can be achieved by working the same muscle group with different lifts (i.e. two shoulder exercises in a row, two leg lifts in a row) or by switching muscle groups completely. Either way, supersets can up calorie burn, muscle engagement, and increase aerobic exercise— never bad things!

The Takeaway: The time spent pausing between sets should reflect your fitness goals. When crunched on time, supersets may offer the best benefits in the least time.

Backstage Pass

Guest contributorDavid Boffa takes us behind the scenes at the 2011 World Weightlifting Championships. Here’s the 4-1-1 on what’s up with weightlifting in the U.S. and around the world.

Fun Fact:

Superheavy lifter, Behdad Salimikordasiabi of Iran snatched a new world record— 214 kilos— at the World Weightlifting Championships. For the record, that’s more than twice his weight. Ohhhh, snatch!