There are plenty of things that even seasoned fitness junkies are guilty of doing wrong when they work out, whether it’s performing the same routine over and over (and experiencing the dreaded plateau), forgetting to stretch properly, or using the wrong form on certain moves and exposing their bodies to injury.
But according to many trainers and exercise experts, there’s one workout mistake that ranks high among the worst: you’re simply lingering around too much and doing basically nothing in between sets, which results in too much rest. As Timothy Church, Ph.D., a professor of preventive medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, once observed, even seasoned gym rats who log several hours at the gym aren’t actually working out that much. “Most people are really doing hard work for only 15 to 20 minutes anyway,” he explained to Men’s Journal.
That’s also why Alex McBrairty, CPT, CES, a leading fitness trainer and owner of A-Team Fitness, told us that moving through your routine faster is the secret trick for maximizing any workout, especially if you’re looking for more burn. “The best way to burn more fat during your workouts is to shorten your rest periods,” he says. “In my experience as a coach, this is the single biggest mistake gym-goers make that limits how much fat they can burn during their workouts. If you want to burn more fat, get rid of the distractions so that you can give your all in the gym.”
RELATED: Sign up for our newsletter for the latest weight loss news.
McBrairty advises you to “leave your phone in your car, or at the very least on airplane mode if using it for music.” After all, he asks, “how many times do you waste—two, three, even five or more minutes between exercises—scrolling social media or texting your friends?”
He’s not the only trainer who advises you to move faster through your routine to maximize the effects of it. “Use every minute wisely,” says Lisa Herrington, an ACSM certified personal trainer and founder of FIT House Davis, in Davis, California. “If you are at the gym, take as few breaks as possible. Between changing equipment, recovery sets, socializing, or water breaks, you can easily eat up your gym time. Show-up with a workout plan which focuses on the majority of your time spent moving (cardio) and/or lifting (strength).”
This advice falls in line with the latest exercise science that suggests that if you really want to burn fat while working out, engage in interval training, which involves short bursts of rapid-fire exercises followed by only seconds of rest. “If people are looking to improve performance in the most time-effective way, and if they’re looking to improve health in the most time effective way, then I think incorporating interval training is a very good strategy,” says Martin Gibala, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
After all, regular interval training will result in upwards of 29% more fat loss than moderate-intensity exercise training, according to a meta-analysis of nearly 800 fitness studies published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine. So remember: The next time you hit the gym, move swiftly through your routine and cut down on any unnecessary downtime between your exercises. If you’re lifting weights, consider adding some cardio in between your sets. In the end, you’ll get far more out of your workout session. And for more great workout advice, make sure you’re aware of The Single Most Effective Way to Work Out Every Day, Say Psychologists.