Short Rest Intervals and Supersets Increase Calorie Burning & Fat Loss

fitness, strengthening, muscles

Science is proving what some of us in the fitness industry have been practicing for some time now. In simple terms, intensity in a workout makes a big difference on fat loss and calorie burning. Yes it’s true, hard work pays off when it comes to your physique.

If you’ve been training to full capacity, you don’t need a scientific experiment to convince you of this fact because you’ve likely seen the proof in the mirror. Recent scientific studies have proved that working larger muscle groups and resting for shorter durations between sets, increases both energy expenditure and excess post exercise oxygen consumption. This leads to greater fat burning potential and calorie usage.

How Supersets Increase Caloric Expenditure and Fat Burning

We already know that the intensity level of our workout has a huge impact on how many calories we burn. Hardcore workouts promote calorie and fat burning potential. If you think about it, what’s more intense? A set of deadlifts followed immediately by dips, or a set of concentration curls followed by two minutes of texting on the bench? Not only are the concentration curls less intense, they’re also boring. They don’t require anywhere near the same amount of energy as the superset, meaning they burn nowhere near as many calories.

Studies have shown that when compound exercises such as deadlifts, squats, bench press, rows, pull ups etc are paired with another compound or even perhaps an isolation exercise, our energy expenditure and oxygen consumption increase which results in greater excess post exercise oxygen consumption. It is this combination of factors that greatly affect calorie burning potential.

How Shorter Rest Intervals Increase Fat Burning

Whether it’s high intensity interval training, circuit training or strength training with resistance, shortening rest times between sets and exercises can have a huge impact on fat burning.

In a recent study performed by two separate Brazilian universities, decreased rest intervals were shown to have significant effects on energy expenditure, oxygen consumption and EPOC. Rest intervals of 1 and 3 minutes were used on the subjects consisting of 10 healthy men performing both the leg press and chest fly. Both exercises were done for 5 sets of 10 reps with a maximum load of 15 reps. Oxygen uptake was measured at rest, during sets and for the first 90 minutes following the workout. The one-minute rest interval produced higher oxygen uptake and energy expenditure levels than that of the 3-minute rest interval primarily with the leg press. This tells us that large muscle groups, combined with shorter rest intervals offer the most potential for calorie and fat burning both during and following a workout.

Abdominal Fat and Intermittent High Intensity Exercise

The University of New South Wales, Australia, recently published a review stating that high intensity intermittent exercise, (HIIE) may be responsible for improving aerobic and anaerobic fitness, lowering insulin resistance and promoting fat oxidization. Perhaps the most promising of findings is that HIIE also appears to be more effective at reducing abdominal fat over any other type of exercise.

If you consider the intensity of large muscle group supersets, paired with short rest intervals you can certainly imagine how this type of workout falls into the HIIE category. Imagine Bulgarian split squats in combination with explosive push ups or deadlifts paired with push presses. Large muscles groups are called into action, the heart rate dramatically increases and oxygen is limited. All of these factors lead to increased energy expenditure, oxygen debt and EPOC.

Numerous Studies Continue to Prove Theory

A number of experiments have been performed over the years that all seem to suggest a modest to significant increase in EPOC levels, fat oxidization and energy expenditure during and following workouts that combine supersets with short rest intervals.

In addition to the review described above, The University of New South Wales, Australia, also conducted a study on the effects of HIIE training. Over the course of 15 weeks, 45 women were compared after being separated into 3 groups. 15 were prescribed the HIIE program, 15 were given steady state cardiovascular workouts and the remaining 15 were placed in the control group. At the end of the 15 weeks, only the HIIE group showed a reduction in total body fat, abdominal fat and insulin levels. Interestingly enough, there was a significant amount of fat reduction in the abdomen and legs, which is promising considering these are most often trouble spots for women. Another point goes to high intensity resistance training over steady state cardio.

Another experiment performed at the University of Kurdistan, Iran tested the effects of resistance training and varying rest periods on 10 physically fit men. The chosen exercises were squats and bench press performed to failure with an 85% repetition max. Varying rest intervals of 60 seconds, 90 seconds and 120 seconds were sporadically given between the 4 sets of each exercise. Blood draws were done previous to, during and 30 minutes following the workout to measure levels of growth hormone and testosterone. The findings suggested that the shortest rest intervals of 60 seconds elicited the greatest rise in growth hormone. Increased growth hormone levels promote fatty acid oxidization and may maintain the usage of fat for prolonged periods of time following the workout.


Time and again, we are shown in many ways that intensity and effort count. Hanging out on the bench, staring at the clock for a timed 2 to 3 minutes is ineffective if your goal is to lose fat. You need to be up and at em before your heart rate has come down and your muscles have lost the burn. Increasing the effort and challenging your body is the only way to really burn fat and improve the health of your heart and shape of the muscles. While specific spot reducing may technically be impossible, the closest you’ll get is through training with sheer intensity. Take a break from the typical 8 to 12 reps with 2 minutes rest and put yourself to the test with supersets and short recovery intervals.

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