Rest between Sets

You’ve been hitting the weights and for some reason, you’re just not getting the muscle growth you desire. Perhaps, you’ve been hitting the gym to get leaner, and you’re just getting bigger. So what’s the problem here? Muscular endurance, weight loss, strength building or form, it’s easy to pay the most attention to the work you’re doing in each set. However, to achieve these objectives, you should also keep in mind the rest between sets of exercise.

  1. Endurance (Lean)

Muscular endurance is the ability to perform repetitions of an exercise over a period of time using a submaximal amount of weight, usually 40%–60% of 1 rep max.

According to research, the optimal rest period for increasing muscular endurance is less than 2 minutes. However, rest intervals can be as short as 20 seconds and still provide benefit, if endurance is your goal.

Muscular endurance programs are typically done with short rest intervals either between sets of the same exercise or via a circuit training program. HIIT is one great way for endurance training.

CONCLUSION: Muscular endurance training typically involves short rest periods between 20–60 seconds. In this type of training, a higher volume of reps is performed with a lower amount of weight.

2. Size Growth (Bulk)

In order for muscle fibers to grow in size, they need to be stimulated to increase the cross-sectional area of the muscle – muscular hypertrophy.

Typically for bodybuilders, the increase in muscle size is the most important factor, compared with strength, endurance, and fat loss. Bodybuilders are judged in their sport based on size, muscle symmetry, and definition.

Even if you aren’t a bodybuilder, many fitness enthusiasts want to enhance muscle size to achieve a certain look.

In hypertrophy training, the objective is to overload the muscles and cause temporary trauma to the muscle fibers so that they are stimulated to grow and increase their cross-sectional area.

Typically, there is very little difference between the loads handled for those wanting to induce hypertrophy and those wishing to solely increase strength. These loads typically range from 50%–90% of your 1 rep max.

However, the biggest difference in training for muscle size versus strength is in rest between sets. Studies have found that to induce muscle hypertrophy, optimal rest intervals are between 30–90 seconds

CONCLUSION: Muscle hypertrophy is best achieved with moderate rest between sets, such as 30–90 seconds.

3. Strength

Muscular strength is the ability to produce force to move a weight.

In weightlifting, muscular strength is often tested via a 1 rep max, which involves successfully moving the maximal amount of weight through the entire range of motion for 1 rep.

When building strength, there is less emphasis on muscle size and more emphasis on maximal force production, or power. Adequate rest between sets helps to maintain a high level of force production for the next set.

Thus, typical rest periods for increasing strength are between 2–5 minutes, which research shows to be optimal for strength development. However, researchers note that this may vary depending on age, fiber type, and genetics.

CONCLUSION: Strength can be maximized by rest intervals between 2–5 minutes in duration. This allows the muscles to recover enough to produce a comparable amount of force for the next set.

4. Weight Loss

Resistance training can positively affect body composition. However, it’s important to remember that pairing a nutritious diet with resistance training is most important for weight loss. This ensures that calories consumed are less than calories expended.

Both strength and hypertrophy training have been shown to aid caloric expenditure; the rest interval duration isn’t as big a factor.

HIIT training has also been shown to positively affect weight loss when compared with moderate intensity continuous training. The two had similar effects on whole body fat loss and waist circumference. But HIIT took about 40% less time to complete.

Resistance training and HIIT resistance and cardiovascular training have shown similar positive benefits on weight loss when paired with diet modifications. The rest between sets doesn’t have as much influence as being consistent and making lifestyle changes over time.

CONCLUSION: Any form of resistance training can be beneficial for weight loss when paired with dietary modifications. In addition, it can help maintain lean body mass during weight loss.

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