Both short and long rest periods can produce similar increases in muscle growth as long as the total volume is similar between groups.
TAKE A REST! OPTIMAL HYPERTROPHY REST TIME KEY POINTS
- Optimal hypertrophy rest time are in the 2-3 minute range.
- Both short and long rest periods can produce similar increases in muscle growth as long as the total volume is similar between groups.
- This study found that strength gains can be increased with short rest periods, but more research needs to be conducted before we can say that this is the best way to increase muscle strength.
HOW LONG TO REST BETWEEN SETS?
The foundation of muscle growth is based on the premise that tension overload must continually occur for chronic adaptations to occur. If you have been keeping up with the current research on muscle growth, you would know that adding volume is important for muscle growth.(1, 2)
Volume is defined as the sets x reps x weight used over a training session. It has been found that taking longer rest periods between sets can result in greater repetitions performed over a workout, resulting in a higher training volume and greater muscle growth.(3, 4)
THE OPTIMAL HYPERTROPHY REST TIME DEBATE
For the past several years, it has been recommended that bodybuilders take short rest periods to increase muscle growth. As mentioned previously, volume is associated with greater increases in muscle growth; researchers wanted to examine the effects of volume using short and long rest periods.
A previous study found that a 3-minute rest period between sets resulted in greater total training volume and muscle growth compared to a 1-minute rest period. (5) Researchers wanted to add a twist to the study and compared short and longer rest periods, but they had the short rest period group do more sets so that the volume was similar. They wanted to know if the rest periods or the total amount of sets completed was the driving factor for muscle growth and strength.
The study had 28 subjects, including both males and females. The protocol was a 10-week training study. The subjects were divided into 4 groups:
- Group 1: Long rest interval – 3 minutes
- Group 2: Short rest interval – 1 minute
- Group 3: Long rest interval (3 min), but the same volume load as the short rest interval (Group 2)
- Group 4: Short rest interval (1 min), but the same volume load as the long rest interval (Group 1)
At the end of the 10-week study, the researchers concluded that muscle growth was not determined by rest intervals between sets but by volume. Both the long rest interval and the short rest interval with volume matched to the long rest interval (Groups 1 and 4) made the biggest gains in muscle mass.
Another shocking finding was that muscle strength increased in all the groups, and there was no difference between the groups. This makes one question the validity of recommending 3–5-minute rest periods for optimal strength gains.(6) If your goal is muscle growth, long rest period intervals (3 minutes) allow for a higher training volume with fewer sets to be performed.
In comparison, short intervals (1 minute) require more sets to obtain higher volume, both of which are productive for increasing muscle growth. In practical terms, it’s probably easier to take longer rest periods, so you don’t have to do the additional sets of short rest periods, but it’s strictly a preference.