Bodybuilders have been training with 60-second rest periods to boost metabolic stress and elicit greater anabolic hormones for the past decade. Using short rest periods results in a greater physiological and perceptual response than taking longer rest periods. New research suggests that shorter rest periods may not be the best approach for building muscle.
RESTING LESS BETWEEN SETS MAY BE HINDERING YOUR GAINS Key Points:
- Longer rest periods have been found to result in greater muscle growth than resting less between sets!
- Short rest periods severely limit the weight you can lift the next set and reduce training volume.
- Short rest periods can be beneficial for isolation exercises such as preacher curls, triceps extension, etc.
- Multi-joint exercises require longer rest periods.
Bodybuilders have been training with 60-second rest periods to boost metabolic stress and elicit greater anabolic hormones for the past decade. Using short rest periods results in a greater physiological and perceptual response than taking longer rest periods. New research suggests that shorter rest periods may not be the best approach for building muscle. One of the other biggest myths is that increased metabolic stress by taking short rest periods results in more muscle growth.
This is why people incorporate techniques like supersets and drop-sets and use short rest periods to increase lactate and metabolic stress. In the coolest study of the year, researchers infused lactate in the bloodstream of resistance-trained men. Post-exercise, the subjects that had the infusion had higher blood lactate levels. Still, they did not have any additional increases in protein synthesis compared to the regular resistance exercise group. This dispels the myth that metabolic stress (increased lactate) has some magical muscle-promoting effect.
The Damaging Effects of Resting Less Between Sets
Other studies have reported that short rest periods (1 minute), despite higher lactate, resulted in less protein synthesis (68%) post-exercise, compared to 5 minutes (139%). Another study found that comparing 30-second rest periods to 150-second rest periods using the same total workload resulted in similar muscle growth. Still, greater muscle growth trended towards the group that took longer rest periods. Note that smaller muscle groups like the abs, calves, and arms can be trained with shorter rest periods, while other muscle groups such as the quads, back, and chest will require longer rest periods.
Fatigue and Resting Less Between Sets
The major drawback of taking short rest periods is that you begin sets fatigued, which results in less total volume. Volume is a potent stimulator of muscle growth to a certain point. By using short rest periods, each additional set will reduce repetitions, resulting in a reduced total workload volume. A classic example is a study that measured total volume lifted (sets x reps x weight) with three different rest periods: 30 seconds, 60 seconds, and 2-minutes between sets).
Total volume lifted:
- 30 second rest periods: 58,168 pounds
- 60 second rest period: 63,635 pounds
- 2-minute rest periods: 66,280 pounds
The researchers concluded that longer rest periods favored a higher total volume and induced a similar blood lactate response. A shortened rest period may be detrimental to long-term neuromuscular adaptations and hypertrophy responses in resistance-trained men.