For those of you who are looking to increase your lean muscle mass in the gym, you’ll obviously be looking to really push yourselves during your training sessions, and you will hopefully have your diets on point as well.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to strip away a little excess body fat, bulk up and get as huge as possible, or simply gradually add a little muscle to your frame over the course of several months, if you are serious, you will need to ensure that you are working hard in the gym, and getting the most out of your training.
In terms of training, people often think that volume is the key, and whilst there certainly are plenty of benefits associated with high volume training, one common mistake that people make with their training, is not knowing how long to rest between sets.
You see, when it comes to training in the gym, you should be thinking about much more than just how many reps you are performing, and how much weight you’re lifting, as knowing how long to rest between sets can be just as important and beneficial as the exercises you are performing.
You see, the overall duration of time spent recovering between sets will help to determine how your muscles adapt to the stress that they are being placed under.
If you can get the magic formula just right, and pair the correct duration of rest and recovery with the overall intensity of your lifts, you can potentially achieve very high percentages of muscle hypertrophy.
So, How Long To Rest Between Sets?
Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world in which everything was black and white, and crystal clear, without any grey areas and any discrepancies?
Sadly, no such world has ever existed, and so rest periods, like most other things in life, are anything but clear and straightforward.
Although it would be great to give you a straight answer, and to say something like: ‘In order to achieve maximum muscle hypertrophy, you should rest for exactly 42.3 seconds between sets’ sadly, we can’t do that.
The reason we can’t do that is because there is no definitive answer to the question of how long to rest between sets.
This is down to the fact that everybody is different, and as a result, everybody trains with a different goal and target in mind.
Put simply, the amount of rest you take between sets, will depend on how you train, and why you train.
For example, an individual looking to burn fat and tone their muscles, will not require the same duration of rest as a person looking to bulk up and increase their strength.
Though we can’t give you a clear answer, we can however, provide you with a few guidelines to help make things a great deal easier.
Training For Endurance
When some individuals put on their gym kit, they do so with the intention of hitting the gym and increasing their endurance and stamina.
Marathon runners, and tri-athletes, for example, base much of their training around increasing their endurance and stamina, as this is obviously one of the key elements that will help them in their chosen disciplines.
Because of this, endurance training with weights, is generally between 15 and 20 repetitions per working set, with a fairly light and moderate weight.
Training in this manner means that much of the energy produced to get you through the workout, will be via aerobic metabolic processes, as your body will burn carbohydrates and fat, all with the help of oxygen.
The idea behind endurance training is to ensure that your muscles can perform at their best for a prolonged period of time, which basically means you want them to function for longer, before they become fatigued and tired.
Lactic acid is a by-product associated with physical exercise, and it is this acid that causes cramping and fatigue.
Experts have found that endurance training with high reps and fairly light reps, will ensure the body is adequately able to rid the muscles of large quantities of lactic acid.
In terms of rest periods, numerous studies have revealed that anything from 45 seconds, though to 2 minutes, is the optimal time to be resting between working sets.
Strongman and Powerlifting are two disciplines that are becoming a great deal more mainstream, and as a result, more people are getting involved in them.
Strength training places your body under an incredible amount of strain and pressure, so obviously it is incredibly taxing and physically demanding.
Primarily, most strength training principles place an emphasis on training with heavy weights that allow you to perform an average of 4 – 6 reps before you begin to tire and fatigue.
To the fact that the movements are different, your body gets its energy from a different source to where it comes from with endurance training, as primarily the body uses ATP, or Adenosine Tri-Phosphate, as its number one energy source.
ATP is a primary source of energy used by the muscles, and what’s more, it does not need oxygen to be present for it to become effective.
The body naturally produces ATP, which is good news, however, studies have found that, when ATP is used, to replenish them, the duration is around 3 minutes.
Because of this, in terms of how long to rest between sets, the optimal time is anything from 3 minutes, through to 5 minutes, as this will ensure your ATP stores have been adequately replenished before you begin your next working set.
Muscle Hypertrophy Training
Finally, if you are training like a bodybuilder, with the number one goal of looking muscular and powerful, again, your training will differ from the previous two examples which we have just taken a look at.
With hypertrophy training, studies have found that, generally speaking, you should aim to perform between 8 and 12 reps per set.
As Arnold once said in ‘Pumping Iron’ “the ninth, tenth, and eleventh set is what makes the body grow”, and as we all know how impressive Arnold was in his prime, you can pretty much take his advice to the bank.
Training in this way means that you use weights which are not too heavy, but which are certainly not too light either.
By the time you reach your 8th rep, you should ideally be struggling.
Training in this manner means the body gets its energy from glycogen stores, I.E from carbohydrates and fats which have been converted into glucose, and from ATP which is naturally produced.
Because you are basically getting your energy from two separate sources when you train, the good news is that you don’t require as much rest between sets as you would with strength training.
Whilst it takes around 3 minutes for ATP levels to be replenished, as your body is also using glycogen for energy, your body functions in a similar fashion to how a hybrid car functions.
Ideally you should be resting for between 1 and 2 minutes between sets, as shorter rest periods will result in an increased rate of blood flow to the muscles, and increased lactate productions, which can result in enhanced rates of muscle hypertrophy.