Most people don’t give too much thought to the amount of rest between sets when working out. Too often that time is dictated by the length of their conversations with their training partner. Two to three minutes can easily go by before they step back under the iron. And, while they may change up their routine every few weeks, most people stick with the same between rest periods year in and year out. Yet, shining a spotlight on your rest between sets can make the difference between getting stronger and stagnating in the gym.
Rest According to Your Goal
If you want to primarily get strong, then your rest periods are going to be very different from the guy who is focused on gaining muscle mass. Strength trainers want to fully recover so that they can push to all out force on the next set. That can see them waiting up to five minutes between sets. Their goal is for the intensity level to come back down to its pre-set state before doing the next set.
For the bodybuilder, however the goal is the opposite. He is trying to create the maximum amount of stress on the working muscle with each succeeding set.
The Fatigue Factor
The length of your between set rest should allow your working muscle to sufficiently recover before you impose the stress of the next set. Your set period, then, needs to strike the right balance between allowing enough recovery to keep working hard while also increasing training fatigue from one set to the next. You also don’t want to have such a short rest period between sets that you run out of breath.
The proviso of not running out of breath is especially relevant when you are doing full body compound movements. Take the squat, for instance. If you do a set of heavy squats and don’t rest long enough to fully get your breath back, you will exceed your cardio ability before your quads are sufficiently worked..
Of course, longer rest periods allow your muscles to recover more and, therefore, push out more reps on the next set. At the same time, their level of fatigue is lessened. And it just so happens that muscular fatigue is a more important factor in muscle growth than simply being able to lift more on successive sets. That’s because biochemical changes in muscle are triggered by fatigue. Fatigue is actually your friend in the gym. It causes your body to react by releasing more growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels. These are fundamental to your muscle building efforts.
Why Short is Best
As you decrease the rest period between sets, the stress upon your muscles increases. That high level of stress leads to a stair step training effect by which each succeeding is more intense than the previous one.
Shorter rest between sets also train the muscle cells to recuperate between sets more quickly. This makes you stronger, improves muscle building and endurance. Shorter rest periods also enhance fat burning.
Short rest periods keep your lactic acid levels high and your blood pH low.
Supplement to Counter Fatigue
Shorter rest periods will increase your training fatigue. That means that you’ll need to make use of a supplement program designed to counter this fatigue and keep you working as strongly as possible. To achieve this, you should get hold of a good creatine supplement. Make sure that it uses the 99.99% pure Creapure brand of creatine monohydrate as the basis of its blend. Taking 5 grams of creatine both before and after training will do wonders to counter the loss of strength that is a natural part of reduced rest periods. Creatine supplementation is not only for gym goers. It is also one of the best tips for runners.
So, what’s the take-away from all of this? To increase the stress on the working muscle, keep your rest periods between sets short (30 – 45 seconds is ideal). This will dramatically increase the intensity of your training. You may not be able to lift as heavy on subsequent sets, but that is not the critical factor. Of course, you will naturally rest a little longer on compound movements in order to get your breath back and be fully recharged for the next set.
When you are doing supersets, in which you work one exercise directly after another and then rest, you should rest for longer before your next superset (up to two minutes is advised). Still, your emphasis should be on maximally stressing the working muscle. Keep in mind that the muscle cell is not aware how heavy the weight is. The only thing it is aware of is how much stress is being applied to it. Slashing the rest between sets will keep it working real hard.