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Best rest time between sets for strength

Victor Abeledo
December 29th, 2020 · 2 min read

Battle-tested method

This method often referred to as the traditional method, is the most common for hypertrophy and strength training. It consists of sequencing sets of an X amount of reps, with a varying rest time between sets. The amounts of reps and length of rest time should change depending on your objective. Other methods, such as supersets are only suited for one goal, like building muscle.

For hypertrophy, you’d want shorter rest time between sets and a higher amount of reps. The opposite stands for strength training. It’s better to use a lower amount of reps and higher rest time.

The reason for this is simple:

“When the training goal is muscular hypertrophy, the combination of moderate-intensity sets with short rest intervals of 30–60 seconds might be most effective due to greater acute levels of growth hormone during such workouts.”

How long should I rest?

As stated above, when the goal is to gain muscle mass, rest time should range between 20 seconds and one minute. In contrast, the best rest time between sets for strength gains should go from 3, up to 5 minutes.

Science has the last word for it:

“…in terms of chronic adaptations, resting 3–5 minutes between sets produced greater increases in absolute strength, due to higher intensities and volumes of training.”

Strength training

To get stronger faster, the body should rest longer between sets because the energy the body consumes from strength training comes from ATP. Adenosine Triphosphate Phosphocreatine or ATP uses phosphagens to produce energy fast and without the need for oxygen. The human body has a very small phosphagen reserve, which lasts a short amount of seconds. It takes athletes up to 3 minutes to fully replenish phosphagen stores.

For strength training, it’s also important to prioritize compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, and bench press. The reason behind it is that the neuromuscular system reacts more if you perform these exercises. Compound exercises involve a large number of muscles in our bodies.

For instance, the deadlift engages glutes, hamstrings, and lats as prime movers. This group of muscles is the one that applies the principal force. In addition to that, soleus, obliques, abdomen, quads, traps and rhomboids, take the role as stabilizers and synergists of the deadlift. This last group of muscles helps to successfully perform the movement, promoting joint stability and prime mover strength.

Speed of exercise execution

Speed of execution or Time Under Tension (TUT) refers to the amount of time a muscle is held under tension during an exercise set. Contraction velocity when performing a set should also change depending on your goals. For strength, it’s best to keep it at 1 or 2 seconds on both eccentric and concentric phases. If you were training for muscle hypertrophy, TUT should be of 2 - 5 seconds. On the other hand, if your goal was Power training, the TUT for the eccentric phase of the lift should be longer than the concentric.

If you find yourself quickly finishing each rep to avoid failing at a lift, consider removing some pounds to the bar and check your form.

References:

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