How long should you rest in between sets for optimal performance in strength & hypertrophy?

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I answer your questions in under 5 minutes!

Today’s Question is: What are optimal rest times?

If you have a question you want answered, leave it in the comments below!

++++++_ ANSWER ++++++_

There is no ‘best’ amount of rest in between sets, it all depends on your training goals. There is an inverse relationship between weight lifted and time rested. The shorter the rest period, the less weight can be lifted.

One reason to track rest periods is to establish a consistent point of comparison. If I’m doing 3 sets of 6 this week with a 3 minute rest in between sets, I’ll inevitably have different performance the next week if I only rest 60 seconds. Yes we did the same number of reps, but our ability to recover is quite different between the two events and it’ll be hard to truly compare the two and track if our progress was due to an increase in strength or a decrease in fatigue.

One study compared 1 minute rest times with 3 minute rest times in terms of hypertrophic (muscle size) outcomes. They found three minute rest periods to be better for accumulating training volume. Which simply meant the subjects trained with heavier weights for more reps, because within the training session they had recovered for a longer period of time. There is no data to suggest there are any negative affects of too long a rest time, other than extending workouts.

For optimal strength, lower reps/heavier weights 5+ minute rest times are required, in order to allow your body enough time to recover. When it comes to one rep max testing, you may be looking at 10+ minutes in between attempts.

For strength/hypertrohpy training, here are 3 factors you should consider with how long your rest periods are:

  • Mental preparedness
  • GPP capacity
  • Strength output

When all three of these factors are back to 90%, then you should be good to lift again in order to maximize your strength output. The reason you want to check each of these off the list is because you don’t want those to be the limiting factor when strength training.

Finally, we can purposely reduce rest times in order to train some metabolic conditioning, general physical preparedness, cardio purposes. I find this to be an enjoyable way to add in aerobic training without going down the traditional cardio routes. Remember, you won’t have optimal strength or hypertrophy outcomes with this tactic, so plan for this type of training.

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