OPTIMAL Rest Time for Muscle & Strength

OPTIMAL Rest Time for Muscle & Strength

We’re comparing one, three, and 5 minutes of rest between sets for strength and hypertrophy outcomes.
Bodybuilders are historically famous for utilizing short rests between sets. American paperback from 1987 reported the recruited bodybuilders rested ten to 90 seconds between sets.

The legendary bodybuilder Arnold in his book recommended keeping rest periods down to a minute or less.

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Strength athletes more commonly utilize longer rests. Returning to the 87 American paper, their recruited powerlifters tended to rest 120 to 420 seconds between sets.

Is muscle hypertrophy enhanced with short arrest intervals and muscle strength with longer rests? Let’s analyze this.

1- Muscle mass influences by rest intervals on hypertrophy

Interestingly, the scientific literature suggests that optimal restoration for muscle hypertrophy depends on whether an exercise recruits a large amount of muscle mass or a small amount of muscle mass.

Exercises involving a large amount of muscle mass include compound exercises, but lower body isolation exercises.

With these exercises, it appears short rest periods are suboptimal for muscle hypertrophy.

A 2016 New York study found in trained men performing a range of compound exercises plus a lower body isolation exercise.

With these training variables, muscle hypertrophy outcomes were superior when resting 3 minutes between sets versus 1 minute.

A 2020 Brazilian study found an untrained man performing the leg press. With these training variables, quad gains were superior when resting 3 minutes versus 1 minute between sets.

A 2009 study from the USA found an untrained man training in a program heavily involving large muscle mass movements.

Arm and thigh gains were greater when resting for two 5 minutes as opposed to 1 minute between sets.

Finally, a 2017 Japanese paper found an untrained mentoring the bench press and squat. With these variables, triceps gains were similar between resting for two 5 minutes or 30 seconds. Yet thigh gains tended to be better when resting for two 5 minutes.

Thus, this overview literature is solid evidence. With large muscle mass exercises, resting two five to 3 minutes between sets evokes greater hypertrophy versus shorter rest periods.

What about five-minute rest periods?

This 2016 English study trained men to perform the leg press and leg extension.
With these variables. Long-term hypertrophy was not evaluated, but the researchers established myofibrillar protein synthesis.

Elevations after training were overall superior when using 5 minutes of rest between sets versus 1 minute.

That is mainly evident in their immediate hours after training. The temporary increases in testosterone were greater when using 1 minute of rest between sets.

This finding elegantly depicts how temporary increases in anabolic hormones like testosterone mean nothing for actual contractile protein synthesis and, by extension, long-term muscle growth.

That is notable as it’s often purported short rest osteopathy since they promote greater temporary anabolic hormone increases.

But again, if evident, temporary anabolic hormone spikes aren’t associated with hypertrophy. Other scientific papers corroborate this progress.

How do two five 3 minutes compare to 5 minutes of rest between sets?

Unfortunately, there’s no precise research exploring this. The paper with the closest relevancy is this 2005 finished study, which found untrained men performing squats and leg presses quad games were similar between resting two or 5 minutes between sets.

Yet a confounder is the two-minute rest condition involved performing one extra set per exercise than the five-minute rest condition.

That may lead one to believe if sets were equated, the five-minute rest period would have been superior.

But I should note this study wasn’t the best designed or controlled. Subjects performed other exercises, and training was unsupervised. The researchers relied on training diaries accordingly.

What about rest periods with exercises, training, smaller amounts of muscle mass, eye isolation, and upper body exercises?

The research isn’t as refined in this area, but what exists suggests short rests are viable if not maybe superior. 

This 2016 Japanese study had men trained largely isolated biceps and triceps movements. 

One group trained with reps to failure with 20 rep max loads per set and 30 seconds of rest between sets, while another group trained with reps to failure with eight rep max loads and 3 minutes of rest between sets. 

Both groups perform the same number of sets, and it’s worth noting the use of different loads between groups is probably not an issue. 

As we know, reps between six and 35 are similar for hypertrophy when reps performed two are close to failure.

Arm gains were greater for the group resting 30 seconds between sets. Another 2018 Japanese paper had untrained men trained in dumbbell curls. 

  1. One condition involved three sets of reps to failure with an 80% one-rep max load and 3 minutes of rest between sets. 
  2. a second condition with three sets of reps to failure with a 30% one-rep max load and 90 seconds of rest between sets. 
  3. a third condition involving a drop set with reps to failure performed with these five loads back to back with no rest between them. 

Elbow flexor gains were similar between all three conditions, suggesting a three-minute 90 seconds and no rest.

I e drop sets are comparable for gains, though I should note the drop set condition technically involved two more sets, so this is a potential confounder and consideration. 

Yet another 2018 Japanese study had untrained to mentoring triceps pushdowns. One condition involved normal sets with 92nd rest intervals, while a second condition involved drop sets with no rest between reps to failure. 

Triceps gains tended to favor the drop set condition, suggesting short rests. Specifically, no rest with drop sets may be beneficial, though the drop set condition technically involved one more set, so this is a consideration and potential confounder. 

Again, this literature isn’t super refined, but I think it’s decent enough to infer with exercises training a small amount of muscle mass short rests are viable, if not potentially, and I must emphasize, potentially superior.

2- One minute

In this study, finding two five to 3 minutes of rest between sets produces more hypertrophy than shorter rests. In large muscle mass movements, they equated sets between the different rest interval conditions, which is of course, what we wanted.

But with these large muscle mass exercises, could performing more sets with short arrests be effective to produce equivalent hypertrophy to fewer sets with longer rests?

Most likely, yes. We briefed this 2020 Brazilian study’s earlier findings. When training the leg press with these variables, quad gains were superior when resting for 3 minutes versus 1 minute between sets.

Yet this study also had a third condition I did not mention.

This condition performed sets of reps of failure with 1 minute of rest between sets and aimed to match the volume load attained by the condition using 3 minutes of rest between sets.

This resulted in this condition performing an average of four-five sets of Gypsophilia with 1 minute of rest between sets per session.

And this condition saw similar hypertrophy to the three-minute condition that only used three sets of reptiles per session.

So with large muscle mass exercises, more sets were wished. Autores can likely produce similar hypertrophy to using longer rests with fewer sets.

It’s worth noting, from a time perspective, both would be fairly similar. Of course, using the three-minute rest would be less fatiguing and the total quality of your volume may be superior.

3- Effect of rest period on the strength

In line with probably everyone’s expectations, longer rests between sets appear to be more favorable for enhancing muscle strength.

We mention this 2016 New York study that found intranet men performing these larger muscle mass exercises.

With these training variables, hypertrophy outcomes were greater when resting 3 minutes versus 1 minute between sets.

Bench press and squat strength gains were also greater when resting 3 minutes between sets.

This 1995 USA study had trained men who performed this training program and found squat strength gains tended to be greater when resting for 3 minutes versus one 5 minutes or 30 seconds between sets.

What about even longer rest intervals?

This 2010 Brazilian study trained him and executed this program and found leg press and bench press strength gains were not significantly different between resting for three or 5 minutes between sets, but both rest periods produce larger strength gains versus resting 1 minute between sets.

Now, though, the differences between the three and five-minute rest periods were nonsignificant statistically, the leg press gains in particular seemingly favor the five-minute rest period.

This is only a single measure from a single study, and more research is certainly needed to determine if 5 minutes of rest between sets is superior to 3 minutes of rest.
Again, you could experiment with 5 minutes of rest between sets if you’re willing to.

When looking at large muscle mass exercises with set numbers controlled, resting two five 3 minutes between sets produces more hypertrophy than resting for 1 minute or less.

It’s not clear if restorations beyond two five 3 minutes provide more hypertrophic benefit. More research is needed.

It’s worth knowing if you perform more sets with short rests on large muscle mass movements, you likely can see similar hypertrophy to long rest with fewer sets with small muscle mass exercises, short rest seems to be perfectly fine, if not potentially.

Again emphasizing potentially as more data is needed superior as for strength adaptations, 3 minutes produces greater gains versus shorter durations.

similar to the discussion on hypertrophy with large muscle mass movements, more research is needed to analyze that 5 minutes of rest is better than 3 minutes.

If you’ve made it this far, I have a free ebook you might like. It’s the ultimate guide to bench pressing for strength and or hypertrophy.

With over 100 scientific references. Whether you train for strength and or hypertrophy, we discuss technical factors like grip width and bar, path training factors rep range, volume and frequency comparisons between the bench press and other similar exercises, and other fascinating science conducted on the bench press.

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