A lot of people think you've got to go-go-go when you're at the gym, and if you're sitting down in between sets you're basically negating the benefits of exercise. Or just wasting time.
But that's not necessarily true. In fact, you actually might be negating the benefits IF YOU DON'T TAKE ENOUGH TIME in between sets.
WHY IT MATTERS
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the body’s primary energy resource for ANY muscle contraction, and there are three energy systems that produce ATP:
- ATP/PC: high power/short duration: 1-3 reps, 10 seconds of max effort
- Glycolytic: moderate power/moderate duration: 10 seconds - 2 minutes
- Oxidative: low power/long duration: 2 minutes or longer
Your body has a LIMITED SUPPLY of ATP, and it must be replenished for work to continue. So the amount of rest taken in between sets dictates how much ATP/energy will be available to the muscles for the next set.
WHAT’S THE SCIENCE SAY?
The rest period affects both the acute response and chronic adaptation to resistance training. A recent meta-analysis of 35 different studies concluded the following:
“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.
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.”
WHAT'S YOUR PRIMARY GOAL?
- If you want to become STRONGER, you’re going to lift HEAVIER WEIGHTS and do FEWER REPS. This means you'll need 3-5 minutes of rest in between sets.
- If your goal is ADD SIZE (muscle hypertrophy), then you’ll be lifting MODERATE WEIGHT and doing MORE REPS. It also means you'll be resting for 60 seconds or less in between sets.
Your PRIMARY GOAL is the catalyst for everything: the amount of weight on the bar, the number of reps attempted, AND the length of your rest period.