How much Rest Between Sets? 1, 2, or 3 Minutes?
Ask any bodybuilder how much rest is needed between sets and you will get a diverse range of answers from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. According to several sets of research, the optimal rest period for the majority of strength athletes (excluding those involved in HIIT) seems to be 3-5 minutes during sets of working weight. Researchers compared maximal power output, muscular activity and blood lactate concentrations following rest intervals that ranged between 1 and 3 minutes in twelve resistance trained men. After a familiarization and 1 rep max testing session, the subjects performed 3 squat workouts in a randomized order with 60% of their 1RM for 6 sets of 6 reps. The workouts were separated by between 3 and 7 days to control for fatigue and/or soreness.The results showed that peak power differed between the rest intervals where 1 minute rest saw a decrease of 5.6%, 2 minute rest saw a 1.9% decrease and 3 minute rest saw a 5.9% decrease. Average power showed a mean decrease of 10.5% for 1 minute, 2.6% for 2 minute, and 4.3% for 3 minute after the 6 sets. Blood lactate levels were highest in the 1 minute rest workout and lowest in the 3 minute rest workout, though these differences were not significant. Muscle activity did not change significantly between rest interval groups. These findings have important implications for rest interval prescription during moderate load power training. It appears that 2 minutes is the sweet spot for maintaining power output. However, 3 minute of rest was not much better than 1 min. Therefore, under strict time constraints, 1 minute rest periods would likely be sufficient while 2 minute appear to be optimal. To put things in perspective, the authors note that 1 minute rest intervals would enable one to complete the 6 sets of 6 reps in approximately 7 minute, 12 minutes with 2 minute rest intervals and 17 minute with 3 min rest intervals. Prescribing 1-2 minutes of rest rather than 3-5 may allow for greater training density without significantly impacting power output.
André Martorelli, Martim Bottaro, Amilton Vieira, Valdinar Rocha-Júnior, Eduardo Cadore, Jonato Prestes, Dale Wagner, Saulo Martorelli, (2015) Neuromuscular and Blood Lactate Responses to Squat Power Training with Different Rest Intervals Between Sets. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (14), 269 – 275.
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