When it comes to bodybuilding or weight training, there are a key set of training variables such as reps, sets and rest periods that we should all aim to optimize.

For decades, the “best” length for the rest period between sets (within a workout) has been debated by researchers, bodybuilders and every other type of fitness enthusiast imaginable. Some people will recommend shorter rest with a more metabolic or “pump”-like stimulus works best, whereas others will propose longer rest periods to allow for optimal performance in each set.

But within the research, there is certainly no clear-cut answer. So, is there really an optimal rest period for muscle growth and, if so, what is it? Let’s find out…

 

Strength vs Hypertrophy – Understand The Difference?

There have been numerous studies investigating the effects of rest periods, with some focusing more on strength and others focusing on a mix of strength and hypertrophy.

Appreciating the difference between strength and hypertrophy is a very important factor for you to understand going forward. In fact, if you don’t fully understand this distinctive difference it is easy to come to the wrong conclusion, or, take away the wrong conclusion from certain studies.

Although strength adaptations and muscle growth are strongly correlated, the daily differences in a strength training or hypertrophy plan can be different and often require different programming styles.

For example, to maximize strength adaptations over the long term, an extended rest period with a lower rep and heavy loads, close to your 1 rep-max, is required. Additionally, to maximize performance on these lifts, a longer rest period is required (e.g. 60 seconds vs 180 seconds) [1][2].

Based on this and the known correlation between strength progression and muscle growth, one would quickly assume that if longer rest periods and heavier loads are best for strength, they must be better for hypertrophy.

Although this connection makes sense in theory, the answer still depends and isn’t conclusive when it comes to hypertrophy. For example, some research shows that shorter rest periods can lead to similar adaptations for muscle growth during long-term studies. Additionally, shorter rest periods may also provide some specific biological or metabolic benefits depending on your goal [3][4].

Let’s see what the research has to say…

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