By Nathane L. Jackson, RHN, CSCS
Most of us would like to see greater muscle building returns from our workout investments. What if we gave you a way and it required you to do next to nothing?
Resting longer between sets is a key to greater muscle growth. Researchers from the University of Birmingham found when lifting weights using the typical one-minute rest interval recommendation, myofibrillar protein synthesis, or MPS, a process responsible for growth and multiplication of myofibrillars inside a muscle cell, wasn’t as stimulated as it was when there was a five-minute rest interval.
Volume (sets x reps x weight) is the main predictor of muscle growth. You might feel that you can increase volume by cramming more sets and reps into a training session as a result of resting less, but less than one-minute rest intervals don’t provide adequate recovery. This approach may increase metabolic stress and acute hormonal signaling, but if slightly longer rest intervals are used, more repetitions of the same weight (about 75% of 1RM) can be performed, increasing volume and doubling MPS. Basically, fatigue sets in quicker with short rest and you would continually lift fewer reps at the same weight with each subsequent set.
Longer rest periods are necessary for increasing strength and the same is true for building muscle according to recent studies. Research published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found when they split participants into groups of either one-minute or three-minute rest intervals, participants in the group that rested longer not only experienced greater muscle growth, but also performed better on a one-repetition max lift.
It’s important to note that insufficient rest intervals, especially during sets of multi-joint exercises like squats and deadlifts, require more recovery time. Why? Because fatigue can lead to reduced postural integrity and poor body awareness.
While your muscles recover from a set, maximize gym time with a superset by adding an antagonist exercise or a mobility drill. For example, combine the bent over row with a chest press or work on mobilizing the hips. This way you’ll be working the whole time, but you won’t be overtaxing the muscles you just finished training.