The Secret Strategy for Intra-Set Rest Periods -
Tim’s Tips are written by Tim Rigby, M.A., NSCA-CPT

You probably don’t give rest periods a second thought. After completing a set, you simply recover, catch your breath, swig a shot of water or sports drink, then when you feel up to it, you begin the next set. Mistake.

Rest periods are very important to accomplishing whatever your specific goal is, and science has scrutinized rest periods meticulously, to the point of developing key principles that you must appreciate. So, before you even begin training, don’t just bear in mind the weights you’ll be using, along with how many sets and reps of each exercise – make a mental note of your target rest periods and keep a stopwatch handy.

If your primary objective is to build muscle, keep your rest periods relatively brief. At the high end, you don’t want to rest for more than 1 minute and 30 seconds between sets. At the low end, you should give yourself at least 30 seconds to recover. This rest period range corresponds to working sets in which you perform 8-12 reps, the ideal range for muscle hypertrophy.

If power or strength is your main goal, then by all means, rest longer. You’ll notice that guys who lift very heavy weights (especially for the compound lifts of squat, bench press and deadlift) usually rest for a minimum of 2 minutes, up to a maximum of 5 minutes (the latter is usually reserved for those workouts in which a one-rep max lift is attempted). This longer rest period range corresponds to sets in which you perform 1-5 reps.

In basic terms, each of these two rest period ranges will help you produce the best IGF-1 growth hormone response to whichever range of reps you perform. Your takeaway is that you shouldn’t arbitrarily improvise when it comes to resting between sets; use the science, and achieve your goals more efficiently!
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