What Are Proper Rest Intervals Between Sets?
What is the difference between power-lifter and bodybuilder? Most people would name techniques, exercises, the number of sets and reps. It is a mistake! It’s all wrong! The difference is the rest time between sets! You need 20-120 seconds long rest to train muscle mass and 2-10 minutes long rest intervals to train strength!
Type of exercises and the number of sets and reps are not crucial factors in bodybuilding. They become crucial only when combined with fixed rest intervals between sets! Rest interval is like a traffic-constable who directs your training either to the muscle building way to the strength building one.
Many bodybuilders recklessly make longer intervals between sets. Doing this, they don’t even realize they are training like power-lifters. And that’s the reason they fail to reach desired results! Their style is actually an exhausting strength-training program. You will never build muscle mass this way!
Let’s look at the muscle physiology to understand the difference. How do our muscles get energy to contract? They use their own energy! There are two energy sources in muscle fibers – adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and phosphocreatine (Pcr). The energy they provide is enough for 30 seconds of muscle contraction. Then, the energy starts coming from lactic acid and oxygen. The truth is these substances work much slower. Before they can fully provide a muscle with needed energy, ATP is synthesized again.
Obviously, power-lifters and other athletes who need explosive energy should rest between sets until their ATP is completely restored. Only adenosine triphosphate can provide powerful and explosive muscle contractions.
We can formulate two important rules here. First one: If you train strength, your set time should not exceed 30 seconds. Second one: Your rest intervals should not be longer than 2 minutes. Strictly speaking, it takes three minutes to restore ATP completely, though some training experts advise rest time to be increased up to 5 minutes or more.
As far as muscle mass building is concerned, the principle is a reverse. Your set should be longer to deplete ATP deposits. At the same time, you have to cut your rest time to prevent muscles from synthesizing ATP. This will stimulate consuming other sources of energy like glycogen, glucose and fat deposits. In other words, bodybuilders have to start a new set before the muscles can recover completely. This is a secret of how to gain muscle mass.
According to Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, a bodybuilder should try to decrease rest time between sets to one minute or even more. The idea behind this step is that tired muscle doesn’t have enough time to recover and fresh muscle fibers become involved. But Arnold doesn’t reveal that you also have to lower your weighs. It’s logical, isn’t? ATP deficiency you create deliberately means you make your muscles weaker. This is a paradox of professional bodybuilding: You have to become a little weaker to become bigger.