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Rest Periods Explained

By 11th June 2015Exercise

Rest periods are probably one of the most overlooked forms of training variable. Some religiously time rest periods. Others go again when they feel ready. Whilst some rest for as long as it takes to finish their current phone call. Believe it or not, there is some science behind how long you rest between sets that can influence the adaptations you’re looking for from your current training plan. Let’s begin by exploring some recommended rest periods for resistance training:

Recommend rest period – 60 seconds

Effect on muscular recovery – Incomplete muscular recovery, meaning a high accumulation of muscle fatigue.

Effect on central nervous system -Some residual CNS fatigue.

Hormonal response – High increase in growth hormone.

Summary – Very effective at stimulating sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, this means an increase in the non-contractile elements of a muscle. You’ll also experience greater fat loss and an increase in nutrient uptake to the muscles.

Recommend rest period – 90 seconds

Effect on muscular recovery – Incomplete muscular recovery, however there is only a small accumulation of muscle fatigue.

Effect on central nervous system – Complete CNS recovery.

Hormonal response – Average increase in growth hormone.

Summary – Effective rest period for stimulating total hypertrophy.

Recommend rest period – 120 seconds

Effect on muscular recovery – Complete.

Effect on central nervous system – Complete.

Hormonal response – Slight increase in growth hormone.

Summary – Very effective at increasing functional hypertrophy, this means an increase in size of the contractile elements of a muscle. You’ll also benefit from significant strength gains.

Given the recommended rest periods and the corresponding implications you can begin to understand how you can time your rest periods to further benefit your goals. It’s worth mentioning that the rest intervals and effects presented here are for a mixed muscle fibre type. For a fast twitch dominant individual they may need more time to recover. Whereas a slow twitch dominant individual could probably get away with less. If you’re unsure of what muscle fibre type you are take a look at this previous post and take the fibre type test.

If your goal is strictly fat loss, it makes sense to keep your rest periods short and sharp. 30-45 seconds is ideal, 60 seconds being the maximum. The shorter rests will keep your heart rate elevated, meaning you’ll burn more kcal and experience a higher increase in growth hormone.

Once you’ve decided on how long you should be resting, stick to it! Use a stopwatch, your wristwatch or even a mobile phone. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference it can make to the effectiveness of your current training plan.

Do you time your rest periods?

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