Can Short Breaks Between Weight Training Sets Produce Superior Muscle Gain?

By: Francesco A. Castano


One of the numerous bodybuilding variables that weight lifters must contemplate when constructing an effective workout system is rest between sets, with some believing that short rest periods promote a greater amount of muscular overload, leading to superior muscle gains. This idea is based on the overall body fatigue experienced when engaging in a weight lifting workout with brief rest between workout sets, as the assumption is, if such a workout is more challenging physically, the muscle gains will therefore be superior compared with more lengthy rest between sets.

The issue with this theory is that the fatigue experienced when rest periods between weight lifting sets are reduced does not result from superior overload to muscle tissue, but rather occurs due to stimulation of the cardiovascular system, where the heart is pumping significantly faster to support the continual workload, somewhat like a heavy jogging workout. Because of this, the weight used during workout sets drops sharply during short rest periods, and this actually reduces the total overload received, hampering muscle growth. The weight lifting workout plan with short rest periods between sets may feel far more intense because of significant cardiovascular fatigue, but this is not to be confused with an effective muscle building workout plan.

The mistake made by a number of bodybuilders is to combine their aerobic and weight lifting workout sessions, believing that this technique is sufficient in maximally stimulating both muscle building and fat burning. Yet, two variables are forgotten when producing this flawed idea, as weight used during each workout set is an important concept in producing the largest level of muscle gain, and complete mental focus during each set is also useful in promoting the greatest level of intensity. When rest periods between workout sets are reduced to extremely low levels, the mind often experiences fatigue due to the lack of a recovery period between sets, and develops a natural tendency to put forth less effort during the weight lifting set itself. This, in combination with the considerable physical fatigue that results from moving quickly between weight lifting sets, causes the body to lift less overall weight than could be possible if rest periods were extended to a more suitable level, as the body and mind do not have an opportunity to recover sufficiently for the highest level of output throughout each set.

Extended rest periods between sets offer a mental advantage for many, as feeling energetic throughout the weight lifting workout allows a bodybuilder to provide strict mental focus upon each rep, without a feeling of overall body fatigue that negatively impacts motivation. Yet, there are certain bodybuilders who because of their work schedules are unable to devote more than a brief period of time to weight training sessions, and therefore must sustain the shortest possible rest periods in order to target as many muscle groups as possible during their brief workout time frame. In such a situation, extremely short rest periods between weight lifting sets are acceptable, as doing so is far superior to eliminating exercises, skipping certain muscle groups, or training body parts on a less frequent basis.

Other bodybuilders simply despise extending rest time between sets, as they feel far more likely to complete a weight lifting workout session with maximum focus when they are avoiding idle time, therefore, in such a situation, shorter rest periods are acceptable, as making a weight lifting session realistic to consistently pursue is one of the most important factors leading to significant muscle gain, and if extending rest periods causes frustration, then reducing rest to the maximum length that feels tolerable is an acceptable practice. But for the bodybuilder who wishes to produce the greatest amount of muscle building, and has the time and emotional commitment to extend rest between sets sufficiently so that a weight lifting workout moves away from a cardiovascular emphasis towards a dedicated muscle building focus, then this is the ideal tactic to employ.

Remember that aerobic workout sessions are aimed at enhancing heart efficiency and increasing metabolic rate for added fat burning, but they are not intended to produce considerable muscle mass, and thus the best environment for muscle gains is one where the weight lifting workout session does not stimulate the cardiovascular system in any substantial way, as crossing such a threshold can greatly hinder future muscle gains.

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Francesco Castano owns FatVanish.com, teaching exactly how to lose weight without supplements.

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