Maximize Muscle Growth With Adequate Rest Between Sets

By: Sean Nalewanyj

Bobby re-racks the weights after finishing a difficult, focused set of barbell squats.

He has shaky legs, a heart that's racing and he feels lightheaded as he sips from his water bottle. He sets his watch for a 2 minute backward countdown and hits the "start" button.

Bobby learned somewhere that 2 minutes is the ideal time to rest your body between sets at the gym, so he is going to rest exactly for those 2 minutes and get started again. When the alarm goes off after 2 minutes, he'll be back at the squat rack, pumping out another set.

He is walking around, working to catch his breath and readying his body for its next battle with the weights.

His watch beeps.

2 minutes have gone by.

The fact is, his legs are still shaking, his heart is pounding, and he's not ready to go back yet, but the alarm went off so Bobby is determined to follow through. He must perform his next set regardless of how he feels.

He unracks the weight and squats down. He puts forth a mediocre effort, re-racks the bar, and sets his watch for another 2 minutes.

Bobby, just like so many other aspiring bodybuilders, is making a huge mistake. He is severely sacrificing his opportunity to maximize muscle growth by having this set rest interval between sets because his body is training at an effort level that's actually less than his full potential.

Your muscles grow and get bigger as an adaptive response to stress. Your body adapts to a certain amount of stress when you lift X amount of weight for Y number of reps.

If you plan to maximize muscle growth, your job is to force X and Y to higher and higher levels. You will need to progress in both reps and weights if you plan to maximize muscle growth.

Due to this, every single set of every workout must be performed with the maximum strength that you can muster. If you want to maximize muscle growth, stop counting the seconds between sets.

Perform your next only when you can do it with 100% of your strength potential, and not before. Don't let a stopwatch tell you when to start or stop-you need to listen to your body and rely on your instincts.

The theory about having a set rest period is obviously flawed when you consider the fact that there are certain exercises that work the body so much more than some of the others ut there; it's obvious you will need additional rest between those sets.

A dead lift and a tricep press down clearly are not in the same ballpark. After a heavy set of dead lifts to failure I'll usually be resting for at least 5 minutes, often even more.

On the other hand, tricep press downs are obviously not as taxing, so doing a set might only require a rest period of two and a half minutes for me to feel fully recovered.

It's time to start listening to your body to best determine when you are ready to use 100% of your strength on your next set.

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