What are the physiological changes resulting from a short rest period?-part 2

170716 What are the physiological changes resulting from a short rest period?-part 2

Rest periods of approximately 1 minute elicit several significant body responses. This is particularly true when using sixty-second rests between heavy 10 repetition maximums and repetitions and between sets and exercises. According to Dr. William Kraemer, these “acute hormonal changes, such as increased growth hormone in the blood, are significantly greater than with 3-minute rest periods.”[1]

Even though a direct assessment of greater muscle size cannot be specifically linked to these hormonal changes, it is still been thought to be important for increased muscle hypertrophy. These acute hormonal changes “have shown significant correlations to the development of muscle hypertrophy in both fast twitch and slow twitch fibers…”

If you or your trainee are using 10 repetition maximum loads and resting for one minute between each set, you will significantly increase greater blood lactate responses when compared to a 3-minute rest period using a 5-repetition maximum with either a 1-minute or a 3-minute rest period.

Scientifically the reasons for this appear to be “the ability to buffer and tolerate decreases in pH and hydrogen ions from the high levels of ATP hydrolysis is indicated by high concentrations of blood lactate, which might be a contributor to the development of local muscular endurance due to resistance training.”[2]

Therefore, using shorter rest periods makes a strong contribution to improving your ability to tolerate these high acidic conditions during exercise. This is especially true when getting into the high number of repetitions frequently seen with the bodybuilders or with pre-session training by powerlifters.

Based on the foregoing factors, the American College of Sports Medicine, recommends rest periods of 2 to 3 minutes between sets and exercises when training for maximal power and strength. Training guidelines from the National Strength and Conditioning Association also recommend rest periods of 2 to 5 minutes when developing power and strength.

In both instances, the recommended rest periods may have to be lengthened if the repetition maximum intensities are high, specifically in the 90 to 100% one-repetition maximum ranges. However, modifying this 3-minute recommendation to 1 to 2-minute rest periods is in order when doing single joint, maximal strength exercises.

These recommendations apply to all levels of lifters, from the beginner to the advanced.

If you are training for local muscular endurance then use 1 to 2 minute rest periods with repetitions in the 15 to 20 range for each set. If you are doing 10 to 15 reps per set then drop the rest periods down to one minute to generate the greatest physiological responses. Once again, this applies to all lifters across a broad spectrum from beginner to advanced.

These recommendations are similar when training for muscle hypertrophy. A beginner or intermediate lifter, training to increase muscle size may consider using rest periods of 1 to 2 minutes between exercises and sets.

However, if you are an advanced lifter, training to increase the size of your muscles, the recommendation is 2 to 3 minute rest periods used with multijoint exercises. Reverting to the 1 to 2 minute rest periods with single joint exercises will also elicit good hormonal responses and size increases.


[1] Optimizing Strength Training, Fleck, S. J., Kraemer, W. J., Human kinetics

[2] Optimizing Strength Training, Fleck, S. J., Kraemer, W. J., Human kinetics


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