Current theory suggests that long rest intervals are superior for maximizing strength increases, while short periods of rest are better for driving hypertrophy. From a strength standpoint, the reason for using longer rest intervals is to enhance recovery.5 Your energy reserves are necessarily taxed after a heavy lift. Logically, the longer you take between lifts (at least up to a certain threshold), the more you’ll be able to maintain your strength levels on the ensuing set. Research shows that, following an all-out set in a moderate rep range, strength is fully recovered after about three minutes rest.11
Alternatively, current guidelines for maximizing muscle growth recommend that rest intervals be kept to around a minute in duration. This recommendation is largely based on the fact that short rest periods lead to heightened metabolic stress, which manifests in the accumulation of metabolites, particularly lactate, inorganic phosphate and hydrogen ion. Limiting the time taken between sets does not allow the body adequate time to reestablish homeostasis, resulting in an increased accumulation of these metabolites.1 There is evidence that high levels of exercise-induced metabolic stress drives muscle growth through a variety of potential mechanisms.9 This provides a theoretical basis whereby shorter rest periods promote greater anabolism.
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