Rest Periods – Do They Impact Strength & Muscle Gain

When we are looking to maximise muscle growth, we want to optimise our performance of the exercises we are performing within a session. Unsurprisingly the amount of rest you have between sets has shown to have a significant impact here.

There are many reasons you may decide to shorten or lengthen rest periods, and many coaches have developed varying training methods over the years in an attempt to enhance strength and muscle growth.

The Study

Here we look at one study in particular that separated the candidates into two separate groups. One of the groups were instructed to rest for one minute in between sets, and the other group rested three minutes in between sets. 

Both groups trained three times per week for 8 weeks. The sessions were full body focused sessions, focusing on some of the main compound lifts – squats, bench press, military press etc. They performed 3 sets of each exercise, and between 8 – 12 reps. Again, the main difference was the rest periods between both groups. 

The Results

Both their strength and muscle growth (specifically the thickness of their biceps, triceps and quadriceps) were measured. 

Unsurprisingly both groups saw improvements, but interestingly the 3 minute rest group outperformed the 1 minute rest group. They saw greater increases in both strength and muscle growth in all areas. 

The researchers put the differences down to the increase in volume in the 3 minute rest group. Essentially they performed better (lifted heavier) due to the longer rest period in between sets.

What Can We Learn From This?

If your goal is to build as much muscle as possible, short rest periods, alongside other factors such as progressive overload (which is also why if your goal is strength or muscle gain HIIT classes are worthless)  are going to impact your performance and the total amount of work you perform, both in terms of reps lifted, and weight lifted. Thus reduce the potential for optimal strength and muscle gain.

We also have to consider that a 3 minute rest period on every exercise is going to significantly increase the amount of time you spend in the gym, or may even limit the amount of exercise you can perform. This may not be applicable for many people, particularly if you are strapped for time. 

How It Works At TFC

There may be certain times when you adopt shorter rest periods. But if we are looking to maximise each lift, gain maximal strength and muscular gains we know a longer rest period is going to be more beneficial.

Which is why at The Fitness Collective we have adapted our programmes so that our main strength exercises are single sets, as opposed to tri-sets. Allowing members to get the most out of their strength exercises. 

So if 1 minute is too short, and 3 minutes is too long, we may look to find a sweet spot around 90 – 120 seconds as a rest period. 

As always there is going to be some variability and individual differences to take into consideration. 

For more information why not sign up to attend our Hypertrophy Seminar –

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *