Most bodybuilders realize that to keep making constant gains and not stagnate it’s important to frequently change your training variables, such as the amount of weight used, the number of reps completed per set, and the exercises used. Yet many bodybuilders forget about changing the rest period they take between sets and stick with the typical two to three minutes. A recent study highlights the importance of changing your rest period. 


Using longer rest periods allows your muscles to recover better, which allows you to complete more reps on successive sets. The more reps you can do with a given weight the stronger you become and the more muscle growth you can stimulate. 


While being more fully recovered between sets may be important for muscle strength gains, when it comes to muscle growth other factors come into play, such as the biochemical changes in muscle that occur from being fatigued. This, for example, can lead to higher growth hormone levels, which can encourage better gains in muscle growth. 


One study comparing a 21⁄2-minute rest period with a 1-minute rest period between sets reported that novice lifters using the 2 1⁄2-minute rest period between sets for 10 weeks increased their biceps size by 12% while the group resting just 1 minute had just a 5% increase. However, novice lifters’ muscles respond much differently to training than bodybuilders with training experience. So this study may hold water for those of you who are newbies in the gym, but not the rest of you. 

A recent study of trained male lifters had one group train for eight weeks using a 2-minute rest period between sets. A second group started Week 1 using a 2-minute rest period but reduced rest by 15 seconds each successive week until the lifters were down to 30 seconds of rest between sets in Week 8. Researchers found that the guys dropping their rest time increased their arm size by 21% and their leg size by 28%, while the group that continued to rest 2 minutes between sets increased arm size by only 14% and leg size by 19%. 



Just like the linear periodization technique of gradually increasing weight each week has been shown to boost muscle size, gradually decreasing rest periods can have a similar positive effect on muscle growth. 


Consider building an 8-week periodized program that starts with 2 minutes of rest between sets. Each week, reduce the rest period between sets by 15 seconds until you are resting just 30 seconds between sets in the final week. The gradual reduction in rest trains the muscle to recover more quickly between sets. That ability to do more work in less time also instigates changes in the muscle that encourage muscle growth.