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This Weider principle has both the best and worst name. It’s the best because everyone loves quality. The principle’s moniker sells it better than any advertising slogan could. But it’s the worst because “quality” could just as easily apply to any other Weider principle. The name tells you nothing about shorter rest periods between sets. Calling it the Weider reduced-rest principle would be much more appropriate, but once you get the quality seal, it’s not coming of. This month, we’ll explain the advantages and disadvantages of the Weider quality principle and show you how to best use abbreviated rests to spur muscle growth.

This tenet prescribes

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reducing your rest periods between sets to less than one minute. Around the time this advice was popularized in the ’70s, bodybuilders believed doing faster workouts was a pre-contest strategy for heightening definition and muscle shape. During the off-season, they trained heavy on compound lifts with long rest periods to build mass. Pre-contest, they did more reps, more isolation exercises, and rested less. One of the main reasons we’re revisiting the Weider principles is to examine the reasoning behind them in light of today’s science and practical knowledge. Today, most competitive bodybuilders don’t radically alter their training when on a diet. They lift weights in the most efficient muscle-building manner in the final weeks before a show, just as they do in the off-season, to keep as much size as possible, and they use their diet and cardio to shed fat. Definition and improved muscle shape will appear when fat is flayed away. Nevertheless, resting less between sets, as the quality principle prescribes, is a valuable technique whether in the off-season or pre-contest.

According to FLEX senior science editor Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.: “A recent study in trained male lifters had one group train for eight weeks using a two-minute rest period between sets. The other group started week one using a two-minute rest period but reduced rest by 15 seconds each successive week until they were down to 30 seconds of rest between sets. The group decreasing their rest time increased arm size by 21% and leg size by 28%. The group keeping their rest the same increased arm size by 14% and leg size by 19%.” In the first group, the extra expansion occurred because exhausting a muscle with minimal rest between sets can lead to the natural production of a variety of growth factors.


Our sample hamstrings routine features minimal rest periods, ranging from 40 seconds between sets of lying leg curls to 20 seconds between sets of seated leg curls. The quads hybrid-rest routine starts with heavy sets of squats and leg presses using standard rest periods to maximize the weight lifted, then it finishes with higher-rep sets of hack squats and leg extensions with minimal rest to maximize blood volumization.

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Here are the pluses of reducing rest periods between sets:

  • GREATER GROWTH: Decreasing rest reduces the intraworkout recovery time for your muscles, which, in turn, exhausts your muscles more over the course of a workout. This exhaustion then spurs growth. In effect, less rest means more stress, and your muscles compensate for stress by growing.
  • MORE BLOOD VOLUMIZATION: This is a fancy way of saying you get a better pump. Workout systems like FST-7 utilize reduced rest periods to pump up the muscles more than workouts done with normal rest periods. The increased blood flow nourishes muscle cells and aids recovery and growth.


There are two potential pitfalls to reducing rest periods:

  • DECREASED STRENGTH: To exert maximum strength, you typically need at least two minutes of recovery time between sets and even longer between especially taxing sets. When you substantially reduce that time, your strength will also decrease, so you’ll have to use lighter weights. To counter this, do some sets with standard rest periods and some with reduced rest periods. Our quads hybrid-rest routine shows you how to accomplish this.
  • LOWER INTENSITY: Focusing too much on workout speed can distract you from pushing sets to failure and from continuously using a greater overload. For this reason, switch up the length of your rest periods from one workout to another, or within the same workout—as in our quads routine.

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If you’re limiting yourself to 20–40 seconds between sets, you can’t guess that time frame. You’re not doing your next set only when your breathing has returned to normal and you feel recovered. You’re going well before then. So, between sets you need to monitor yourself using a clock or watch with a second hand, or use a stopwatch. When Hany Rambod trains Phil Heath, he monitors the second hand on his watch between sets of the sevens sequence (typically seven sets with 20–30 seconds rest between sets). Other times, Heath watches the clock. Be precise about your time between sets, and as soon as your rest is finished, go back to work. FLEX