Every strength program is based on performing sets of an exercise followed by periods of rest. How you structure rest between sets is just as important as how you lift weights during a set.
Continually working a specific muscle group causes fatigue and lactic acid buildup, leading to the familiar burning sensation. These effects reduce your muscles’ ability to move weight and impair your form.
Rest between sets is designed to allow muscles to recover before working again at an intense level. Cincinnati Bengals strength coach Chip Morton says, “It’s critical to get enough rest to restore energy before the next strength set to ensure quality and your ability to perform another grueling set. It’s not just idle rest time.”
A different load is placed on the muscles when training for size, strength or power. Likewise, different recovery times between sets are needed to accomplish the various goals.
Allow your muscles to recover for only a short period of time. The most significant size gains are attained when muscles are moderately fatigued.
Recommended Recovery: 30-90 seconds
Rest no longer than necessary for full recovery after each set. This allows your muscles to perform as expected on the next set, even after working harder due to increased weight.
Recommended Recovery: 2-3 minutes
To increase your power output, explosively lift heavy weight. Although you perform only a few reps, you need a long recovery period to overcome immense fatigue.
Recommended Recovery: 3-5 minutes
Use the appropriate reps and rest guidelines to achieve your goals with the three lifts below.
Barbell Shoulder Press
- Assume split or box stance with feet at shoulder width and hold bar across shoulders
- Drive bar overhead
- Lower bar below chin with control; repeat for specified reps
Barbell Bent-Over Row
- Bend at hips, holding bar with shoulder-width grip
- Pull bar toward chest keeping back flat and abs tight
- Lower with control until arms are straight and repeat
- Grip bar just outside athletic stance with bar touching shins
- Assume deadlift position with back locked, shoulders up and abs and chest flexed
- Explode up into standing position by extending hips and knees while keeping back flat and chest up
- Lower bar to floor through same motion; repeat for specified reps