Study Reveals a More Effective Way to Build Muscle

Why short rest durations between sets might not be the best way to build muscle after all.

For the longest time, muscle-building workouts have followed a fairly standard formula. To cause hypertrophy, the technical term for muscle growth, you perform 10-12 reps using moderate weight with 30 to 60 seconds of rest between sets.

This is effective, no doubt. We've been using this methodology for years and people get good results. The method keeps the muscles under tension for a long duration and allows minimal recovery, which creates stress on the muscles that causes them to grow.

However, in a recent study, muscle-hypertrophy researcher Brad Schoenfeld and his team decided to compare how a one-minute rest between sets compared to three minutes of rest, which is typically used in strength and power workouts.

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Twenty-one men with training experience performed an eight-week program that featured three full-body workouts each week with seven exercises performed for 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps. One group used one minute of rest between sets and the other used three minutes.

Max strength increased the most for the longer-rest group, which makes sense given that's how we train for strength. A longer rest allows muscles to more fully recover so greater strength can be exerted on the subsequent set(s).

However, to our surprise, the longer-rest group also experienced greater muscle growth.

So it appears that strength-style workouts might also be better for building muscle, likely because of the increased load that can be lifted by rested muscles. However, the exact mechanism needs to be investigated further.

Problem is, you now have to rest for three minutes, which stinks when you're trying to get in a quick workout. Fortunately, another study identified by Schoenfeld and his team points to the effectiveness of two minutes of rest.

With that said, if you decide to try this technique, here are a few ways you can make the most of your rest intervals:

  • Do supersets. Pair opposing exercises, such as Push-Ups with Rows or Curls with Tricep Extensions. You will still likely need to rest between sets to meet the 2-3 minute mark.
  • Do core work. Perform a set of a core exercise between sets so you don't have to spend time on your core before or after your workout.
  • Stretch or foam roll. Try stretching or foam rolling the muscle groups that you aren't focusing on that day.

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