How important are rest periods?

October 2nd 2015


Most of you know that when you train properly, in order for the body to achieve a certain 
training adaptation you need to lift the right amount of weight in accordance with
your 1 Reps Max (RM).

Max strength – 90-100% of 1RM requires 3-6 mins rest between sets
Absolute Strength – 80-90% of 1RM requires 2-4 mins rest between sets
Hypertrophy (Muscle Building) – 50-80% of 1RM requires 1-3 mins rest between sets
Muscular Endurance – 30-70% of 1RM requires 0.5-2mins rest between sets
(Tudor Bompa, Periodization Training for Sports, 2015)
The question is, what do you understand about rest periods and why they are so important to your strength gains, muscle building or fat loss in the gym?

During rest periods the high energy compounds that are required to conduct specific weight training exercises or lifts are replenished to enable you to complete reps and sets at the required volume and intensity for your aim, whether your aim is muscle building, strength gains or progress in your chosen sport. The volume that is talked about in many training programmes is described as the amount of training completed, be it, the time spent in the gym (quality time) or distance covered in a run.

Whereas the intensity of a workout is the work you have done in relation to your known maximum (i.e percentage of 1RM). (Mark Vestergen, High Performance Training for Sports, 2014)

The general idea is for your training programme to have the right amount of volume and intensity, as this will enable you to overload the body in order to implement the correct amount of stress response, as this enables a greater adaptation from any workout. (No overload, leads to a decreased adaptation).

This overload response will then ensure that you are able to promote muscle growth and strength gains for your fitness goals.

To that end and in order to elicit the correct training response you should make sure that you don’t neglect your rest periods that are apparent with your aim (Strength, Power, Muscle mass etc).  If you are lazy, don’t time your rest periods accurately and don’t work at the correct intensity/volume, the stress response will be negligible, your gains will be slow and eventually you will reach a plateau that you will find hard to push past.

This is also applies to overtraining.
Overtraining is not a myth, it is a FACT. This happens when you try to smash a routine with too much volume or intensity every day of the week and every week of the year; if this is you, be mindful that this will essentially cause the body to break down leaving you unable to reach your goal.

Here is an example of someone working at too much intensity without de-loads or adjustments to their volume. It indicates that they were unable to reach their goal before exhaustion set in, from the General Adaptation Syndrome (Hans Selye (1907-1982).
Looking at the information provided it is clear that you need to stick to the correct rest periods in order for you to develop into a strong or lean physique.

Many people will disagree and will tell you that they respond better with some higher volume stuff when they start their fitness journey, however, this can lead to a number of complications as we believe you need to earn being strong or lean.

Even though we know that the body is a great machine, you still need to earn the right to put yourself through tough strength sessions and if you haven’t done the work in the foundation stages, your body will eventually bite back, leaving you with an injury or exhaustion, where your strength will decrease and your body fat will increase (not good).

Sean Cole (AKA Fitness Dad)