How long should you rest between sets? Beginners, intermediates, and even advanced lifters ask this question on a daily basis.
After all, there is so much conflicting information out there that they don’t know what the correct answer is. They’re lost, and have nowhere to turn to.
So they turn to the guys who have the greatest stats. The guys that are so-called “experts”. The guys that have the strongest “totals”, or more specifically, the greatest “big three”. The guys that are rocking the big guns drug-free, with a nice shredded and full look to go with it.The same guys that are making hundreds and thousands of dollars a year “helping” people improve their physiques. I am of course, talking about these “youtube experts”.
Everyone’s an expert nowadays. They feel as if their small sum of training years can amount to a whole lifetime of experience.
They think that their one little study is conclusive about the entire population.
They feel as if they know it ALL.
Unfortunately, although we would wish this to be true, this is seldom the case.
You’ve been told by these people that between sets, you had to rest as much as needed.
“My squatting alone can take up to over an hour! I’ve sometimes taken 15 minutes of break during my sets! I have so much free time, that I even go to McDonalds during my workout!” they said.
For credibility, you take a look at their stats, and sooner or later, you start to trust the advice that they are prescribing to you.
You trust their judgement because the number say so. The 600lb deadlift? The 600lb squat? The tree-fiddy bench? Surely these numbers in themselves are legit. HOWEVER, what you don’t see, is what’s behind those numbers. What you’re doing, is the equivalent of looking at a car, but only seeing the tinted windows. You don’t know what’s inside the vehicle, because it’s been blocked out by your own ignorance.
Who knows, maybe there’s a prostitute in the back giving head. Maybe there’s a group of guys partying it up and injecting some heroin into their veins. And maybe, just MAYBE, there’s a dead body in the back, waiting to be thrown into a big ditch.
The point is, if you look at the surface of things, you will never understand the deeper and more significant aspects of what you’re trying to examine.
In this game, that is, the game of strength training/weight training, we explore all boundaries of performance. Every nuance of every weakness.
And what I can tell you is that resting as much as you need per set is not only impractical, but unproductive. Interestingly, the so-experts told you that it was okay. They recommended it to you. They followed this advice themselves, and they even said you would be fine, because, after all, it’s all about the 1RM, isn’t that right folks?
It doesn’t matter that you get out of breath going up a flight of stairs.
It doesn’t matter that you’re spending 3 hours in the gym to get through a hard session of squats and deadlifts.
It doesn’t matter that there’s a guy right next to you who just finished his entire session, while you’re still on the first set of your first exercise.
It doesn’t matter that it takes you on average, 15 minutes to warmup.
It doesn’t matter that anything over 5 reps becomes excruciating cardio.
It doesn’t matter that while you mope around in the gym, some guy just got laid with a hot woman.
After all, you’re too good for that. You’re too manly for that. In fact, you’re past that. You’re…past the superficiality, as one would say it.
But then let me ask you the following question; do you think that this is right? Is this what you aspired to be when you first started lifting weights? Did you really want to put in hours of training (or waiting for a long set), or did you want a body that would carry through you in great lengths, longevity, aesthetics, and performance?
Is a strength athlete truly complete if they cannot recover from a set where the rest time exceeds one minute? Does that sound like an athletic characteristic to you?
Fellow viewers, bodybuilders (the same people that so many hate on) have been saying for years that one only required to rest 60 seconds between sets in order to maximize results. Many followed this advice, and results actually came to be, that is, until strength training became the mainstream. That’s when the whole 60 second policy was abolished, and instead, the notion of resting a minimum of 3 minutes a set became popular.
Now do you think advice was practical? Did it do the lifters a service, or a disservice? Well, I would first like to share with you a personal story of mine.
When I first started lifting weights, other lifters always told me to rest 60 seconds a set. I respected the rule, because as a beginner, I didn’t really know anything to begin with. I’d also heard that the gym session was not supposed to exceed 45 minutes, because of a so-called “cortisol” spike. So I abided to these gym laws, and interestingly, I made great gains.(not because of the cortisol thing)
In my first year of training, I was resting on a minute between sets, and my workouts only lasted about an hour. I was getting stronger and bigger over time, while simultaneously becoming more and more conditioned to the rest time, the same rest time that future strength athletes would advise against.
Although my gains were fantastic, I wanted more. So in pursuit of achieving even greater gains, I decided to do some research on progressive overload techniques, when I came across the idea of resting longer between sets.
So I tried this advice, and magically, it worked wonders. Every time a weight would feel too heavy for me, I would simply increase the rest time. Problem solved, I thought. I went from resting one minute a set, to two minutes a set, to three, four, five, six, seven, and yes, even eight minutes a set. Sooner or later, I was spending 3 hours in the gym doing a single session.
My time management was getting so bad, that I ended up skipping several meals, and missing out on some quality sleep.
At the same time, I had zero social life because I was too busy waiting around in the gym. Meanwhile, my bodybuilder friends were bigger than me, stronger than me, more conditioned than me, got out of the gym faster than me, and even got laid more than me.
I soon started to realize how greed played a significant role in the weight room. I was sacrificing time for numbers. Rather than tying to condition myself over time, and eventually overcome the heavy weight, I was using rest times as a way of manipulating my body’s energy systems.
Although it worked WONDERS for my strength, it absolutely JACK fucking shit for my conditioning. My heart would beat so fast that it felt as if I did HIIT cardio. I was even resting up to 3 minutes on isolation exercises! Through watching me train, you saw the stacks of 45lb plates hanging off the sides of the barbell, but behind that, you didn’t realize that I was dying on the inside.
This, my friends, is the problem with long rest training. It robs you of your most PRECIOUS asset, TIME, while simultaneously leaving you in a state of pitiful conditioning.
The only reason why I broke out of this cycle, is because of the fact that I decided to question authority. It didn’t make sense to me how so many people at the gym were lifting extreme poundages, but were resting a minute between sets, while several strength athletes were resting up to 8 minutes a set, but were possessed very similar levels of strength.
My theory was solidified even more, when over 70 years of training experience came my way. This was through the immortal workings of Leroy Colbert, the first man in the world to build 21 inch arms without steroids.
Leroy was submitting videos online about his whole life experience with bodybuilding, and how the training evolved with him. One of the unique things that Leroy talked about was the notion of resting a MAXIMUM of one minute between sets. The first time I heard this statement, I couldn’t believe it. It had gone against everything that the strength athletes had said. But I couldn’t just let 70 years of experience pass by like it was nothing. I had to step out of my comfort zone, and listen to the wisdom that was being offered. I unchained my mind, and soon started training in this fashion.
What I can tell you, is that for 2 weeks, I felt as if I was going to have a heart attack at any moment. I was hitting over 40 sets a workout, while resting a maximum of 60 seconds between sets. It was REALLY REALLY DIFFICULT!
However, I eventually overcame the difficulties of short rest intervals, and soon 60 seconds became the norm for me, as it once was such a long time ago.
My dear reader, you can do the same. That is, if you choose to.
Talk to you soon,