Coaches often discuss the optimal rest intervals between sets for various training objectives. One common “rule of thumb” is that for maximal strength you want “complete” rests, and for hypertrophy you need “incomplete” rests between sets.

HOWEVER: You can never allow yourself to recover fully between sets, because if you rest long enough to remove all traces of fatigue, you’ve also rested long enough to remove all traces of the neural drive that accumulated from previous sets. So the trick is to find the “sweet spot” on that continuum, where fatigue has been diminished, yet where you’ve still got some neural drive remaining from previous work.
One of the most significant epiphanies I’ve had about my own training is that, being fairly average on the fiber-type ratio, I don’t need as much rest between sets as I’d intuitively think. Here’s why: if you’re neurologically superior (predominantly fast-twitch) you’re tapping into a much higher percentage of your true potential when you lift heavy…therefore, you need longer rests. BUT, if you’re a slow-twitch dominant geek like I am, whenever you lift “heavy,” it’s not really as high a percentage of your capacity as you think. So, 1) you don’t really need the rest, and 2) if you rest too long, you’ve lost a good bit of the neural drive that you so preciously need.

3 Comments
  1. Ando 11 years ago

    Although i’m aware of the need for a certain amount, but not too much, rest between sets. What about a general period of rest every 8-10 weeks. I don’t mean pigging out and forgetting your diet, i mean a total 7 day lay off from training to let your body rest.
    What do you or other readers feel about this.
    I’d be grateful for any thoughts on the matter.

  2. Homer J. Wilson 11 years ago

    Hello Will:
    My question: I am now drinking 1- quart of Gaterade during my workouts. Is this a good idea or not?
    Homer

  3. Author
    Charles Staley 11 years ago

    Ando, you could take that tack, but personally, I always assume that you should syncopate rest periods with unforeseen/unanticipated interruptions due to sickness, injury, travel, holidays, etc. These interruptions are going to occur periodically despite your best efforts, so why not use them as periodic “down” periods?

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