I would like to know about rest between sets. I normally rest between 1 to 2 minutes but should I rest 5 minutes for a bodybuilder.


A: Typically, rest periods of 3-5 minutes are considered correct for lifting what is regarded as “heavier” weights, which is where you do less than five reps per set. However, this low rep range is generally accepted by bodybuilders as pure strength training and therefore, I do not believe this is really applicable for your goals. In my experience, if you rest too long in-between sets, you will not generate sufficient intensity from your workout to stimulate muscle growth.

To be clear, intensity is really dependent on the end goal, which for bodybuilders is gauged more by doing sets of 8-12 reps and an abbreviated rest period in-between sets (more work, in less time).

The idea of more work, in less time, is a technique I learned from the late Vince Gironda, which is a google search every bodybuilder should explore if you’re really interested in maximizing your muscle building and fat loss program.

In more modern times, Mr. Olympia caliber bodybuilders like; Lee Labrada and Gunter Schlierkamp, to name a few, have used a very similar approach to rest in-between sets as you’ll see below. This seemingly “faster” style of training has worked for hundreds of bodybuilders who’ve asked the same question, and many years ago, this was THE ticket to my best personal gains ever. Not to mention this is how I’ve trained for over 25-years because it is simply better on your joints.

With that intro, here is your guide to rest in-between sets for bodybuilders.

>Rest only long enough to catch your breath in-between sets.

>The amount of time it takes you to catch your breath in-between sets is tightly related to the exercise you are performing.

>On small bodyparts like biceps or triceps, you can likely catch your breath in 30-45 seconds, maybe a minute.

>On large muscle groups like quads and back, or with multi-joint exercises like squats, bench press, or rows, especially when the reps are over 10, you will likely need 45 seconds up to a 3-minutes to catch your breath.

The key is to hit the next set so that you are fatiguing the target muscle group progressively with each successive set, but not so fast that you are outrunning your cardiovascular system. The tempo should make you breathe hard right after the set, but you should recover enough breath so that your heart isn’t jumping out of your chest.

As a last bit of advice, one of the all-time best bodybuilders ever, Lee Labrada says; “Don’t worry if your poundages actually go down as this is common because the intensity is increasing early in the workout, within the first few sets. Hence, the muscle will be tired towards the end of the workout, which will diminish your ability to perform repetitions. Once your body adapts to the pace, you should quickly be able to go back up on the poundages”.

I could not have said it better Lee, that’s why I quoted him.

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Vince Andrich

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