There are two types of rest crucial to muscle recovery and therefore your training – the rest period you take between sets and the rest period you take between workouts. Both of these are different depending on your goal and as ours is to build muscle and get a six pack, you don’t want to be resting for strength.
Rest Between Sets
Even if they’re new to exercise, most people know that you need to rest between sets and exercises to allow muscle recovery, but few of them know what that actually means. This is unfortunate because it can have quite an effect on your results.
For example, strength training is more about training your central nervous system to recruit the available muscle cells in order to lift the biggest weight possible. Because you could be doing just 1 rep per set, conditioning obviously isn’t a factor, which is why 5-7 minutes rest is given to allow nervous system and muscle recovery.
Compare this with muscle building, whether it’s for your six pack or anywhere else, which is more about increasing the amount of muscle cells and therefore size. The idea here is to exhaust the muscle with reps of around 8-10, causing it to increase the amount of cells available to handle the job next time. As we don’t want to allow the muscle to ‘get its breath back”, just 30-60 seconds rest is given for muscle recovery.
Rest Between Workouts
While some people struggle to get themselves to do any exercise, others would prefer to train twice a day every day, believing this will bring the best results in the shortest time. Unfortunately all it will do is lead to diminishing results, increased injury and overtraining.
Remember, muscle isn’t made in the gym, muscle is damaged in the gym. Growth comes only with diet and rest.
Just like the rest needed between sets depends on your goals, the rest between workouts to allow proper muscle recovery does too. Again I’ll compare training for strength and muscle building.
Strength training typically involves doing a few compound, multi-joint exercises per workout, 3 or 4 times a week. They are either split into upper body days, lower body days, or full body days. This obviously means that the same body parts are getting trained 2 or maybe even 3 times a week, so likewise the rest period between each is only 2 or 3 days.
Compare this with muscle building, which involves split routines where 1 or 2 different body parts are trained each workout, with compound and isolated exercises. With a greater workload given to each muscle a greater rest period is obviously required for muscle recovery. That typically means 7 days, but it can be less for short periods with advanced athletes.
So the recommended muscle recovery periods are:
Strength Training – 5-7 minutes rest between sets, 2-3 days rest per split.
Muscle Building – 30-60 seconds rest between sets, 7 days rest per split.
This is a general guide to follow, but for more complex training plans, where strength and muscle building could be combined, the times may be different.
As always, leave a comment if you’ve any questions or feedback.