I received this question from a reader which I want to answer on the blog. Question: I know that if I do my sets close together, I tire out faster, but if I wait, I can usually do more. Is it better to tire faster, or to do more in the long run?
Well this is a bit difficult to answer without knowing your workout goals. When I train people especially women that are concerned about certain areas becoming too muscular – often the legs – I will vary there rest periods between sets.
If you choose to rest less between sets i.e. about 30 secs, you can achieve some aerobic fat burning effects from weight training. Generally this is circuit style training.
Honestly though I do not use this style of training very often especially if training with the aim of gaining mass. I find that the majority of people benefit much more from building the little extra muscle and using cardio to burn the excess bodyfat. Hard gainers struggling to gain weight can skip the cardio in the initial stages of a weight gain program and just focus on an optimal rest time between sets for building muscle. Hard gainers don’t have to skip cardio altogether though. In fact, Vince Delmonte recommends in No Nonsense Muscle Building that you should do cardio after you have first gained some muscle.
What is an optimal amount of rest time between sets if you want to gain muscle? If you choose to rest longer between sets i.e. 1 min or more, you tend to allow your body a greater opportunity to achieve the maximal muscle building effects from weight training. By allowing it to replenish oxygen stores between sets you ensure your body has as much instant energy as possible to be used in the upcoming set. This will allow you to use more weight and will lead to maximal muscle growth.
Of course you can allow for too long of a recovery time which can affect training intensity so keep in mind that 1-2 min is an average rest time between sets. Find your happy medium and as always let me know if you would like to know more details on this subject and I’ll get on it when I can.