What Are Proper Rest Intervals? By Jason Ferruggia
My Uncle Rory from Scotland was the only guy on either side of my family who could be considered big. Neither of my parents has ever weighed more than 140 pounds and nobody on either side, except me and my brother, ever even made it past 185. But Uncle Rory was different. He was not only big, but he was massive. He also taught me quite a bit about how to gain muscle fast.
My family and I went to Uncle Rory’s house for a backyard barbecue one summer day, as we had a million times before. When we arrived I went out to the garage gym looking for him and found Uncle Rory in the midst of his workout. He had just done a set of deadlifts and was pumped up to even larger proportions than normal.
“Haallo wee’yan. How ye gittin’ on?”
I was set to enter high school the following month but I was still the “wee’yan” (little one) to Uncle Rory. Come to think of it, anyone was little compared to Uncle Rory.
We sat and talked for five minutes or so and he then excused himself to do another set. He banged out a set with 515 pounds for five reps and again sat down to chat some more. Four or five minutes later, he did another set. At that point he sat down to tell me a story and I assumed his workout was over. Several minutes later, and after his point was made, he did his final set of the day and began stripping the weights.
“Sorry to hold up your workout, Uncle Rory; I thought you were done.”
“Ye did’nae hold up my workoot.”
“Yeah, but I made you rest way longer than you’re supposed to between sets.”
“Then you’re supposed tae? How long are ye supposed tae rest between sets?”
“I don’t know; aren’t you supposed to do a set and then wait a few seconds and then do another? I thought you were supposed to really be breathing hard and sweating. I didn’t see you doing either.”
“That’s rubbish, lad. That’s nae how ye git big and strong. Ye need to take a good long rest between sets so ye can lift heavy weights. It’s the only way to dae it. Ye can’nae lift heavy weights withoot resting properly.”
“Oh. But I read something about how to gain muscle fast, and thought that to get in shape you were supposed to keep your heart rate up and keep moving for 30-60 minutes straight without resting.”
“Aye, but I’m no trying tae get in shape; I’m trying tae get bloody well big and strong.”
And with that, Uncle Rory delivered one of the most important points about how to gain muscle fast that I have ever learned. The weight room is the place where you get big and strong. Like Uncle Rory said; it is not the place where you “get in shape.” You do that through proper diet and cardio work. Don’t try to turn your workouts into marathon conditioning sessions or try to burn more calories with high-rep, low-rest nonsense. All that will do is leave you looking pathetically small and weak. While you may have seen videos of your favorite pro bodybuilders doing set after set during their pre contest preparation while only resting 30-45 seconds, I can tell you that that approach will leave you small and weak… and it won’t take long to happen.
You need to rest long enough to perform high quality sets with heavy weights. That is usually somewhere between one to three minutes depending on the exercise, weight being used, how much training experience you have, what you weigh and a variety of other factors too numerous to discuss here. Heavy weights with adequate rest periods should be the main focus of your workout. If you do that you can still add in some low rest periods and higher rep, pump style training from time to time in order to get the best of both worlds.
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