The Effect of Inter-Set Rest Intervals on Resistance Exercise-Induced Muscle Hypertrophy

Based on the current literature, Menno Henselmans and Brad Schoenfeld have concluded that evidence was lacking to support the contention that rest interval length has an impact on muscle hypertrophy.

Due to a scarcity of longitudinal trials directly measuring changes in muscle girth, previous recommendations for inter-set rest intervals in resistance training programs designed to stimulate muscular hypertrophy were primarily based on the post-exercise endocrinological response and other mechanisms theoretically related to muscle growth. New research regarding the effects of inter-set rest interval manipulation on resistance training-induced muscular hypertrophy is reviewed here to evaluate current practices and provide directions for future research. Of the studies measuring long-term muscle hypertrophy in groups employing different rest intervals, none have found superior muscle growth in the shorter compared with the longer rest interval group and one study has found the opposite. Rest intervals less than 1 minute can result in acute increases in serum growth hormone levels and these rest intervals also decrease the serum testosterone to cortisol ratio. Long-term adaptations may abate the post-exercise endocrinological response and the relationship between the transient change in hormonal production and chronic muscular hypertrophy is highly contentious and appears to be weak. The relationship between the rest interval-mediated effect on immune system response, muscle damage, metabolic stress, or energy production capacity and muscle hypertrophy is still ambiguous and largely theoretical. In conclusion, the literature does not support the hypothesis that training for muscle hypertrophy requires shorter rest intervals than training for strength development or that predetermined rest intervals are preferable to auto-regulated rest periods in this regard.

Henselmans, M., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2014). The Effect of Inter-Set Rest Intervals on Resistance Exercise-Induced Muscle Hypertrophy. Sports Medicine, 1-9.

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