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Muscles grow better with longer rest periods, contrary to conventional thinking

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Longer rests between weight lifting repetitions could grow more muscle

University of Alabama researchers have some new information about how to grow muscle with resistance training that goes against conventional thinking.


The finding, published in the journal ofExperimental Physiology suggests short rest periods between weight training sets actually blunt muscle growth.

Short rests builds more muscle

The researchers looked at muscle biopsies among 16 males who performed resistance training and rested in between repetitions for either one-minute or five-minutes.

Biopsies were taken at 0, 4, 24 and 28 hours after exercise. The research team testing muscle samples for myofibrillar protein synthesis (MPS) and intercellular signalling.

What the researchers found is more muscle growth when rest periods were longer. The result of longer rest periods between repetitions was 152% increase in MPS, compared to 76% with short rests.

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Dr Leigh Breen, from the University of Birmingham, explained, "With short rests of one minute, though the hormonal response is superior, the actual muscle response is blunted."

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Breen added resting longer between sets could maximize muscle growth from your strength training program. If you're just starting a strength training program, Breen's recommendation is to rest 2 to 3 minutes between weight lifting sets.

The same potential for building more muscle could also hold true for experienced weight lifters. Breen said: However, "...It's possible that they may not experience the same blunted muscle building response to short rest intervals, particularly if they have trained this way for a prolonged period."

Why muscle matters

Building muscle through strength training isn't just about how you look. Developing lean muscle mass also leads to better health. Strength or resistance training is an important part of any fitness routine.

The benefits of knowing how to maximize muscle growth include:

  • Muscle preservation associated with aging
  • Stronger bone to help prevent osteoporosis
  • Lower risk of diabetes
  • Weight management
  • Weight loss

The researchers plan to conduct longer studies to find out how to maximize muscle growth and learn more about
how resting between strength training repetitions could help in the long run. The new study suggests waiting longer between weight lifting sets could grow more muscle, despite suggestions to the contrary.