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Effect of Interset Rest

Interval Length on
Resistance Exercise
Performance and
Muscular Adaptation
Adam M. Gonzalez, PhD
Department of Health Professions, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York

ABSTRACT during strength and power training is held constant (50–90% 1-repetition
(i.e., lower repetitions), whereas shorter maximum [1RM]) and all sets are per-
RI (i.e., ,2 minutes) are often recom- formed to the point of muscular fail-
mended to enhance muscle endurance ure (i.e., inability to complete an
INCLUDING INTENSITY, VOLUME, in conjunction with higher repetition additional concentric repetition with
AND FREQUENCY, INTERSET REST sets (2). However, RI length often de- proper form), resting 3–5 minutes
INTERVAL LENGTH HAS BEEN pends on several other factors including between sets allows for significantly
WIDELY INVESTIGATED. THIS ARTI- training intensity, training goals, and fit- greater repetitions versus resting
CLE WILL DISCUSS THE EFFECTS ness level. Therefore, it is difficult to 1–2 minutes. For example, Ratamess
OF INTERSET REST INTERVAL precisely define an optimal RI, and it et al. (17) found that a minimum of 3-
LENGTH ON RESISTANCE EXER- could be argued that on a global basis, minute RI are necessary to maintain
CISE PERFORMANCE, THE ACUTE it may not exist. This brief review will bench press performance over 3–4
HORMONAL AND METABOLIC examine the effect of RI on resistance sets at 75–85% 1RM in trained men.
RESPONSE, AND TRAINING- exercise performance, the acute hor- Although many causative factors exist
INDUCED MUSCULAR ADAPTATION. monal and metabolic response, and that contribute to fatigue, neural
training-induced muscular adaptation fatigue resulting in changes to the vol-
in an effort to aid strength and condi- untary activation of motor units can
INTRODUCTION tioning professionals in selecting the be impacted by RI. For example,
nterset rest intervals (RI) refer to most appropriate RI for individual shorter RI (i.e., ,2 minutes) may

I the amount of time taken in

between sets and exercises. The
amount of rest allotted can signifi-


accelerate the onset of neural fatigue,
whereas longer RI (e.g., 3–5 minutes)
may allow for maximal voluntary
cantly affect performance of subse- activation of motor units and the
PERFORMANCE maintenance of training intensity and
quent sets, the metabolic, hormonal,
Several studies have shown that the volume, which seem to be of primary
and cardiovascular responses to an
number of repetitions performed dur- importance for augmenting strength
acute bout of resistance exercise,
ing a resistance training bout may be and stimulating muscle hypertrophy
and training-induced muscular adap-
compromised with shorter RI. That is, (14,21). Therefore, when training for
tations. General guidelines recom-
a 3- to 5-minute RI has been shown to
mend at least 2- to 3-minute RI for
produce less performance decrements
multiple-joint exercises and 1- to KEY WORDS:
than a ,2-minute RI during com- rest interval; hypertrophy; strength;
2-minute RI for single-joint exercises
pound exercises, such as bench press metabolic response; muscular
Address correspondence to Dr. Adam M. or back squat (16–18,23,26,27). Specif- adaptation
Gonzalez, ically, under conditions where the load

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Interset Rest Interval

maximal strength and hypertrophy, it are critical for muscle anabolism, others hormonal and metabolic changes,
is generally advisable to afford 2- to have shown that transient increases in such as stretch and mechanical load.
5-minute RI in between sets and ex- the hormonal milieu after resistance Although important, no studies to
ercises to limit the negative effects on exercise are not related to exercise- date have directly investigated these
performance and to prevent the need induced muscle hypertrophy (8). Given mechanisms through manipulation
to lower the exercise intensity during the equivocal nature of exercise-induced of RI.
subsequent sets to sustain repetitions systemic hormonal alterations on muscle
within the range conducive to the anabolism, the notion that a shorter RI EFFECT OF INTERSET REST
training goal. provides a superior stimulus for muscle INTERVAL LENGTH ON MUSCULAR
Two key factors, training history and hypertrophy remains questionable.
It is generally well accepted that
strength level, can influence the RI Shorter RI are also related to increased manipulating resistance exercise pa-
required during resistance exercise and metabolic stress, which manifests in the rameters can influence skeletal muscle
should be taken into account when pre- accumulation of lactate and hydrogen remodeling. Traditionally, shorter RI
scribing training parameters. Consistent ions with a subsequent reduction in have been associated with resistance
training with shorter RI may result in pH (8,11). Ratamess et al. (17) observed training programs focusing on hypertro-
adaptations that allow for training an inverse relationship between RI phy, whereas longer RI have been asso-
intensity to be sustained (12). It has also length and the acute metabolic response. ciated with programs focusing on
been shown that stronger individuals Shorter RI do not provide sufficient strength. Hypertrophy-style routines
(based on peak power output) were able recovery time between sets to replenish typically involve greater volumes, mod-
to sustain power output over 5 sets of 8 intramuscular phosphocreatine stores; erate intensities (,85% 1RM), and
repetitions with 40% 1RM when using thus, the continuation of exercise shorter RI (,90 seconds), whereas
a 2-minute RI, whereas weaker individ- prompts an increased reliance on glyco- strength-style routines typically involve
uals needed a minimum of 3 minutes to lytic energy production. Although this lower volumes, higher intensities (.85%
maintain power output performance glycolytically induced metabolic stress 1RM), and longer RI (3–5 minutes).
(10). Therefore, athletes attempting to may play a role in hypertrophic adapta- Among the studies that have compared
achieve specific training volume goals tion (20), metabolic buildup may com- these 2 styles of training in resistance-
may initially need longer RI but may promise the ability to sustain repeated trained individuals, both routines appear
later adapt so that shorter RI can be high-force muscular contraction (1). to elicit similar magnitudes of muscle
utilized without excessive fatigue. growth, although strength outcomes
The notion that a shorter RI
(,1.5 minute) maximizes muscle favor the strength-style of training (7).
EFFECT OF INTERSET REST However, whether the differences in rest
INTERVAL LENGTH ON THE ACUTE hypertrophy based on the hormonal
and metabolic milieu in the postexer- periods per se are responsible for greater
RESPONSE cise period has recently been improvements in strength remains ques-
It is well-established that resistance challenged. McKendry et al. (15) tionable because the subjects were
exercise protocols that activate a large observed a blunted muscle protein exposed to a different intensity of train-
amount of muscle mass and are of suffi- synthesis (MPS) and anabolic intra- ing during working sets.
cient intensity elicit a transient hor- muscular signaling response after sets Few studies have explicitly examined
monal and metabolic response (13). of moderate-intensity, high-volume the influence of RI manipulation on
Several studies have demonstrated that resistance exercise separated by 1- exercise-induced hypertrophy and
resistance exercise performed with minute RI compared with 5-minute strength improvement. Schoenfeld
shorter RI (,1.5 minute) provokes RI, despite a greater testosterone and et al. (22) demonstrated that a 3-minute
a greater transient increase in circulating lactate response after the 1-minute RI RI elicited greater increases in strength
hormones, including growth hormone, trial. Notably, participants performed and muscle thickness compared with
testosterone, and cortisol compared with a significantly lower total training vol- a 1-minute RI after an 8-week total body
longer-duration RI (4,9,11,25). Alterna- ume during the 1-minute RI trial com- resistance training program in young
tively, Ahtiainen et al. (3) demonstrated pared with the 5-minute RI trial. trained men. Similarly, Buresh et al.
that both 2-minute and 5-minute RI Because muscle hypertrophy occurs (5) reported greater increases in arm
between leg press and squat exercises as a result of cumulative increases in cross-sectional area after a 10-week
using 10RM elicited significant increases MPS with each successive bout of resistance training program utilizing
in growth hormone, testosterone, and resistance training, it is plausible that a 2.5-minute RI compared with a 1-
cortisol and found no significant differ- longer RI would promote greater minute RI in young untrained men;
ence between protocols. Although it has muscle protein accretion over time. however, no differences between groups
previously been suggested that transient It is important to highlight that other were observed for strength outcomes.
elevations of these circulating hormones contributing mechanisms of skeletal Robinson et al. (19) also demonstrated
(i.e., growth hormone and testosterone) muscle hypertrophy exist beyond greater strength improvements after


Copyright ª National Strength and Conditioning Association. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
a 5-week resistance training program muscular failure would allow for a more hormonal response, strength, and
with a 3-minute RI compared with rapid recovery between sets compared hypertrophy with training. J Strength Cond
Res 23: 62–71, 2009.
a 30-second RI in young trained men. with training to muscular failure. There-
Conversely, Villanueva et al. (24) found fore, rather than prescribing a fixed RI, 6. de Souza TP Jr, Fleck SJ, Simão R, Dubas
that elderly untrained men achieved sig- it is prudent to recommend that JP, Pereira B, de Brito Pacheco EM, da
Silva AC, and de Oliveira PR. Comparison
nificantly greater gains in lean body athletes training for muscular strength
between constant and decreasing rest
mass and maximal strength after an 8- or hypertrophy perform subsequent sets intervals: Influence on maximal strength and
week resistance training program with when psychologically and physiologi- hypertrophy. J Strength Cond Res 24:
a 1-minute RI compared with a 4-min- cally ready. Ultimately, several RIs can 1843–1850, 2010.
ute RI. To further confound matters, be implemented within a periodized 7. Gonzalez Acute Anabolic Response And
others have found no significant differ- model to achieve the desired physiolog- Muscular Adaptation AM. Following
ence in strength (6,28) and hypertrophy ical adaptations. Manipulation of train- hypertrophy-style and strength-style
(3,6) when comparing different RI ing variables including RI is dependent resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res
lengths in young trained men. on the specific training goals of the 30: 2959–2964, 2016.

In summary, with the exception of 1 individual. 8. Gonzalez AM, Hoffman JR, Stout JR, Fukuda
DH, and Willoughby DS. Intramuscular
study (24), research has not supported Conflicts of Interest and Source of Funding:
anabolic signaling and endocrine response
the hypothesis that shorter RI provides The author reports no conflicts of interest following resistance Exercise: Implications
an advantage for hypertrophy or and no source of funding. for muscle hypertrophy. Sports Med 46:
strength outcomes. Nevertheless, it is 671–685, 2016.
difficult to distinguish between the ef- 9. Gonzalez AM, Hoffman JR, Townsend JR,
fects of RI per se and the effects of Adam M. Jajtner AR, Boone CH, Beyer KS, Baker
altered training volume. Rest interval Gonzalez is cur- KM, Wells AJ, Mangine GT, and Robinson
manipulation may only have minor ef- rently an Assis- EH. Intramuscular anabolic signaling and
fects on muscle hypertrophy compared tant Professor at endocrine response following high volume
with other training parameters, such as Hofstra Univer- and high intensity resistance exercise
sity in Hemp- protocols in trained men. Physiol Rep 3:
total training volume, which suffers
e12466, 2015.
when RI is insufficient. stead, NY.
10. Hernández-Davó J, Botella RJ, and Sabido
R. Influence of strength level on rest interval
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Interset Rest Interval

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