A parameter that is often given too little attention when executing and planning a training program is the pause time. Wrongly, because the length of the break has a very big effect on the result of the training.
In the gym, the length of the rest is most often determined by the availability or occupancy of a particular bench or machine, or the amount of time spent talking to other trainees between sets. If you want to make progress, stick to your break times. Too short a break can cost you strength and muscle mass gains.
A study published in July 2016 in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research compared the difference of a 1-minute set break versus a 3-minute set break during an otherwise identical strength-training program. The participants were 21 young men with training experience in strength training.
The eight-week study consisted of three full-body workouts per week, each consisting of seven exercises for three sets at the individual's repetition maximum (RM) for 8-12 repetitions.
Muscle strength (in the form of 1RM from bench press and squat), muscular endurance (50% of 1RM from bench press to failure), and ultrasonic muscle thickness of the elbow flexors, triceps brachii, and quadriceps femoris were measured before and after the study.
Peak strength for both bench press 1RM and squat 1RM was significantly higher for the long rest period.
Muscle thickness was also significantly greater for the quadriceps at the 3-minute set break, and the trend was the same for the triceps brachii.
There were significant increases in local upper and lower body musculature in both experimental groups, with no differences between the groups.
Short breaks have their place in program design for advanced exercisers, but tend to be overused and unstructured.
So these results of this study prove what experienced coaches have long known: longer rest periods lead to greater increases in muscle strength and hypertrophy in already trained young men.
Conclusion: Take a longer break for more strength and more muscles.
Image: Some of the participants at YPSI Training Camp 2015 take a break during Workout 8 of the camp, the Modified Strongman Training Session.