Weight lifting

Muscle building needs rest to grow

Health recommendations are that adults should do around 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week as well as two sessions of muscle strengthening activities per week. If you are going to do weightlifting as your muscle building activity then a new study has some tips for you on how to get the most out of it.

According to a new study though, more rest between sets may be required if you want to get maximum muscle benefits.

The United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations lifting a weight in 8-12 repetitions (repsĀ if you want to sound gym savvy) and to do two or three sets to gain extra benefits. The unanswered question is, how long should you wait between sets? Until now the accepted wisdom has been that although the muscle needs rest between sets in order to recover, the shorter the time between sets the greater the muscle growth. According to a new study though, more rest between sets may be required if you want to get maximum muscle benefits.

For the study researchers had subjects complete four sets of weightlifting including a bilateral leg press and knee extensions. The subjects rested for either one minute or five minutes between sets. Muscle biopsies were taken from the subjects immediately after the four sets were completed and then again four, 24, and 28 hours later.

The biopsies were used to measure levels of myofibrillar protein synthesis (the way damaged muscle proteins are rebuilt) as well as signalling within the muscle cells. The results showed that within the first four hours after the weightlifting session subjects who had the five minute rest period showed an average 156 per cent increase in MPS compared to only a 76 per cent increase in MPS in those who rested for one minute. These results mean that the longer rest means more muscle growth and that shorter rests actually reduce the muscle response even though the hormonal response is superior with shorter rests.

According to the researchers, people who have used short rests for a long time may have adapted to that stress but even these people may combat the plateau that occurs in muscle gain by switching to longer rest periods. For the novice beginning weight training however, to achieve muscle gain longer rests between sets is the way to go, so aim for at least two or three minutes between sets.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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