One of the many bodybuilding variables that weight lifters must consider when constructing an effective workout program is rest between sets, with some feeling that short rest periods promote a greater amount of muscle overload, leading to superior muscle gains. This idea is based on the overall body fatigue experienced when engaging in a weight lifting workout with brief rest between workout sets, as the assumption is, if such a workout is more difficult to endure, the muscle gains must therefore be superior compared with extended rest between sets.

The flaw in this analysis is that the fatigue experienced when rest periods between weight lifting sets are shortened does not stem from greater overload to muscle tissue, but rather surfaces due to stimulation of the cardiovascular system, where the heart is pumping much faster to sustain the continuous workload, similar to a heavy jogging session. Because of this, the actual weight used during workout sets declines dramatically during short rest periods, and this actually reduces the total overload received, harming muscle growth. The weight lifting workout session with short rest periods between sets may feel far more intense due to significant cardiovascular fatigue, but this is not to be confused with an effective muscle building workout plan.

The mistake made by many bodybuilders is to create a hybrid between their cardiovascular and weight lifting workout sessions, believing that this approach is sufficient in maximally stimulating both fat burning and muscle building. Yet, two variables are neglected in this thought process, as weight used during each set is a vital concept in producing the greatest level of muscle gain, and complete mental focus during each set is also important in promoting the greatest amount of intensity. When rest periods between workout sets are reduced to very low levels, the mind often becomes fatigued due to the lack of a recovery period between each set, and develops a natural tendency to put forth less effort during the weight lifting set itself. This, in combination with the natural physical fatigue that is a consequence of moving quickly between weight lifting sets, causes the muscle to lift less overall weight than would be possible if rest periods were extended to a more reasonable level, as the mind and body do not have an opportunity to recover sufficiently for the greatest level of output during each set.

Longer rest periods between sets offer a mental advantage for many, as feeling aerobically fresh throughout the weight lifting workout allows a bodybuilder to devote undivided mental attention to each rep, without a feeling of overall body fatigue that can sap motivation. Yet, there are some bodybuilders who either due to their work schedules or personal commitments are unable to devote more than a brief period of time to weight lifting sessions, and therefore must maintain the shortest possible rest periods in order to train as many muscle groups as possible during their limited workout time frame. In such a situation, very short rest periods between weight lifting sets are acceptable, as doing so is far superior to eliminating exercises, skipping certain muscle groups, or training muscles on a less frequent basis.

Still other bodybuilders simply despise extending rest periods between sets, as they feel far more likely to complete a weight lifting workout session with maximum focus when they are avoiding idle time, therefore, in such a case, shorter rest periods are acceptable, as making a weight lifting session realistic to continually follow is one of the most important factors to considerable muscle gain, and if longer rest periods cause frustration, then reducing to the maximum time frame that feels tolerable is a wise practice. But for the bodybuilder who wishes to achieve the greatest amount of muscle building, and has the time and emotional commitment to extend rest between sets sufficiently so that a weight lifting workout moves away from a cardiovascular emphasis towards a strictly muscle building focus, then this is the far better strategy to employ.

Remember that cardiovascular workout sessions are aimed at improving heart health and increasing metabolism for added fat burning, but they are not intended to build significant muscle mass, and thus the best environment for muscle gains is one where the weight lifting workout session does not feel cardiovascular in nature, as crossing such a threshold can begin to significantly limit muscle building potential.

Author's Bio: 

Francesco Castano is the owner of IncrediBody, a physical fitness company dedicated to helping others learn exactly how to gain muscle mass and lose weight without supplements or drugs. He authors two programs, one called MuscleNOW, teaching the correct weight training and diet program to gain muscle mass without bodybuilding supplements at, and Fat Vanish, which teaches how to lose weight & burn stomach fat for permanent weight loss, at He includes lifetime email personal training with both programs, where he personally assists all of his clients with training and diet questions, and has hundreds of testimonials validating the effectiveness of his techniques. He also offers weight lifting equipment, protein powder and fitness accessories at Please visit his web sites, and feel free to contact Francesco at any time with your muscle building or weight loss questions!