In order to maximize muscle gains while training, it is imperative that you follow the principle of progressive overload. This principle involves the ongoing steady increase of stress placed on the body during training that is beyond its present capabilities. This continual increase in stress forces the body to continually try to adapt order to cope with the training program. Increasing the amount of stress can be done in a number of ways. These include the following:

  • Gradually increasing weight over time.
  • Increasing total volume of work (increase number of sets, reps, exercises).
  • Increase intensity.
  • and by decreasing rest periods.

In this article we are going to focus on the effects of rest periods and how they influence both strength and muscle gains.



Short rest periods are known to trigger muscle growth because of the fact that the place a greater metabolic stress on the muscles than long rest periods. They help to increase muscle pump and they also spur an enhanced production of growth hormone. Not only do short rest periods help to create an extremely high metabolic stress, they also enhance satellite cell production and activation thereof.

Obviously, rest periods work hand in hand with the aspects of the progressive overload in order to enhance metabolic stress and potentiate muscle growth. These include load stress, intensity and total volume of work.

Rest Periods To Maximize Gains

According to studies, rest periods are also an effective means of preventing overtraining as they help curb the total total volume of the workout before fatigue sets in.


As mentioned, while short rest periods do spur an increase of growth hormone release, over time these increases gradually decrease. After 10 weeks, both short and long rest periods only create minor changes in growth hormone production. These minor changes then have little to no effect on muscle size and gains.



While long rest periods do not place as large a metabolic stress on the body, they do allow you to lift heavier weights and gain strength over time. They also allow you to increase training volume before reaching a point of fatigue. Both of these factors are crucial components of the principle of progressive overload.

Rest Periods To Maximize Gains

According to a number of studies, when coupled with heavy weights, rest periods of 2.5 minutes have been proven to result in greater muscle gains.


There are no real negative effects of training with long rest periods except for the fact that you will spend more time in the gym to complete the same amount of work. Intensity will usually take a slight knock and obviously you won’t be able to take advantage of the benefits listed in above in short rest periods.


All things considered, both long and short rest periods have their advantages and disadvantages. While short rest periods help to enhance metabolic stress, long rest periods allow you to increase strength through pushing heavier weights and increase training volume.

So my advice would be include both into your training regimen. Start off by allowing for slightly longer rest periods for your bigger compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench press, shoulder press and Olympic lifts and then have shorter rest periods for isolation lifts. Change rest periods up every now and again to really ‘shock’ your muscles and to continually create a new stimulus for growth.


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