T Nation

Short Rest Periods and Lifting Heavy


#1

I've been lifting for quite a while but almost all of that time with a strength focus. It's been years since I attempted a single set of a compound lift with less than 90 seconds of rest between work sets. But I'm starting to try to incorporate more hypertrophy-focused / bodybuilding work, and just started a new routine which calls for short rest periods between every set, pyramiding up.

On Monday I did the first workout (Chest/Back), started on bench press, supposed to do a warm-up set of 30, then 12/10/8/6, with 45 seconds of rest between every set.

I did 95x30, 135x12, 155x10, 175x8 (barely), 195x4 (would have failed attempting rep 5).

I was surprised how hard this was. I can usually get at least 12, more like 15 reps with that top weight of 195. It felt like I hadn't really gone heavy at all, and hadn't accomplished much. After this, I rested around 5 minutes (someone started talking to me), then did 225x8 and a dropset of 185x10.

Today I did essentially the same workout again, except used the rep scheme in CT's article (22 proven rep schemes: http://www.T-Nation.com/training/22-proven-rep-schemes) -- 10/8/6/20.

I tried to hit the percentages listed there, using slightly longer rests (90 seconds to 2 minutes), but I still couldn't do it. I got 165x10, 185x8, 205x4 (supposed to get 6 here) and 135x13 (supposed to get 20).

My question is, given the ability to lift heavier at the same number of reps / more total volume with more rest, why is it more effective for hypertrophy to shorten the rests and induce cumulative fatigue? I.e., if on this day I was capable of lifting 165x12, 185x10, 205x5, 225x6 (or even heavier) if I rested 2-4 minutes between sets, why is it better to use less weight with shorter rests?

Second, if I'm going to use this pyramid technique, what is an optimal rest period for hypertrophy? 45 second? 90 seconds? Longer? I mean, there will still be some cumulative fatigue even if I rest 2 or 3 minutes, right?

Thanks for any replies.


#2

[quote]craze9 wrote:
I’ve been lifting for quite a while but almost all of that time with a strength focus. It’s been years since I attempted a single set of a compound lift with less than 90 seconds of rest between work sets. But I’m starting to try to incorporate more hypertrophy-focused / bodybuilding work, and just started a new routine which calls for short rest periods between every set, pyramiding up.

On Monday I did the first workout (Chest/Back), started on bench press, supposed to do a warm-up set of 30, then 12/10/8/6, with 45 seconds of rest between every set.

I did 95x30, 135x12, 155x10, 175x8 (barely), 195x4 (would have failed attempting rep 5).

I was surprised how hard this was. I can usually get at least 12, more like 15 reps with that top weight of 195. It felt like I hadn’t really gone heavy at all, and hadn’t accomplished much. After this, I rested around 5 minutes (someone started talking to me), then did 225x8 and a dropset of 185x10.

Today I did essentially the same workout again, except used the rep scheme in CT’s article (22 proven rep schemes: http://www.T-Nation.com/training/22-proven-rep-schemes) – 10/8/6/20.

I tried to hit the percentages listed there, using slightly longer rests (90 seconds to 2 minutes), but I still couldn’t do it. I got 165x10, 185x8, 205x4 (supposed to get 6 here) and 135x13 (supposed to get 20).

My question is, given the ability to lift heavier at the same number of reps / more total volume with more rest, why is it more effective for hypertrophy to shorten the rests and induce cumulative fatigue? I.e., if on this day I was capable of lifting 165x12, 185x10, 205x5, 225x6 (or even heavier) if I rested 2-4 minutes between sets, why is it better to use less weight with shorter rests?

Second, if I’m going to use this pyramid technique, what is an optimal rest period for hypertrophy? 45 second? 90 seconds? Longer? I mean, there will still be some cumulative fatigue even if I rest 2 or 3 minutes, right?

Thanks for any replies. [/quote]

Being able to recover fast between sets is something that can be developed. I remember a football player I trained. During one specific phase we were using very short rest intervals to develop the capacity to maintain a high level of strength and power during a drive (which has a short rest period between plays).

I wanted a ratio of about 10 seconds of effort for 45 seconds of rest (similar to the structure of his drives).

The first workout he did 365 for 8 reps on the bench press… but finished at 225 for 6 on the 5th set because he couldn’t recover fast enough.

After 4 weeks he was actually able to INCREASE the weight on his last set (did something like 365 x 8, 365 x 8, 365 x 8, 365 x 8, 375 x 8). His other lift were similar (but he didn’t increase on the last set, but had no drop either). In that time period he gained 7lbs on an already big body.

I can tell you this… you CAN decide to lengthen your rest periods so that every set is done with heavier weights. OR you can can refuse to not be good at something an work on it. In both cases you will get gains, but in one case you will invest in better future gains and more efficient workouts.

The trick is to start with longer rest periods and VERY gradually shorten them.

As for not following the percentages. Percentages are just broad recommendations when it comes to selecting reps and weights. For example the average person can get 5 reps with 85% of his 1RM and 10 reps with 75% of his maximum. But in reality, and depending on muscle fiber makeup and training experience, it will vary widely.

Someone with a lot of fast-twitch fibers and a ton of experience training with low reps might get 4 reps at 85% while another one with tons of experience with higher reps and more slow twitch fibers might get 9 or 10.


#3

Thanks so much for the detailed reply. I’m going to start with strict 90-second rests and work on lowering them gradually toward 45 seconds.


#4

CT, what does it mean when someone like myself lifts heavy and explosive most of the time in the 3-5 rep range but I never require long rest periods. Even on squats and deadlifts. I almost feel out of the zone if I wait much more than a minute. Taking longer rest doesn’t increase my strength or capacity either.

On the other hand when doing higher reps like 10-12 close to failure I will get a significant drop in reps on following sets unless I take a minimum of 90 secs rest. Even if I stick to the higher rep range for awhile I never seem to be able to adapt or progress and recover from the lactic acid build up between sets if they’re short.


#5

[quote]as wrote:
CT, what does it mean when someone like myself lifts heavy and explosive most of the time in the 3-5 rep range but I never require long rest periods. Even on squats and deadlifts. I almost feel out of the zone if I wait much more than a minute. Taking longer rest doesn’t increase my strength or capacity either.

On the other hand when doing higher reps like 10-12 close to failure I will get a significant drop in reps on following sets unless I take a minimum of 90 secs rest. Even if I stick to the higher rep range for awhile I never seem to be able to adapt or progress and recover from the lactic acid build up between sets if they’re short.[/quote]

That is fairly common, I’m the same way. Higher reps produce lactic acid and burn more glycogen as a result it’s fairly common to have a drop in performance with higher reps. Over time you can get better at them, tolerating and clearing lactic acid faster, but it takes time.


#6

Ok thanks


#7

I can 2nd what CT is mentioning here. For years I was doing 5x5 and then moved over to 4x8 a few months ago mainly because of boredom. I kept the rest period to 40-45 seconds as I heard it helps in fat loss and wanted to try that out. I was really bad at 4x8 and I noticed that this kind of workout not only caused soreness but also caused tireness in my body. I also lifted so little weight that much smaller guys lifted better than me however I kept with it. It transformed me in many ways I lost fat and built stamina and I feel healthy and light. There is another side affect I will mention though I got more ripped I did lose a lot of size and may be lost muscle as well maybe because I was careless about my diet.