Many bodybuilders often ask me what I think is the proper length of time to rest between sets. My answer is very simple: When your number one priority is to build as much muscle mass as possible in the shortest period of time, you should rest long enough to get as close to 100 percent of your strength back—without losing your concentration and focus. With the heavy training philosophy that I am sharing with you, I feel you must make sure you rest long enough to get most of your strength back before attacking another heavy set. This is the only way I feel you can perform the next heavy set with enough weight, the right amount of intensity, and do so until absolute failure. I oftentimes need to rest two minutes or longer between my heavy, working sets to get most of my strength back. In order to efficiently initiate the muscle-building process, you must train as heavily as you can. In my opinion, it’s simply not possible for you to do a set with the maximum amount of weight you are capable of lifting when you’re still gasping for air after the last one.
Many bodybuilders feel that the ideal length of time is much shorter than a couple of minutes—especially when they are trying to reduce their body fat. They make the conscious decision to lighten up on the weight and speed up their workouts by resting less time between sets. When I have asked them why they have decided to use this particular weight training strategy, they tell me that the purpose is to “burn more calories and thereby lose body fat.” I don’t agree with this philosophy at all. The most efficient way to burn calories in order to reduce your body fat is through diet, cardiovascular training, or a combination of both methods at the same time. Lightening up on the amount of weight you lift—especially during a calorie-deprived state will almost guarantee that you will lose quality muscle. During this time, you must fight hard to maintain and, preferably, build muscle mass. Heavy training is the only way that you’ll be able to accomplish this ambitious goal. You can only train heavily when you have waited long enough between sets and have regained most of your strength.
On the other hand, just because you are taking a little more time to rest between sets does not mean that you should squander it. Don’t use the time between sets to let your mind wander or engage in conversations that will distract you. Use the time to refocus yourself on your training so you can lift the most weight possible on your next set.
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