We all know how to work out. The process has been tried and true since our first high school weight room sessions. Lift a set of moderately heavy weights for 8 to 12 repetitions, rest somewhere between 30 and 60 seconds, then move on to the next machine and/or muscle group. Not only does this routine work – and has been creating body-building champions for decades – it has the added benefit of letting you get in an exhausting full-body work-out in about 40 minutes. Hit the showers, boom, you're in and out of the gym in an hour!
So naturally, here comes some more of that inevitable “new research” to show that we're doing it all wrong.
It's not like the science behind our beloved 40-minute work-outs doesn't jibe; it does. The traditional method keeps the muscles under tension for a long duration and allows minimal recovery, which creates stress on the muscles that causes them to grow.
But a study just published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the muscle-bulking results of a minute against three full minutes of rest between sets, and your traditional routine came up short.
Experienced body-builder volunteers were divided up into two groups, one traditional and one taking longer rests, and were studied over an eight week period.
The researchers expected that strength gains would be better with the longer rest group, and weren't disappointed. After all, longer rests allow muscles to more fully recover so greater strength can be exerted on the subsequent sets.
But in the Tale of the Tape, the researchers were surprised to learn that the longer-rest group also experienced greater muscle growth. Why? They're only speculating at this point, but theorize that the results are likely because of the increased load that can be lifted by rested muscles. Further investigation is planned.
The bad news for the rest of us is that the results are pointing in the direction of a much longer work-out. We suggest you do a set of core exercises between sets. Your arm and leg muscles get the extra rest they apparently need for maximum growth and you get the opportunity to focus on the most important part of your workout.