Research has indicated that multiple sets are superior to single sets for maximal strength development. However, whether maximal strength gains are achieved may depend on the ability to sustain a consistent number of repetitions over consecutive sets. A key factor that determines the ability to sustain repetitions is the length of rest interval between sets. The length of the rest interval is commonly prescribed based on the training goal, but may vary based on several other factors. The purpose of this review was to discuss these factors in the context of different training goals. When training for muscular strength, the magnitude of the load lifted is a key determinant of the rest interval prescribed between sets. For loads less than 90% of 1 repetition maximum, 3-5 minutes rest between sets allows for greater strength increases through the maintenance of training intensity. However, when testing for maximal strength, 1-2 minutes rest between sets might be sufficient between repeated attempts. When training for muscular power, a minimum of 3 minutes rest should be prescribed between sets of repeated maximal effort movements (e.g., plyometric jumps). When training for muscular hypertrophy, consecutive sets should be performed prior to when full recovery has taken place. Shorter rest intervals of 30-60 seconds between sets have been associated with higher acute increases in growth hormone, which may contribute to the hypertrophic effect. When training for muscular endurance, an ideal strategy might be to perform resistance exercises in a circuit, with shorter rest intervals (e.g., 30 seconds) between exercises that involve dissimilar muscle groups, and longer rest intervals (e.g., 3 minutes) between exercises that involve similar muscle groups. In summary, the length of the rest interval between sets is only 1 component of a resistance exercise program directed toward different training goals. Prescribing the appropriate rest interval does not ensure a desired outcome if other components such as intensity and volume are not prescribed appropriately.
(C) 2006 National Strength and Conditioning Association