Top 5 Bodybuilding Workout Mistakes (Part 1): Resting too long between sets

Over the years at Performance U, we’ve trained many bodybuilders, physique and figure competitors along with many athletes and exercise enthusiasts looking to get bigger. In doing so, we’ve not only cultivated and refined the training concepts and techniques that we’ve had success with… like our Full Spectrum Bodybuilding (FSB) workout system, which I’m currently doing a full on-going series of training articles for – FSB: 101FSB: ChestFSB: Quads

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 …We’ve also had the discipline to embrace the bodybuilding workout mistakes we’ve made, and acknowledged the valuable training lessons we’ve learned from making these mistakes.

Top 5 Bodybuilding Workout Mistakes we’ve made (and the Simple Training Solutions)

In this 5-part mini-article (Blog) series I’m going to share with you the 5 biggest bodybuilding workout mistakes we’ve made and the solutions we’ve found to right our wrongs. This way, we can save you the time and trouble of making make the same bodybuilding mistakes we did!

Bodybuilding Mistake #1 – Rest too long between sets

One of the most popular methods of weight-lifting is to use paired-sets, like this:

Bench Press 3-4 x 8-12

Rest 60 sec/ pair with…

Bent Over Rows 3-4 x 8-12

Rest 60 seconds/ repeat…

This paired-set method is used to get more done in the time you have at the gym. And, it’s also done to increase rest time between sets.

When our goal is too increase strength or power (i.e. improve motor unit recruitment), we are all about paired-sets and tri-sets done in the fashion displayed above. But, when it comes to training for improved structural hypertrophy  (muscle mass), we’ve not found paired sets done in the above fashion to be as effective as the traditional single set method or superset method.

Why we feel it’s a mistake:

Most of us are aware (from years of anecdotal and scientific evidence) that the general consensus  on optimal rest intervals between sets for maximal hypertrophy (i.e. muscle mass) gains is around 30– 90 seconds.

Now, if we look at the above example of a paired set, and assume each set of bench press and bent over rows take 30 seconds to complete – It translates into 150 seconds (2.5 minutes) rest before you return for your next set of Bench press — 60 sec rest + 30 sec of Bent Over Rows + 60 sec rest = 150 seconds — This obviously has us resting far longer than the generally accepted 90 seconds (or less) rest range we just discussed.

Even if you stick with this paired-set strategy and cut your rest interval between exercises in half to only 30 seconds, it STILL puts you at 90-seconds rest between sets of the same exercise, which is pushing at the upper-end of the generally recommended rest interval for maximizing your muscle pump and potential size gains.

Plus, you’re going to go into each set (of each exercise in a given pair) tired because you’re only 30 seconds out of a hard effort, it’s certainly going to interfere with your overall working intensity at each set.

Additionally, the rest interval between each exercise gets further extended when you throw in unilateral exercises because you’ve got the time it takes to do both sides.

For example:

Bench Press 3-4 x 8-12 (set takes approx. 30 seconds)

Rest 60 sec/ pair with…

One Arm Dumbbell Bent Over Rows 3-4 x 8-12 (approx. 30 seconds per arm, totaling 60+ seconds)

Rest 60 seconds/ repeat…

Keep in mind that we’re interested in how much rest you’re getting between sets for each muscle group, not each exercise. In that, it’s not how long before you’re doing work again . It’s how long the muscles involved in each exercise get to rest before they have to work again.  On single arm dumbbell rows, your left arm is resting while your right arm is working. That’s rest time you have to account for when designing your bodybuilding programs.

Our Training Solution:

If our training split calls for (let’s say) a Chest & Back day, we’ll focus the first half of the workout on one aspect (the Back) and focus the other half of the session on the (Chest) aspect. We do this instead of pairing chest and back moves so we can more accurately stick with a 30-90 second rest interval between exercises that focus on the same muscle group.

If our program calls for a Chest/Shoulders/Triceps day, we’ll also emphasize the good old single set method with our compound exercises.

We do like to use super-sets for smaller, more isolation type exercises  than the compound movements as we’ve found that our physique athletes can transition between two isolation moves with little rest time without exceeding 90 seconds rest between sets because these exercise are  less fatiguing than the compound movements.

Here’s an example of this super-set strategy for a isolation exercises on a Chest/Triceps emphasis training day: 

Cable Chest Flys x8-12 reps

Rest as little as needed (no more than 30 seconds)

Triceps Rope press x8-12 reps

Rest as little as needed (no more than 30 seconds), go back to flys…

Coming very soon I’ll hit you with Part 2 of the 5 Part Bodybuilding Mistakes Series… 

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