When it comes to training variables, load and rest are 2 that have at least some wiggle room. As much as I’d like all clients to be machine-like at times and add weight to the bar each week and begin their next set right on the end of the precisely calculated rest time, it’s generally not as straightforward as that.
The weight used and rest time taken are interlinked, too much weight and rest times go sky high, too little rest time and weights, or reps performed drop too far from the desired training effect.
So how much rest should you take, and how heavy should you go?
Rest times can largely be guided by your goals, if you are looking for strength then rest times can be up to 3-5 minutes after really heavy doubles or singles, allowing your body to recovery sufficiently to perform the next set well enough to get the desired training effect.
Muscle size responds to around 2 minutes, enough time to recovery and maintain a high enough volume (sets x reps x load) to stimulate growth.
If it’s more of a metabolic training effect, keeping the rest down to around 60 seconds helps created the oxygen debt that increases calorie burn and keeps it high long after training is over.
These are fairly solid guidelines but you may find that they change from week to week based on how well you are feeling, how well rested, well fed and what your stress levels are like from a number of external factors.
Loading can be a bit more varied, again depending on a number of factors.
First of all let me say that if you aren’t logging your training, noting your sets, reps and loads, then you aren’t going to progress well at all. How can you possibly know how much weight to put on the bar if you can barely remember what you did last week? How do you know how effective your training is if you have no way of checking your progress over the last 3-6 months?
With that out of the way, step 1 is know what you lifted last week.
Then if you hit all your reps at that weight, how comfortable was it? Did you barely squeak out the last couple on the last 2 sets? If so, you have at least another week on the same load. If it was good and you felt you could have done 2 or 3 more reps at the weight, time to go up.
Quality is really important here, forget the ego, how good was the technique?
One way to gauge whether your increase in weight is appropriate is to use a 2-4 rep window to work in, for example if you are aiming for 12 reps and the weight goes up, you have to be able to hist at least 8 reps for all your sets. If you are aiming for 6 reps you have a 4-6 rep range to work in.
Your progress might look like this:
For example on a DB press aiming for 3 sets of 8-12 –
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||Week 5|
|3 sets of 8/8/8 reps||3 sets of 10/9/8||3 sets of 12/10/9||3 sets of 12/11/10||3 sets of 12/12/12|
|total rep increase - n/a||increase of 3 reps on prev week||increase of 4 reps on prev week||increase of 2 reps on prev week||increase of 3 reps on prev week|
Once you hit 3 sets of 12 comfortably, time to move up again and start the process again.
I should note here that since volume is the driver on muscle growth, if you are doing full body training sessions and in a moderate calorie deficit, you are unlikely to build massive amounts of muscle, you will build some to accommodate the increase in strength but huge you won’t be!
You should feel like the last sets last few reps should be tough, if can breeze through the working sets on a given exercise then you are probably too light.
Challenge yourselves, good things will happen!