I was on the Sigma Nutrition podcast with Danny Lennon (truly one of my favourites podcasts). We discussed effective reps and strategies for hypertrophy. As always, Danny asked great questions. He surprised me a bit, and we jumped into the juicy stuff right away. Highly recommended if you’re into podcasts:
The day the podcast came out, Foo Wee Lun of FitWell Nutrition created an illustration based on an idea I shared in Danny’s podcast. This was perhaps my best idea, so if you don’t listen to the podcast, I’d recommend you check it out. Not only that, but a few of the best minds in the world of muscle commented on the illustration. We bounced ideas around and it was just great:
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this illustration. Greg Nuckols and Lawrence Judd asked for evidence for the left side of the curve. I started with this:
In Prestes et al. (2017), rest-pause sets (20 sec rest) caused greater hypertrophy of the thigh than normal sets (2 min rest). Both groups did similar volume.
In Fink et al. (2017), drop sets (no rest) caused similar or greater hypertrophy of the triceps than normal sets (90 sec rest). Volume was similar (or perhaps lower) in the drop-set group.
These studies support the idea that 0-20 sec between sets is better than 90-120 sec between sets.
In another interesting study (Goto et al. 2005), one group rested for 30 sec at the midpoint of each set. Training (and volume) was otherwise identical between groups. The group that rested at the midpoint of each set did not gain muscle. The other group did.
This study suggests that intensity of effort (how close you are to failure) does play a role in muscle gain, independently of tension, volume, and other training variables. I believe that it also provides some support to the idea that training closer to failure (i.e., no rest) may enhance hypertrophy. Note that this is not strong support, but that I think this data is still interesting and worth pondering over.
If you’d like to train with effective reps (close to failure), rest-pause sets, and other advanced strategies for hypertrophy automatically, check out our workout app Dr. Muscle.