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Rest Breaks for Single- and Multi-Joint Exercises

Rest Breaks for Single- and Multi-Joint Exercises
Posted on: 2013-11-30 18:11:50 Ft.

Should the type of exercise you’re performing influence how long you should rest? Our answer may surprise you.

Conventional wisdom suggests that you need to rest longer during multi-joint exercises (2-3 minutes) when compared to performing a single-joint exercise (1-2 minutes) for the same muscle group. However, a recent study in the Journal of Exercise Physiology suggests otherwise.

In the study, researchers had 12 trained men complete four different chest training sessions. Each session had the men perform either a single-joint (machine chest flyes) or multi-joint exercise (bench press) with either one- or three-minute rests between sets. They used a 10-rep max load for each exercise and performed five sets with each set taken to failure.

The results showed that resting three minutes between sets allowed for more total reps to be competed than with one-minute rests for both single- and multi-joint exercises. Not a big surprise. The shorter rest periods during both exercise types also increased ratings of perceived exertion and lactic acid levels. Also, not surprising. However, what was surprising is that there was no significant difference in the number of reps performed for each set between machine chest flyes and bench press with one-minute rests. Nor was there a difference between how many reps the men completed when they rested three minutes for each exercise. Meaning – to hell with conventional wisdom.

As this study suggests you can perform just as many reps for a muscle group (i.e. chest) during a single-joint exercise as  a multi-joint exercise as long as the rest periods are the same and you use an equivalent load (e.g. 10-rep max ).  

Additionally, this study suggests that if you’re training to produce a high level of fatigue or lactic acid (e.g., training for muscular endurance or stamina) then you may want to stick with one-minute rests regardless of the exercise type (single- or multi-joint exercises). Conversely, if you’re looking to increase training volume (e.g. muscle growth) than longer rest periods, regardless of the exercise type, may serve you well.1

All of the content on this website is only for informational purposes. The information contained here should not be construed as medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, care, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a medical professional before starting any supplement, exercise or nutritional program.

1.Senna GW et al. 2012. Influence of Different Rest Interval Lengths in Multi-Joint and Single-Joint Exercises on Repetition Performance, Perceived Exertion, and Blood Lactate. Journal of Exercise Physiology. Oct. Vol 15. No 5.