There are many myths and fairy tales surrounding the topic of relaxation and breaks in sentences during strength training. But before we have to try to get Jeannie out of her dusty oil lamp so that she can tell us more fairy tales about the optimal set break length between the exercise sets during strength training, let’s try to shed a little more light on the topic of sentence breaks during strength training . Basically, with the help of some sports medicine aspects, a good basis for decision-making can be created, which every athlete can design individually for his own training.
Why sentence breaks are important in strength training
Or to put it another way: How long do the breaks between the individual training sets of an exercise have to be?
In order to be able to answer this question, we must first distinguish between fatigue and exhaustion. Fatigue occurs in the course of a training session, i.e. in the course of intensive strength or endurance training, while exhaustion (also called overtraining) is a far more extreme form of prolonged fatigue that does not subside within a few hours or days. Fatigue is mostly the result of massive overconfidence or almost cocky and unstoppable discipline – which doesn’t necessarily have to be bad per se.
Anyway. It is important that you get an understanding of why fatigue occurs during training, how to control it and delay it for as long as possible, and the fastest way to get rid of it.
Your resilience against acute fatigue decides how massive your training progress will be. This is logical, considering that your training success mainly depends on how you balance training frequency, training intensity and training volume in your training, or how you can coordinate these parameters with one another.
prolonged physical overload forces you to skip training sessions. And constant training with regular breaks is a thousand times more effective than training to the bitter end, at which an absolute muscle failure throws you completely off track and prevents further training units for many days or weeks.
If you tip off the weight bench completely exhausted after just a few repetitions with low weights, you are probably still at the beginning of your training career. This is perfectly fine as long as the subsequent training is designed with a little understanding of your own performance.
If your own performance level still does not really improve after three, four or five months of regular training units, the training methods, training plans and regeneration times used should be carefully considered – or the sport may simply be wrongly chosen.
Because the resistance of your muscles also increases logically with increasing training progress. At some point, symptoms of sore muscles become less and less common because the stimulus or stress thresholds for training-induced microtraumas in the muscles increase significantly.
This does not answer the detailed question, but shows that other parameters play an important role here. In particular, the degree of fatigue or the performance of your own muscles determines the length of the breaks in sentences, which cannot be generalized.
Why do the muscles fatigue during training?
If you are not going to run with moderate intensity in the forest and only pick up your pace when good-looking joggers come towards you, but instead complete intensive strength or endurance training, you are basically acting or training above that Continuous performance limit .
The so-called “continuous output limit” is a certain area within your entire energy supply chain in which energy demand and energy supply are balanced and the lactate produced by glycogen metabolism is broken down again in equal proportions, with which a muscular acidification is prevented. It is also said that static or dynamic muscle work can be performed within the endurance limit without the muscle fatigue increasing measurably.
That is exactly the point your trainer always spoke of when he said to you “You have to find your own pace …”!
A training above the endurance limit leads more and more to so-called acute peripheral muscle fatigue, which leads to losses in direct performance. The fatigue processes that occur during active strength training are very complex. The primary fatigue factor, however, is the continuously decreasing energy storage in your muscles .
With each additional contraction it increases the fatigue state of the muscles, because used energy sources can only be re-synthesized very slowly during an active contraction.
The acidification with lactate in the course of increasing anaerobic lactic acid supply can also lead to a Performance drop if the falling pH value in the muscle increasingly inhibits the enzyme-controlled ATP turnover.
That means in plain language: If the muscle strain is above the permanent performance limit, your body is forced to fall back on the high-energy carbohydrates for the immediate energy supply of the muscles so that the intense strain can be mastered.
During the so-called anaerobic lactic metabolism of carbohydrates, more and more lactate accumulates, which accumulates in the muscles and ensures that the pH value slowly but steadily drops until a very acidic environment is reached. Depending on the intensity, the lactate may not be broken down in time.
Et voilà: The muscle is over-acidic . The following graphic shows you the relationship between training intensity and energy supply, which also play an important role in the length of the breaks in sentences.
This acidification leads to the fact that the actual metabolic process, which derives the energy from the carbohydrates (in this case we mean the anaerobic lactic energy supply ), can progress worse and worse because this process occurs in an acidic environment always struggling with decreasing efficiency until it finally comes to a standstill. Ergo: Your muscle will trip itself up and simply stop performing at a certain point. At least now, the dumbbell will fall where you certainly do not want it. This is where our breaks in sets during strength training come into play.
How long do sentence breaks have to be canceled during training?
Before we clarify these questions, let’s first discuss the meaning of any sentence breaks during training: The breaks between individual exercise sets primarily serve only one purpose:
The resynthesis of energy-rich substrates (ATP) as well as the breakdown of metabolic products that have accumulated, which reduce muscle performance, in order to finally regain the state of homeostasis.
You can find out exactly what effect and functionality ATP unfolds in the energy metabolism in our article about creatine in maximum strength training.
Ideal sentence break length for beginners and training of low intensity
A set break length of 1-2 minutes is generally completely sufficient for both beginners and advanced users with less intense loads (e.g. dumbbell lateral raises or isolated abdominal muscle training).
sentence break length for advanced and intensive training
For particularly demanding and intensive exercise sets with high loads , e.g. basic exercises such as deadlifts, squats or bench presses should have a 3-5 minute break between sentences be scheduled. Due to the high number of muscle groups involved, the necessary regeneration time between sets is also increased. If in doubt, just wait until you have motivation again to lift heavy weights again. But remember: some studios close at midnight!
Otherwise: Take your time. Especially with high-intensity maximum strength training, breaks in sentences of more than 5 or 10 minutes are not uncommon. Even if the physiological necessity is not always given here, psychological factors play a much more important role in maximum strength training.
If you need 5 or 10 minutes of break between sets of strength training to restore your concentration and “focus”, then take this time. However, you should make sure that your muscles do not cool down too much during this time. Every degree Celsius loss of temperature (core body temperature) reduces your muscular performance to a degree that should not be underestimated.
Why the body core temperature is a performance-influencing parameter
All biochemical regulatory processes that take place in your body and ensure your muscle performance are subject to a certain metabolic inertia . This means that it always takes some time until these processes can work optimally on a biochemical level . You have to force them to work effectively. You don’t do that with the breaks in the sentences, but with a warm-up before strength training, which makes the corresponding functional systems efficient and prepares them for maximum performance.
So if you think that you can start your training straight away with your maximum working weight just because it looks a bit cooler, then nothing should stand in your way. But that doesn’t make sense.
You neither benefit from the warm-up-related injury prophylaxis , nor from the considerable increase in performance through a special warm-up of the corresponding muscle group.
If at some point you realize that a thorough warm-up before strength training is not only not uncool, but can also significantly improve your training performance, then you can simply read our muscle building guide for maximum training success for men and women.
There we also clarify many essential questions that can arise with training and nutrition. You can see a small excerpt of the topics dealt with there here:
- What is the difference between building muscle and burning fat?
- How often and for how long do I have to train?
- Which exercises are important and how do I learn the technique?
- How many repetitions do you need to build muscle?
- How high do the weights have to be?
- Do I always have to train to failure?
- Is cardio exercise bad for building muscle?
- Should I eat something before / during / after training?
- How many proteins, carbohydrates and fats do I need?
- Which training plan is best for me?