How Long Should You Rest Between Sets to Get the Most Out of Your Workouts?

Rest between sets and exercises will affect your fitness as much as the number of sets and reps . If your breaks are too short, you rob yourself of their benefits or, worse, increase your risk of injury. If they are too long, then you are not training hard enough. The middle ground depends on why you are exercising and what exercises you are doing.

When you lift, your muscles burn their limited amount of fuel, and your body can generate more fuel just so you cancomplete less than 10 seconds of really hard effort, such as doing a few repetitions of super-heavy deadlifts .

By taking a break – about 2.5–3 minutes to recover from a set of heavy exercise – you give your muscles the opportunity to replenish their short-term stores of fuel, which gives you more energy to work at higher intensity again. But not everyone needs to sit and twirl their thumbs for so many minutes. What you want to achieve with your workouts makes a huge difference in how long you should rest.

Longer rest between sets will maximize strength gain

If you’re trying to get as strong as possible, you usually lift weights in the lower rep range , 1 to 5 reps. As a result, you are consuming a lot of energy from your body (mainly from the nervous system) and you need to rest longer to recover.

According to the International Sports Science Association (ISSA), you should aim for a rest of about 2-3 minutes, sometimes up to 5 minutes , between each set. This rest period will maximize your strength gain as you will be able to approach each successive set of exercises at about the same intensity and, more importantly, in good shape .

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that subjects who performed near-maximal bench presses and rested for at least 2 minutes between sets were able to maintain peak performance – up to a point. Eventually, fatigue set in (as expected), but subjects with longer rest times were able to maintain strong climbs for more sets than those with only 1 minute rest. However, the researchers did not notice significant differences in performance between 2, 3, and 5 minutes of rest.

To make sure you recover enough to prevent injury and do another set with the same energy, rest for at least 2 minutes between sets. If you are doing many sets with low reps (for example, more than four), increase the rest period to 3 or 5 minutes as needed. It is important that when you are on holiday, you are actually just resting and relaxing so you can focus.

Shorter rest periods are ideal for muscle endurance

Meanwhile, if your focus is on building muscle or developing muscle endurance (increasing the amount of time your muscles can exert a certain amount of strength), you will train in a higher rep range , usually between 8-15 reps per set. Doing more reps means that the approach itself is taking on a different form of stress on your body. In particular, you will feel how your “muscles are burning”.

As this review of sports medicine research shows , combining this kind of training with shorter rest times is associated with sending a stronger phrase: “We need to grow!” signal to your muscles. And the more you exercise, the better you deal with this burn and the more you can work harder for longer.

So, if your goal is to gain muscle mass, you should rest for 30 to 60 seconds, according to the ISSA. They further note:

Another way to look at this is to set a work-to-play ratio of 1: 1. This means you spend as much rest time as it took you to complete the previous set. Athletes whose sport requires 1 to 3 minutes of total effort with little or no rest can benefit from a work-to-rest ratio of 1: 1 or slightly higher. This means that you spend as much or less time resting than with each set of exercises.

In addition, muscle hypertrophy (growth in size) will be maximized with a 1: 1 work-to-rest ratio combined with a large training volume and a weight load between 8 and 12 maximum repetitions.

Really short rest periods of 20 to 30 seconds, such as circuit training, high-intensity interval training, or supersets , are also often used to combine strength and cardio benefits into one. You shouldn’t expect Hulk-like strength gains, but these intense workouts with shorter rest periods can improve your aerobic fitness and help you lose weight in the same way as a traditional long run, and in some cases even better.

Choose the amount of rest that’s right for you and your workout

If you’re just starting out, you should get more rest as needed. As your fitness and training improve, you can change the rest time as needed. Here’s a neatly broken down, albeit slightly modified (by me) rest period reference guide from the fitness blog A Workout Routine :

Rest time between sets: 20-60 seconds.

Ideal for: muscle endurance, metabolic / circuit training, burning extra calories.

Rest time between sets: 1-2 minutes.

Ideal for: building muscle, toning, good looks.

Rest time between sets: 2-3 minutes.

Ideal for: building muscle, toning, looking good, increasing strength.

Rest time between sets: 3-5 minutes.

Ideal for: Strength and Muscle.

The workout program notes that if you are doing complex, complex exercises or exercises that involve several large muscle groups, rest more towards the higher end-range. If it’s a simple movement (like curling your arms for biceps), you can use the rest time at the lower end of the range. Sometimes, however, it’s best to start from how you feel: if you feel wiped out, take a little more rest; Conversely, if you are full of energy, shorten your rest time.

So what about resting between completely different exercises ? Just rest as much as you did during the last set of the previous exercise. This means that if you rested for 2 minutes on your last set of squats, then you should rest for 2 minutes before starting a new set of, say, lunges.

When you include appropriate rest times in your workouts, you must take them seriously. This means setting a timer or keeping a close watch on the clock to keep track of it. It also means giving up long chats with people or reading Lifehacker in between sets. They not only make you lose track of time, but they also anger people who may wait until you finish. Rest time is important, but don’t worry if you need more time than our ranges here. You still benefit from just showing up and exercising.


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