How much time should I rest between sets?

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By now you know that to achieve your fitness goals, the most important factors are your diet, workout plan and rest.

Within each of these variables, there are several factors.

Today we'll talk about the rest time between exercises.

Rest time may not be the most important thing in your workouts, but it's something you should control and seek to improve.

With this article, you'll know what rest times you should set to achieve your goals.

What is the best rest time between exercises?

The answer to that question is the dreadful:

It depends.

The "best" rest time, just like everything else in fitness, depends on your goal.

If you are training for strength, you will have different rest times from someone who is training for endurance.

As a rule of thumb, you will fall into one of the following categories:

Strength training

When you are training for strength, the best rest times are between 3 and 5 minutes.

These workouts usually consist of exercises between the 1-6 rep range.


Hypertrophy training

For hypertrophy, you should rest between 1 and 2 minutes.

These workouts usually consist of exercises between the 6-12 rep range.

Endurance training

To increase your endurance, you should rest between 45 seconds and 2 minutes.

These workouts typically consist of exercises between the 15-20 rep range.

But that's not all ...

The recommendations above work. However, they do not take into account some nuances.

As mentioned above, rest times should not be above everything else.

Now, that does not mean you can rest 5 minutes between exercises if you want to train for hypertrophy.

What we are saying is that volume, frequency of training and quality of repetitions are more important.

Do not ignore these factors just to start doing the exercise 15 seconds earlier. It will not be worth it.

Try to adhere to the following "rule":

Rest the minimum amount of time to get the most effective workout. 

And this is something that varies from person to person. Some people may rest 1:15 min, others 1:30 min. Over time, you will improve your work capacity. That means, that you'll be able to rest less between sets after a while. 

What does the research say? 

In this study, athletes lifted a weight more times in 3 sets after resting 3 minutes compared to when they rested only 1 minute.

Another study showed a 7% increase in squat strength after 5 weeks of training with 3-minute rest periods.

The group that rested for 30 seconds only improved their squat by 2%

In this study, individuals were resting 1 and 3 minutes. There was a bigger increase in the squat and bench press strength of the individuals who rested longer. So far, no surprises. However, muscle thickness tended to be greater when taking longer rest intervals as well.

Bench Press

The scientists speculate that results may be attributed to a reduction in total volume load throughout the study. 

There is a well-established dose-response relationship between volume and hypertrophy, whereby higher volumes correlate with greater muscle growth. 

Knowing this, we can assume that short rest periods can compromise muscle growth by reducing the weight that you can lift in the following sets. Thus, reducing your overall volume.

What can we conclude with this study?

This study only compared people resting 1 or 3 minutes. So it is a bit limited.

However, we can conclude that this topic does not need to be binary. You can combine different rest times to achieve your goals.

A viable option is to rest longer on compound exercises such as squats, bench press, military press. These movements require a lot of energy to be executed correctly. Thus, longer rest periods are needed to restore your energy levels. This will help you maintain the same volume throughout your workout. 

On the other hand, isolation movements do not require the same amount of energy. This means that you recover faster. Exercises such as bicep curls or leg extensions are some examples. Here you can rest less and keep the same volume every set.

Leg extension


This topic still doesn't have that much research, and our knowledge evolves whenever new studies are launched. Each new study is a piece that helps us complete the puzzle.

Until then, apply the information you learned in this article to your program, and do not be afraid to try on different rest times.

This is how you will learn what works best for you!

Good workouts!


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