How Long Should I Rest Between Sets?

It’s common knowledge that there are different variables within your workout that affect the overall results of your workout, but many people are unaware that the amount of time you take between sets also affects your workout results. One of the biggest reasons this rest time is important is because the energy used up by your muscles begins to deplete and it can take up to a minute for it to fully recover. Of course, the exact amount of time you should rest between sets depends on the type of workout you’re doing and the overall goal you wish to obtain through your workout. Remember that every body is different and specific times may vary, but here is a general guide for rest periods.


Building Muscle Size

If you’re looking to build your muscle size and make your muscles bigger, the best length of time to rest is around 1-2 minutes between each set. 

A set for this type of workout will typically involve using moderate to heavy weight with anywhere between six and twelve reps while focusing on one muscle group. Working your muscles in this way typically uses your glycolytic system which pulls most of its energy from carbs. It’s because of this system that your body can handle shorter rest periods than during other types of workouts. 

In order to increase muscle size during this type of workout, your body pulls from the anabolic hormones within your body. However, a lot of people aren’t aware that the amount of this hormone that’s produced is affected by your rest period and produces the most between the first and second minute of rest.

Building Endurance

When your focus is on wanting to increase your endurance, it’s most beneficial to take rest periods between 45 seconds to 2 minutes. 

Endurance training rest periods are determined by your workout. Depending on your body and your workout, the typical rule of thumb for endurance training is to take a rest period that is either the same length as your workout or one that is twice as long as your workout. For example, if it takes you 30 seconds to do 15 reps, then your rest period would also be for 30 seconds. Or, if you take 1 minute to 30 reps then your rest period would be 2 minutes. 

By conducting your rep to rest ratio by 1:1 or 1:2, you work on increasing your body’s lactate threshold. Lactic acid build-up is one of the biggest reasons for fatigue during strenuous activities, so focusing on building your body’s lactate threshold will clear lactic acid build-up and increase your overall endurance.

Building Strength

If building strength is your main reason for your workout, then you’re going to want to take rest periods between 3-5 minutes. Keep in mind it’s important not to go over the 5 minutes of rest during this type of workout, otherwise you can cool down too much which can possibly lead to injuring your muscles. 

When working on building strength through heavy weights and low reps, your body gets most of its energy from the ATP-PC system which is meant to create energy quickly. Because the energy is created quickly, the energy doesn’t actually last very long—about 15 seconds, and it takes at least 3 minutes to regenerate. 

Trying to continue your reps without allowing this energy reserve to replenish will lead to weaker muscles, in turn having to decrease the amount of weight you’re lifting. When you allow your body the 3 minute rest to replenish the lost energy, you’re able to lift heavier weights for longer which will increase your overall strength gains.

Your rest period will change depending on the type of workout your performing as well as how intense your workout is. If you need help figuring out what type of workout and rest period is best for you, turn to your personal trainer in order to get your best workout results and maximize your overall health.