Rest Periods in Between Sets

Rest Periods in Between Sets

Hello Everyone!

 This week's Training Room post will be centered around rest periods in between sets. We'll cover how much rest a person needs in between workouts in a future Training Room update.

 The reason rest in between sets is so important is because it's different for every training style. The first thing a person must do is establish goals for their individual workouts and their overall fitness. If you are a strength athlete, then you'll need to follow a different rest schedule in between sets than someone who is training strictly for hypertrophy.

 Alright, let's do a quick recap of our previous blog on strength training. The goal of strength training is to be as strong as possible by maximizing our muscles' potential for lifting things. This is done by keeping reps low and weights high, sometimes as high as 95% for working sets. This forces the central nervous system to recover by recruiting more muscle fibers so the lift can be completed more easily the next time.

 When focusing on hypertrophy, a rep range of 6-12 repetitions is chosen to create trauma to the muscle. This trauma is repaired by the body filling the damaged areas of the muscles with proteins, thus increasing their size.

 Because strength training revolves around a maximum effort approach and hypertrophy revolves around damaging the muscle, the rest in between sets is very different, just like the reps and sets are different.

 When training for strength, you need a lot more rest than when training for muscle building. You need to make sure that you feel able to complete the next lift mentally and you also need to make sure that your Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is replenished. We'll go into ATP in a future Training Room update but it's basically your muscles' energy source for short, maximum effort lifts; exactly like the ones needed to build strength. To make sure that your ATP is fully replenished, you need 2-5 minutes of rest. That's a pretty large range so just listen to your body and use your head. If you're lifting at 95% of your max and every rep feels like you're going to fail but you don't, take the full 5 minutes before the next one. If you are completing sets and they're difficult but you feel you could have done a few more, you need to be closer to the two minute range. There's no harm in waiting the extra time to get your mind right, just make sure you're moving around plenty so you don't get stiff.

 When training for hypertrophy, the rest intervals are significantly shorter. The reason for this is because the goal is to break the muscle down. Starting your next set before the muscle is fully replenished is an effective way to do this. Because your lift isn't a maximum effort lift, you won't have to wait on your ATP to replenish before starting your lift again. The best rest range for muscle building is 30-90 seconds. If you're hitting your rep goals easily, gravitate towards the 30 seconds of rest. If your sets start to decline and you're no longer able to hit your prescribed amount of reps, wait the full minute and a half instead.

 If you implement these rest periods in your next workout you should feel an immediate difference. Most people give themselves too much time to rest and then don't achieve their workout's maximum effects.

 Hopefully everyone learned something and if you have any questions comment them below or shoot us an email!

 This post was written by Marcel Blood with input from Joseph Peery, former Strength and Conditioning Coach.


  • Marcel Blood

    Hey Robin,
    Optimally the rest period would encompass both lifts. You should be hitting the initial muscle group again within the 30-90 second rest period. If you’re lifting the same muscle group in your working set and your superset then the rest starts after the superset. Just don’t allow any muscle group more than the 90 seconds of rest unless you absolutely need it.

  • Robin

    So you said with hypertrophy training that you only need to allow your body 30-90 seconds of rest, does this mean complete rest or could you superset that exercise with another that’s using a different muscle group?

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