Do you know how long to rest between sets? We’ve all been there, waiting for a piece of equipment or the weights to free up and the person occupying it is talking, texting or playing a game on their phone. It may be irritating, but there is often a good reason why someone is taking this break.
Below we discuss timed rests between sets and why you should time your rest. This period between sets is just as important as the exercise itself. If you do not time the rest each of your following sets will be inconsistent which can impact your recovery and reduce the effectiveness of your workout.
For example, if your aim is to complete three sets of an exercise, and between the 1st and 2nd sets you rest for 60 seconds and the next time you only wait 10 seconds, completing the set could be impossible! It will leave you with no idea if the weight is right for you. Likewise, if you can complete the set easily, the weight was definitely wrong.
Why you rest between sets
There are 2 main reasons for taking a rest period:
- If you can achieve all your sets with the maximum number of reps then the weight needs to increase. Keeping the rest consistent allows you to better judge how strong you are.
- You can influence the outcome of your workout by adjusting your rest time
How long to rest for
Giving you a set guide is difficult because there isn’t one, there are just too many exercises and combinations to consider. Once you start using supersets, drop sets or working smaller muscle groups your time of rest will need to be adapted.
Typically the structure of a foundational weightlifting programme would start with longer rests, lower reps and fewer sets where you target bigger muscle groups (e.g. squats, deadlifts, bench press). Towards the end of the session, the rep volume can increase, smaller muscles can be used and some varied workout methods may be included such as banded reps, drop sets or negatives.
If you don’t know about these methods of training then look out for future articles on training methods, or speak to a team member to learn about them right away.
In general, you can try something like the below, but play around with the timings to find what works for your training style the best. Generally, there isn’t too much difference between the categories as, especially when you’re starting out you’ll see improvements in all areas of fitness. If you’re starting to specialise, testing different rest periods is recommended.
- If your goal is strength, power and size, rest for two to five minutes between heavy sets or compound movements
- This can be reduced to 1 to 2 minutes for lighter sets, or when doing isolated exercises
- If your goal is endurance, rest for 30 seconds or less between sets
Generally, longer rest times allow you to move more weight the next time, resulting in greater muscle growth. You may see a stronger ‘pump’ with shorter rest times but this doesn’t mean that look will last.
Tips to remember
- The rest period should be the same and at regular intervals
- If you can complete all of your reps and sets the weight needs to increase
- Try out different rest times to see what you like best
Ultimately, rest periods are personal. Don’t start your next set until you feel like you’ve recovered from the previous one.