How Long Should I Rest Between Sets?

I think I could rest with him for the remainder of my life.

In yesterday’s fitness tips, I mentioned that it’s always a good idea to time your rests – especially if you’re looking to maximize your workout’s efficiency. It begs the question: How long should you be resting in between sets?

Like so many things in fitness, it depends. Rest time depends on your goals, what you’re training for, how you’re feeling, how old you are and so on. But here are the basics.

When you workout, you use energy. Duh. We know that it takes 2.5 to 3 minutes for your energy system (often called the phosphagen system) to fully recover after an intense set of exercise. So what does that mean for rest times?

3 – 5 minute rests: If you are training for power lifting, sprinting, football, etc. – or any sport that requires short bursts of explosive energy, wait 3 – 5 minutes in between sets. It’s a long time to wait, but it will result in the fast, quick power that these athletes need. Studies also show that it also boosts testosterone levels which increase strength gains.

45 – 60 seconds: Resting for a shorter time does not allow for full recovery – and that’s a good thing if you’re looking to build muscle size or train for a sport that requires constant energy over a longer period of time (i.e., marathon runners, soccer players, swimmers, etc.). Training with 45 – 60 second rests forces the body to improve it’s ability to sustain moderate or fairly high intensity exercise for longer durations of time. Trainers often espouse the 1:1 ratio – equal amounts of lifting to rest. If it takes you 50 seconds to complete your set, rest for 50 seconds.

At the end of the day, you’ll have to find out what works best for you. Some people swear by 90 second resting periods. Others by 2 minutes. Listen to your body and your results.

Any questions? Let me know in the comments below.

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.

Comments

  1. Hi Davey,I am trying to build muscle,60 seconds between sets works for me. G.P.

  2. a typical hockey shift in the nhl lasts less than 90 sec… in beer league, where i play anyway, the typical shift is 2 min, maybe 3… if we roll three lines, that 4-6 minutes of rest.. too long if you ask me… i like it when we roll two lines… two/three minutes on, 2/3 minutes off..
    2 -3 minutes…thats a good rest period for my game as well as my workout…

    – cheers… david

  3. 60 second rest for large muscle groups (back, pecs, legs). 45 second for small muscles like bi’s and tri’s.

    2-3 minutes for heavier short sets.

    Change it up with circuit training- no rest, going from one body to another one set at a time and then over again from the beginning, with about a 3 minute rest in between circuits.

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  1. […] the rests in between your sets. When resting between sets, most of us aim for a 60 second recovery. But, unless you are timing your rests, you’re probably resting longer. Use a watch or clock […]