How Much Rest Between Sets?

marilyn monroe exercise weights

You design your own workouts.

You specify your reps and sets.

You modify your lifting tempo and your range of motion.

But, what about rest between sets?

  • Do you wait only long enough to catch your breath?
  • Or do you camp out underneath the squat rack having a nice long chat with your neighbor doing deadlifts?

Do you have any idea how long you should be resting between sets?

Well, according to the latest research, “the rest interval between sets is an important variable that affects both acute (short term) responses and chronic (long term) adaptations to resistance exercise programmes”.

The Study

Researchers reviewed 35 studies in which they examined both acute responses and chronic adaptations, with rest interval length as the experimental variable.

In terms of acute responses, a key finding was that when training with loads between 50% and 90% of one repetition maximum, 3-5 minutes’ rest between sets allowed for greater repetitions over multiple sets. Furthermore, in terms of chronic adaptations, resting 3-5 minutes between sets produced greater increases in absolute strength, due to higher intensities and volumes of training.

Training for Strength = 3-5 minutes rest between sets

Similarly, higher levels of muscular power were demonstrated over multiple sets with 3 or 5 minutes versus 1 minute of rest between sets.

Training for Power = 3-5 minutes rest between sets

When the training goal is muscular hypertrophy, the combination of moderate-intensity sets with short rest intervals of 30-60 seconds might be most effective due to greater acute levels of growth hormone during such workouts.

Training for Hypertrophy/Size = 30-60 seconds rest between sets

Finally, the research on rest interval length in relation to chronic muscular endurance adaptations is less clear. Training with short rest intervals (e.g. 20 seconds to 1 minute) resulted in higher repetition velocities during repeated submaximal muscle actions and also greater total torque during a high-intensity cycle test.

Both of these findings indirectly demonstrated the benefits of utilizing short rest intervals for gains in muscular endurance.

Training for Endurance = 20-60 seconds rest between sets


The rest interval between sets is a very important aspect of any resistance program…or at least it should be.


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  1. You have no idea how happy I was when I found that pic….I was positively giddy.

    And trust me, that was a scary site to behold.

  2. Thanks Rafi,

    Everyone should take a trip over to Rafi’s new fitness-community website – Passionate Fitness

    It’s brand new, but with the combination of Rafi’s approach to the project and some of the people that he is attracting to the community, I think that it will be a great resource for anyone trying to get or stay in shape.

  3. Great post! Love the breakdown based on goals. For me, I’m a “heart” girl — so I’m looking for endurance, so it looks like I’m on track! Thanks again ~

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