How Much Rest is Best Between Exercise Sets?


In gyms and weight rooms, you may have noticed some people hovering around weight machines while waiting for their turn to use them. Or some may seem to be breathing down your neck while obsessively checking their watches. It may seem rude, but in reality they may just be resting between exercise sets.

Rest is just as important as working out. Not only do you need time to catch your breath so you resume exercising, your muscles also need time to recover.

Scientifically, the substance called creatine phosphate in the muscle cells, provide your muscles the energy it needs for resistance training.  So it’s essential to wait it out!

How long should you rest between sets of an exercise?

As a rule, the American Council on Exercise states that the “best” amount of time to rest between sets depends on two things: First, what specific goals are you working out or training for, and second, what amount of weight you are lifting.

When it comes to working out, we all have different goals. For those looking to improve muscular fitness, 30 to 90 seconds rest in between sets is recommended. By doing this, you would feel energized enough to continue to the next set, but not too relaxed that your heart rate drops and your body cools down.


People with specific goals require timing. Building muscular endurance, for example, requires you to rest for less than 30 seconds. This is to condition your muscles to keep working throughout long workouts.

In weight training programs, lifting heavier weights to build strength and power would demand a break of 2 to 5 minutes between sets. This gives your muscles to replenish their short-term supplies of fuel, which gives you more energy to lift more weight and get stronger faster. Pure strength training among powerlifters requires complete recovery between sets.

Trainers recommend up to 5 minutes rest before they resume. This is the opposite of bodybuilders, who lift heavy weights to get bigger muscles but limit their rest periods for 30 to 90 seconds.

Rest between sets has a big impact on your fitness.

With breaks that are too long or too short, you’ll end up robbing yourself of the benefits or worse, increase your risks of injury.  The goal is to find that sweet spot in between resting too much and too little. When you find that, then you have found your optimal rest time.

Source: Refinery29

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