In the world of fitness and muscle growth, the rest between sets debate is as heated as any battle in the gym. Some believe that as few as two minutes of rest between sets is all you need to achieve massive gains.
Others argue that more extended rest periods are vital to stimulate muscle growth and prevent overtraining. So which is it? Are shorter rest periods better than longer ones? Which provides better results?
There is a thin line difference between an opinion and a fact. When it comes to rest times, however, some research has been done to prove the benefits of longer rest periods.
Let's look at the facts below and see what the research says about resting between sets to maximize muscle growth!
But before we take a deep breath, let's ponder the word "Rest" itself.
What is a "Rest" Period
A rest period is a time when the body is passive. The muscles are relaxed, and blood flow is at normal levels. It is the time when the muscles recover and prepare for the next set. Just like food and water, the body needs time to recover to function correctly.
So what is a "rest period" in athletes' vocabulary? A rest period is a time between sets in a workout session. It is simply the time that the athlete spends not working out. There are many rest periods throughout a workout. For example, after bench pressing, the athlete rests until it is time to bench press again.
So, how much rest should an athlete take between each set? There is no concrete answer to this question since it depends on the athlete's individual fitness levels, body composition, and goals. But let's identify how the short rest periods can affect our training overall.
How Rest Times Affect Our Training
This is a question that keeps every gym rat awake at night. How do we complete the workout within the allotted time if we take more extended rest periods? The answer is quite simple.
It depends on your goals. Time periods will differ depending on whether you want to achieve better general fitness, increase muscle mass or train for strength. Because in each of these training outcomes we will most likely be using different loads and rep ranges.
Best Rest Time for Strength Training
There is no such thing as the best rest period for strength training.
However, it is essential to keep in mind that training should be challenging but not overly stressful. An overly stressful workout can lead to overtraining syndrome, where the body can no longer recover appropriately from exercise sessions.
With the correct number of repetitions performed, the rest periods should be adjusted for each individual to ensure they are not putting excessive stress on their body too soon, which can result in injury.
Here is a general rule that is commonplace in the fitness industry. If your goal is strength, then taking anywhere from 2-5 minutes between sets is ideal. Once again, the goal is to lift the most amount of weight, with the most amount of output for a short number of reps. The load will be much higher for strength training therefore the reps will be low (1-5 reps). The body needs ample time to recover before doing another set. Listen to your body and do what is right for it.
Best Rest Time for General Fitness and Health Training
If you are just trying to make time each day, or couple times a week to fit in some workouts, your goal is most likely to be generally fitness and healthy. Time efficiency is probably going to be your best friend because you live a busy lifestyle and need to get to doing the next objective. This will affect your rest between sets, along with your exercise selection.
Therefore, if your goal is general fitness and health then doing an efficient workout with minimal rest in between exercises. Anywhere between 15 seconds to 1 minute would be ideal. You should choose exercises that are different from one another so you don’t exhaust one muscle group and risk injury. For example pairing barbell back squats with barbell bent over rows.
Best Rest Time for Hypertrophy (Increase Muscle Mass)
If your goal is to increase muscle mass, then taking anywhere from 1-2 minutes between sets is ideal. This is because we want to produce the most amount of focus, using the most amount of weight for the particular number of reps we are doing (in this case 8-12). When increasing muscle mass, it is highly important to focus on a mind-muscle connection. If you are too fatigued before moving onto the next set, this can further hinder that ability to focus.
As an experiment, try to take a 30 second rest compared to a 2 minute rest between sets next time you are in the gym training for hypertrophy and see how your output differs.
Alternate Methods to Determine Optimal Rest Periods
Well, there are plenty of alternative methods to determine optimal rest periods between Sets, but here are a few that you may find helpful:
Experiment With Different Lengths of Time
Give your body time to recover and cool down between sets before moving on to the next exercise. This may feel weird at first, as you are so used to rushing through every set without giving yourself any rest time in between.
However, it is an important part of your workout routine if you want to get the most out of your workouts and make progress in the gym.
When you start, it is a good idea to start with longer rest periods between sets and gradually decrease them as you get more accustomed to the exercises you are doing.
You should also experiment with different difficulty levels to see if this affects how long you need to rest between sets. If you change exercises or increase the weight you are lifting; you may also need to change the length of your rest periods.
Pay Attention to Your Heart Rate
During a workout, it is normal for your heart rate to rise slightly due to increased stress levels on your cardiovascular system. However, when your heart rate is elevated like this, you are still recovering, and your exercise is taking its toll on your body.
Therefore, if your resting heart rate remains elevated even after you have finished your workout, you should increase your rest periods to give your body more time to recover between sets.
Keep a Training Log
Schedule your training sessions at the same time each day so that you will get used to the routine and know what to expect each time you go to the gym. This is important as it will help you maintain consistency in your training and achieve your goals faster. Plan your workouts around a predetermined rest period between each set to help you prevent overtraining and reduce the likelihood of injuries.
The Bottom Line
Rest breaks between sets are an important component of an effective workout program. These breaks allow you to recover and rebuild energy to perform at your best in subsequent sets. Sticking to a consistent workout schedule can maximize your results while preventing injury and promoting optimal health and longevity.
Be sure to take as much time between sets as you can handle to avoid overtraining and ensure that you get the best possible results from your training.