How Much Should You Rest Between Sets?

Rest between sets

How much rest do you need between sets? It’s a topic that’s often overlooked, however it can have a significant impact on your strength. While you probably don’t need to set a timer between every set you do, being mindful of the amount of time you’re resting should be helpful.

 

The Studies:

One study had participants perform 5 bench press repetitions for 5 sets. They used rest intervals between the sets of 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes and 5 minutes. The researchers found that participants who used 30 seconds or 1 minute of rest suffered declines of between 15% to 55% on every set. At 2 minutes, the number of reps was maintained for the first 2 sets, but declined by between 8% to 29% on sets 3- 5. At 3 minutes performance was maintained for the first 3 sets, with declines in sets 4 and 5 by an average of 21%. At 5 minutes, there was only a reduction in the fifth set. Here’s a graphic look at the relationship between rest intervals and volume from another study:

Rest between sets chart

Looking at actual performance, another study found that 30 seconds of rest between sets increased participants’ max squat by 2.4% over a 5 week period. 1 minute of rest increased outcomes by 5.8%, while 3 minutes of rest increased outcomes by 7.3%.

While many people recommend resting more for multi joint exercises (squats) versus single joint exercises (bicep curls, another study shows that the same amount of rest (3- 5 minutes) is need for each type of exercise. Another myth to dispel is that when training for hypertrophy (muscle growth), you should decrease the amount of rest between sets. A recent review found no study that showed superior muscle growth with shorter rest intervals (and 1 showed the opposite).

 

Conclusion:

3 minutes of rest between sets appears to be a good starting point. If you’re doing a higher volume (4 sets or more), you might want to up the rest interval to 5 minutes if you have the time. Otherwise, pay attention to your results. If you notice no declines in successive sets with 2 minutes of rest for example, you might be ok reducing the rest intervals. Conversely, if your heart rate is still high after 3 minutes and you don’t feel like you can do the exercise adequately, take some extra time.

 

Citations:

Fleck, Steven J., and William Kraemer. Designing Resistance Training Programs, 4E. Human Kinetics, 2014.

Henselmans, Menno, and Brad J. Schoenfeld. “The Effect of Inter-Set Rest Intervals on Resistance Exercise-Induced Muscle Hypertrophy.” Sports Medicine 44.12 (2014): 1635-1643.

Ratamess, Nicholas A., et al. “The effect of rest interval length on metabolic responses to the bench press exercise.” European journal of applied physiology100.1 (2007): 1-17.

Robinson, Joseph M., et al. “Effects of Different Weight Training Exercise/Rest Intervals on Strength, Power, and High Intensity Exercise Endurance.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 9.4 (1995): 216-221.

Richmond, Scott R., and Michael P. Godard. “The effects of varied rest periods between sets to failure using the bench press in recreationally trained men.”The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 18.4 (2004): 846-849.

Senna, Gilmar, et al. “The effect of rest interval length on multi and single-joint exercise performance and perceived exertion.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 25.11 (2011): 3157-3162.

 

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  1. GymLion 2 years ago

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