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This Is the Optimal Rest Time Between Sets Based on Your Workout Goals, According to an Exercise Scientist

Working out in group fitness classes tends to encourage people to go all-out, on a regular basis. But on the subject of lifting, there’s something to be said about taking breaks. While some people worry that lagging between sets generally is a sign of laziness or disinterest, in point of fact, taking breaks enhances the effect of the lift. That’s why apps, like Alive by Whitney Simmons, incorporate regimented rest time between each set, and even longer breaks between exercises. But it begs the query: How long do you have to rest between sets?

Although it could appear counterintuitive to understanding—or prefer it’s slowing you down—CPT and ACE Senior Director of Science and Research Sabrena Jo, PhD, says that spending at the least one minute between sets is essential to essentially reap the rewards of lifting.

Experts In This Article

  • Sabrena Jo, MS, Sabrena Jo, MS, is a private trainer and the American Council on Exercise director of research content. She can be the ACE liaison to the scientific advisory panel. Jo has been energetic within the fitness community since 1987.

The importance of resting between sets while lifting

Spending a minute or more between sets can feel annoying, nonetheless, the advantages of doing so can prove extremely useful. When you are taking a minute (or more) between sets, you…

Prevent fatigue

Continuous, intensive exercise without rest can result in premature muscle fatigue, which reduces your ability to take care of form and intensity across the whole thing of your workout,” Dr. Jo says. “This can limit the effectiveness of your training and increase the chance of injury.”

Allow yourself to get better neurally

“The central nervous system [CNS] plays a major role in weightlifting,” Dr. Jo says. “Rest periods allow the CNS to get better from the high-stress activity, ensuring you’ll be able to maintain control and form during your lifts.”

Give yourself a psychological break

“Resting provides a mental break, which may enable you to maintain focus and intensity throughout your workout,” Dr. Jo explains. “This might be especially essential during high-intensity or high-volume workouts.”

With all this in mind, Dr. Jo says that, ultimately, taking breaks between sets can enable you to train more effectively.

How long you need to rest between sets

Now that you already know the advantages of rest periods, you could be wondering how long you could have to dilly-dally to attain them. According to Dr. Jo, it is dependent upon your lifting goals. “To increase muscle size, or hypertrophy, resting for one to 2 minutes between sets after you’ve lifted to failure can support this goal; to extend strength and power, resting for 3 to 5 minutes between sets allows for more recovery time and may support this goal,” she says.

The one exception for shorter rest periods is for muscular endurance. If that’s your goal, Dr. Jo says resting for just 30 seconds will do the trick.

Remember though, these are merely guidelines. “As with so many things exercise-related, everybody could have a novel response to their training sessions,” Dr. Jo says. “So, although these rest intervals are an excellent place to start out, you could find that sticking strictly to them during a workout is somewhat limiting—that’s, you could need a bit of more rest when moving between really difficult muscle-building sets, and that’s okay.”

Dr. Jo says it’s higher to feel fully recovered in order that each subsequent set might be performed safely and with good form, moderately than sticking to a timed rest interval.

How to include rest times into your lifting sesh

The most accurate option to count time between sets is with a timer. While many trainer-led apps feature built-in timers of their programming, in case you’re designing your individual workout, using a Tabata timer and even just your phone’s timer will work.

“A timer might be helpful in case you turn into aware of how you’re feeling during appropriately timed rest intervals, especially for beginners,” Dr. Jo says. “However, when you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to go by how recovered your body feels. Ideally, you need to feel psychologically and physically rested enough to take in your next set without fear of being too fatigued to proceed.”

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