How Long Should You Rest In Between Sets?

How Long Should You Rest In Between Sets?

Just like anything else in the industry, it depends.

Power, Strength, Hypertrophy, Fat Loss, Aerobic Capacity; they all have different requirements for rest times.

Strength and Power

Research shows that Max Strength and Power improvements require 2-5mins (and in some cases even more) rest in between sets. This may seem confusing because after 1min you might feel like you’re ready to go. That’s where many people go wrong. Although you may feel ready, it takes most people at least two minutes for your energy stores to refill and your nervous system to fire optimally.

A recent study came out that allowed individuals to “rest until they feel ready”. Funny enough, most people ended up resting around 2minutes.

So if you wanna hit that new bench PR or improve athletic power, you’ve gotta rest 2-5minutes between sets there bawd.

Hypertrophy aka Buildin’ Muscle

Things get a little tricky when it comes to hypertrophy because it has such a large spectrum of rest periods. It all depends on the method you’re using to build muscle.

Rest periods for hypertrophy range from 30seconds-2minutes.

So how do you know which to use?

2 minute rest times allow for your muscle glycogen and ATP to refill so you’re ready to pump out another set at a high intensity and volume. This will increase the load on the muscle which triggers muscle growth via “mechanical tension”.

On the other hand, there are times when you can purposefully decrease the rest times from 2mins all the way down to 30seconds. This will give you a huge muscle swelling pump! The “muscle pump” you hear bodybuilders talk about is when blood and metabolic waste from the muscle accumulate thus decreasing performance (thus eventually ending your set due to fatigue). This build up of metabolic waste is what happens when you “feel the burn” literally. Your body sees this accumulation as a threat to the muscle which signals the body to increase muscle.

Moral of the hypertrophy story:

When resting short periods vs. long periods, you increase cell swelling, but decrease the load (amount of weight) you’d likely be using had you been resting for 2minutes.

This tells us that both methods can achieve hypertrophy. If we select 90-120seconds, we’ve gotta use a relatively heavier load than if we rested for 30-1min. No doubt that both will elicit high levels of hypertrophy. Short rest times cater towards metabolic stress, and longer rest times cater to mechanical tension. Both of which happen to be the main drivers of muscle growth. Kno’m sayin?

Fat Loss

If you’re looking to shed fat and get lean, you’re in for a bit of a shock.

In this case, shorter ain’t always better.

Overall volume with regards to resistance training tends to have the highest effect on fat loss. This means that there is no specific rest time just for fat loss.

The Two Best Rest Periods For Fat Loss

1. You can lose fat by resting 1-2mins between sets of high intensity resistance training (as long as you’re using a relatively heavy weight and taking the set to near failure). This primarily trains your glycolytic energy system which is most important for fat loss.


2. Lose fat by performing sets of shorter intervals with less resistance.

Interval Training, specifically Tabata training (20sec Work: 10sec Rest) for example, has been shown to elicit a huge metabolic response, helping you torch fat in a limited amount of time.

Intervals can be tricky because they can fall under any energy system depending on how it's programmed. Going all out and feeling the burn for 15-60sec will likely fall under the glycolytic pathway and anything longer will probably fall under the aerobic pathway (unless you're name is Superman/woman, Lance Armstrong, or the Energizer Bunny).

Confused? Chill, we’ve got some dope suggestions fer ya:

Rest for the least amount of time possible that still allows you to perform all the sets and reps prescribed in your given workout.

For example, if you’re a beginner/intermediate fitness level and doing a HIIT workout, start with something a bit easier than Tabata. Trust us, more isn't always better, you don't wanna half ass a "really hard" workout and potentially hurt yourself in hopes of burning a few extra calories. Something like 20sec work: 20sec rest, and then work your way up to Tabata training once you can safely and effectively perform each movement for the full 20sec work:10sec rest.

On the other hand, if your resistance training program calls for 3 sets of 12 reps, you want to find a time that allows you to perform all 3 sets of 12 with minimal rest. Eventually your body will adapt and you can either:

1.       Increase the weights – keep the same rest time

2.       Decrease the rest time – keep the same weights


We recommend working on both methods for optimal fat loss results. That way you’ll lose fat by working on different primary energy systems. If we stick to just one energy system, our bodies will adapt to that one type much quicker and it will require more effort to obtain fat loss results. When you

Still Confused? We gotchu. Reach out to us on the grams @clearcutfitness or email for a sample program or if you’ve got any questions for us.