If I could make a list of the most commonly asked bodybuilding or fitness based questions, this one would be close to the top.
Everyone wants to know the optimal rest needed between each set to get the best possible workout.
The reality is, resting time depends on your own personal fitness goals and will be different for different workouts.
If your training on Tuesday for strength your rest time won’t be the same as if you were to train for hypertrophy on Wednesday.
I’ll give you a general guideline for what’s best!
Strength Workouts: 3-5 Minutes
If you are a strength based athlete or you’re just focusing on strength training for a particular workout day, you need to be resting around 3-5 minutes between sets.
Strength training means heavy weights, around the 1-5 rep range or 85% – 99% of your 1RM.
When you’re dealing with weight this heavy, it’s pretty obvious you’re going to need more rest.
Try training with heavy weights with little rest. You won’t be able to lift anything on the second set!
Keep in mind 3-5 minutes is just a guideline, and if you feel like you need more than 5 minutes of rest, take it.
Strength gainers should aim for around 3-4 sets per strength based workout, so it’s important to make the most out of each and every set.
So stuff like little rest between sets, training to absolute failure, and using bad form is only going to cost you gains and possibly push an unwanted injury upon you.
Hypertrophy Workouts: 1-2 Minutes
Hypertrophy focuses on building overall muscle mass. The weight is generally moderate, around 60% – 75% of your 1RM.
These moderate heavy weights will allow you to shoot for around 6-12 reps a set.
The main goal of hypertrophy is not to kill your muscles but to stimulate them.
Really focus on contraction and getting some blood to the muscles. When you push blood to the muscles, more nutrients will be provided, aiding in greater muscle recovery and growth.
It’s best to shoot for around 60 – 120 seconds of total rest between sets.
Resting too long will not maximize blood flow and won’t give you a great pump. And rest too little will cause you to fatigue and struggle on your last reps.
Remember training to failure is a no-no, especially for hypertrophy. The goal is high volume workouts and muscle contraction.
If you notice that this rest period is still too short, it’s very possible that you’re using a weight that’s still too heavy. Try dropping the weight and make sure you can comfortably reach 6-12 reps.
Muscle Endurance Workouts: 1-2 Minutes
Similar to hypertrophy workouts, muscular endurance requires at least one minute of rest between sets.
The only difference between endurance workouts and hypertrophy is the weight and the number of reps.
When training for muscular endurance, the goal is to shoot for 15+ reps with light weights. This is great for people who train in high aerobic sports and wish to prevent muscle fatigue.
You will almost always get a great muscle pump from this type of training, although it isn’t the best for muscle growth or strength gains.
Due to the high amount of repetitions, your muscles will be pretty fatigued after each set, so it’s still important to give them a decent amount of rest. 60-120 seconds is good enough!
BFR Workouts: 30-45 seconds
Blood Flow Restriction training, BFR for short, is a type of training in which bands are tied around your arms, legs, calves, or forearms for a workout.
When BFR training, the blood flow to the arm is limited causing extreme muscle pumps like you’ve never felt before.
Your arms or legs will grow for the amount of blood filling up inside those muscles!
It might seem counterintuitive to limit the blood from traveling to your muscles, but it has amazing effects.
Studies show that BFR training increases both strength gains and muscle hypertrophy, sometimes even more so than regular strength training.
The key to BFR training is to use extremely light weights and really high repetitions. I’m talking weights that are 20% – 30% of your 1RM and 20-30 repetitions.
Like stated above, this will give you serious muscle pumps. The blood rushes into areas you’ve never even felt before and recruits both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, which is why it’s so effective.
When BFR training the goal is to have quick rest times so you can continue to get the crazy pump and work that muscle. Shoot for 30-45 second rest periods at the most and around 6 total sets per body part.
The amount of time you spend resting between sets is really up to you.
Find out works best for each different type of workout.
Ultimately, resting between sets can be pretty important in determining the quality of your workout and how well you work your muscles.
Resting too little can result in too much muscle fatigue and less overall volume worked, which is a key player in determining hypertrophy. If you feel like you need an extra minute or two from a hard set, take it.
For a general guideline, stick to these resting times:
Strength: 3-5 minutes rest (3-5 reps a set)
Hypertrophy: 1-2 minutes rest (6-12 reps a set)
Endurance: 1-2 minutes rest (15-20 reps a set)
BFR: 30-45 seconds rest (20-30 reps a set)