How Long To Rest Between Sets

Stop derailing your workouts by taking too much or too little rest between sets. Managing your rest periods properly can help you get the Most out of your workouts And make you a better athlete.


Of course, different workouts are going to have different levels of intensity. This just means you need to know how to plan your rest for the type of work that you are doing. 


So let's take a step back. What are some instances in which we might need different rest between sets? This is where it comes down to you knowing and evaluating your goals. Do you want to get stronger? Do you want to become more explosive? Do you want to increase the size of your muscles and improve your hypertrophy?


These are all things that factor into what kind of exercises you'll be doing and the rest times you need to achieve your goals. These are also all the things that we are going to cover in this article.


So let's start at the beginning. What exactly is a rest period?

Table of Contents

  • What is a Rest Period
  • How to Manage Rest Between Sets
  • Rest Periods for Explosive Exercises
  • Rest Period for Absolute Strength
  • Rest Periods for Hypertrophy
  • Summarizing Rest

What is a Rest Period?

Simply put, a rest period is just the amount of time you take to break in between sets of your workout. This could be 30 seconds, 60 Seconds, two minutes, even up to 10 minutes if you are a stereotypical powerlifter. All jokes aside, you can usually standardize your rest periods depending on the type of workout you are doing. 


Focusing on rest between sets is going to help you better handle fatigue And impose the correct amount of stress on your body. The amount of time you rest in between sets is also going to be determined by your current level of fitness and conditioning.

For example, A track runner may not need as much rest between sets during weight training or doing explosive movements When compared to an offensive lineman. Although, the track runner may not be pushing as heavy weight as the football player. So just to reiterate, there are a few factors when handling rest between sets. Now we need to talk about different ways on how to manage your rest periods.

How to Manage Rest Between Sets

There are a few tools that you can use to manage your rest between sets. The easiest one to use is simply a clock. Most gyms will have a digital clock and if they don't, we hope you know how to read a manual one. 


 If you already know the amount of time you need to rest in between sets, it's easy to look at the clock and just continue on the intervals that you need to.


If you want to be more strict with your rest periods, you can use something like a timer app. Since you most likely have a smartphone, just open up your clock app and set a timer for however long you need. Even if you have a smart watch like a Fitbit, Apple watch, or other fitness tracker, it's easy to track rest periods when it is literally attached to you.

Although, many fitness and programming apps now have rest timers built into them. Just like the Peak Strength app, which will tell you exactly how much rest you need in between sets and start a timer to help keep yourself accountable through your workout. 

With all these resources at your fingertips, here are some ideas on how long you should be resting between sets. 

Rest Periods for Explosive Exercises

When training blast impulse or explosive movements, we are going to be focusing on high-speed exercises. This will also include a focus on technical coordination and plyometrics, so there is a lot to think about when planning rest periods for workouts that require you to produce a lot of force in a constricted time. 

Specifically for blast impulse training, we want to produce force as quickly as we can. Keep in mind that rest periods guide adaptations. Since we are doing high-speed movements, these are going to be a part of the anaerobic and alactic system. All this means is that everything is going to be done as rapidly as possible. 

So how long should you rest between sets for blast impulse. If we want to optimize the performance of our plyometrics and blast impulse, the rest period will be 2 to 3 minutes in between sets. 


The reason we want 2-3 minutes of rest between sets is because these movements require a lot of neural drive and every set should be done at a highly effective speed.

Rest Periods for Absolute Strength

Training for absolute strength is another factor you need to consider when determining how much rest you should be taking. This is where we are looking at a lot of our basic compound movements like bench press, single-leg squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, etc. 

Again, we need to ask the question of what adaptation are we looking for? Well there is no single adaptation that we can base a defined rest period on. You might use cluster sets or on-the-minute work if the goal is to focus on neural drive. The rest periods for neural drive would be different from loke mechanical overload or muscular damage. 


When we think about absolute strength, the main goal is to improve our maximal strength. Typically, if we aren’t doing clusters or focusing on a very specific adaptation, the rest time between sets will be 2 to 3 minutes. 

Rest Periods for Hypertrophy

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. How long should you rest between sets if you want to get the biggest muscles you can? 


The answer: 60 to 90 seconds. 


The exercises where this rest period will come into play includes dumbbell rows, dumbbell presses, bicep curls, or even tricep extensions. This rest period applies to workouts that are long-duration and high volume in their structure. This is a rest structure common for any kind of bodybuilding work. 

how long to rest between sets

So what adaptations are we targeting through these rest periods. With only 60 to 90 seconds of rest between sets there is going to be some mechanical loading that induces muscular damage. From the combined stress that’s put on your body, you’ll see greater gains through sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. 


With hypertrophy, you need to hold yourself accountable to a set rest period and be consistent with the accessories that you do. Just to clarify, you don’t want to be taking 60 seconds after one set and then 90 to 120 seconds after another. Stay consistent with the rest between sets to achieve the goals and adaptations you are working toward. 

Summarizing Rest

It’s really easy to lose track of rest periods in the gym. Especially if you’re working out in a commercial gym or with friends. There might be distractions like someone coming up to start a conversation or if you are working-in with someone else, you may not have the same rest periods. 


As you continue your training, you have to constantly think that rest times play a pivotal role in adaptations. Regardless of whether you are doing endurance work or blast impulse work, stay on top of the rest periods that align with your overall goals. 


Just to recap, for blast impulse and plyometric work, rest for 2 to 3 minutes between sets to focus on effective speed. For absolute strength, take 2-3 minutes between sets to progressively increase loads each set. Finally, take 60 to 90 seconds of rest for hypertrophy adaptations to increase stress on the muscles.


Use tools to help you stay accountable and on top of your rest periods. Use the gym clock, a timer app, or fitness app like Peak Strength that has a rest period timer built into your program. Now you can apply these tips on rest periods toward your training and become a BEAST! 

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Yo, It's Dane

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