Rest Times Between Sets - How Long?

If you got into the game of weight training for the goal of maximizing your body’s visual and functional potential, your rest times between sets can make a big impact on how quick you progress.

First off let’s start by mentioning that optimal muscular development is achieved when you are able to realize the greatest training volume possible, with an intensity that is challenging.

By definition, volume represents the total amount of weight lifted, for a given set, exercise or a workout.

In other words, your volume is calculated by taking the weight used, and multiplying it by the number of sets and repetitions.

For instance, three sets of 10 repetitions on the bench press, using 100 kilograms, would make for a total volume of 3000 kilograms (100 kg x3 sets x 10 reps).

HOWEVER… If your rest times in between each set are suboptimal, you will likely perform worse set after set, leading to a lesser total volume and thus, the stimulus won’t be maximized.

So how long should you rest between sets, really? Well, it depends on the number of repetitions you are doing, but there is one general rule of thumb you should follow - The heavier you lift, the more rest you will need between the separate sets.

This is because heavier weights are more demanding for the body and it then needs more total rest time, in order to perform at the same or a similar level on the next set.

If you’re primarily utilizing the bodybuilding rep range of 6 to 12 repetitions per set, you would need about ~3 minutes of rest in-between sets, to maximize quality volume.

This varies from person to person, since each and every one of us recovers at a different pace.

However, you should ALWAYS rest more than the traditional recommendations of ~90 seconds, as this will allow you to do a bit more on each set, thus creating a greater training volume.

On the other hand, if you are someone who’s looking to increase their maximum strength, you would be training in the powerlifting rep range of 1 to 5 repetitions per set.

Such heavy sets are way more demanding on the musculature and the central nervous system, meaning that longer rest periods between sets are required.

When utilizing the powerlifting rep range, you should be aiming to rest 5-15 minutes, depending on the number of repetitions you’re doing.

For example, relatively heavy sets of 5 repetitions would only need 5 to 7 minutes of rest, while maximum exertion at a one rep maximum may require you to rest for up to 10-15 minutes.

Besides time, you should track how your muscles feel in-between sets and ultimately, get into the next set when you feel fully recovered and ready.

So here’s your take-home message - If you are primarily aiming to achieve bodybuilder-like growth, you should do 6 to 15 repetitions per set, with rests up to 3 minutes.

On the other hand, if you’re primarily training for maximum strength in the 1 to 5 rep range, you should utilize longer rest times, as heavy weights by nature are more strenuous for the nervous system.

How do YOU go about your rest times in-between sets? Let us know in the comments below!