How Long Should You Rest Between Sets?

Rest is not for the weak—this simple tweak to your workout can do wonders for muscle growth!
Rest Periods

If you want to build bigger and stronger muscles, you’ve got to be patient. No, we’re not saying it takes several months to build muscle mass—we’re still talking short term. If you’re busy busting out sets in quick succession at the gym believing that you’ll get into shape quicker, it might be time to rethink your strategy. Research suggests that before you begin your next set, what you should be exercising is a little patience.

Most people use rest periods to sneak a quick peek into their phones, stroll around the gym, and even fit in a quick flex in front of the mirror. All of this is usually done within a minute, after which it’s back to the usual routine. However, a study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2016 provides evidence that the ‘fast and furious’ approach is actually making your gains suffer.

Facts And Figures

In the study, 21 experienced lifters did the same workout three times a week for eight weeks. The only difference was that they were randomly divided into two different groups—one rested for one minute between sets, while the other rested for three minutes. After eight weeks, the researchers used ultrasound imaging to measure the lifters’ muscle growth, and came up with some interesting results.

The men who had rested longer showed more growth in all the three muscle groups tested—the biceps, triceps, and quads. Not only did the longer-resting group grow an extra 1.2 to 3.5 millimeters in each muscle, they even increased their one-rep max in the bench press and back squat as compared to the other group. It wasn’t a small increase either¬—their max for the squat went up by 15.2 per cent, while their bench press max went up by 12.7 per cent. In contrast, the one minute rest group increased their maxes by 7.6 per cent and 4.1 per cent respectively.

The Reason

Lead study author Brad Schoenfeld believes that a longer rest period allows you to recover more fully between sets, which may enable you to lift heavier weights in your next set. He explains that If you do a set of ten reps, then rest for only a minute, you might just be able to do six or seven reps in the next set because you didn’t rest long enough to be ready to go again. On the other hand, if you had waited another minute, you could have hit nine or even ten reps in the next set.That’s more total volume, which means bigger gains for you!

Similar Studies

This study is not a one-off—a similar study was published in Experimental Physiology in 2016. It had 16 males undergoing the same exercise regimen, interspersed by rest periods of one minute and five minutes. The study concluded that shorter rest periods blunted muscle protein synthesis and anabolic signaling. Simply put, the participants lost out on significant gains.

Resting sufficiently between bouts of exercise is just as important as maintaining a high level of intensity during your workouts. So, extend your rest periods, eliminate your fatigue, and experience new highs in size and strength!

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