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Rest between sets in the gym: what you should know

Rest in training is an aspect to consider when planning routines and taking total time into account. That is why we remind you of the importance of doing it and we shed light on how much to dedicate to it, although we anticipate something: there is no fixed rule that is applicable to any profile.

Why is it important to rest between sets?

Not resting between sets, or not resting properly, can ruin a training session. This is how the personal trainer and journalist Sara Tabares explains it, who it states that density and rest time are variables that intervene in the total volume of training. Excess density will affect overall volume and performance. And when it comes to training for goals like hypertrophy or increasing strength and power, performance matters.

Lack of rest can also compromise safety. As Tabares explains, muscle fatigue negatively affects motor control, posture, and self-perception. As fatigue increases, the more difficult it will be to maintain correct technique and, therefore, the greater the risk of injury.

How much rest to do between series?

Is it enough to rest 30 seconds between sets? Should we extend the break longer? Are there aspects that intervene in the duration? There is consensus on the need to rest between series, which is already a milestone, because until recently it was believed that less rest time contributed to better results due to the secretion of hormones. It was an applicable maxim, above all, in hypertrophy training, but one that he discards today.

After consulting scientific articles, the psychologist specialized in sports performance Iván Alonso recalls that, after an intense series, the reserves of the energy systems will be depleted, both adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and phosphocreatine) (PCr) intramuscular. The resynthesis is biphasic: a first fast phase is completed in about 22 seconds, and a second slow one in 170 seconds.

It is a general fact but you have to consider variables such as the intensity at which you work, gender, age, level, the nature of the exercise or even the order of the routine, among others.

To further refine, below we analyze some relevant parameters. But we already anticipate that there is no general consensus on determining the exact duration rest between sets.

according to your goal

He rest between sets to gain muscle mass It is one of the most debated issues when it comes to scheduling a training session. As we said, traditionally it has been considered that short rests of 60 seconds were better for hypertrophy. And it was related to the idea that they promote a higher elevation of growth hormone in post-training.

However, Tabares recalls that scientific studies that have lasted long enough (such as that of Schoenfeld in 2013) consider that said hormonal response is considered irrelevant. There is no relationship between muscle mass and that response in the endocrine system.

So? In 2009, the American College of Sports Medicine recommended between one and two minutes of rest for beginners and intermediates, and between three and four minutes for experienced athletes.

As for other major objectives of series training in the gym, the following should be noted:

  • strength and power. The central nervous system requires longer periods to maintain its ability to contract muscles, and thus continue exercising with the same frequency and intensity. It will take between two and seven minutes, depending on the exercise.
  • Physical conditioning. Shorter breaks are considered to increase oxygen consumption, as long as you do exercise that involves a lot of muscle mass (in circuits, for example). One minute may be enough.

So, roughly speaking, the rest time between sets in the gym varies depending on the specific training objective, depending on the individual response of each person and other factors, such as the intensity of the training and the level of physical condition, whether for gain strength, build endurance, or increase hypertrophy:

  1. gain strength: few repetitions (less than 5) and it is recommended to rest between 3 and 5 minutes between series. This rest time allows for proper recovery of the central nervous system and fast-twitch muscle fibers, resulting in optimal performance during subsequent sets.
  1. build stamina: a higher number of repetitions (more than 10) and it is recommended to reduce the rest time between series. A rest of approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute is adequate to maintain moderate fatigue during training, which promotes adaptations in aerobic and anaerobic capacity.
  1. Increase hypertrophy (6-12 repetitions): an intermediate rest time is recommended between the series. Resting for approximately 1-2 minutes allows enough recovery to perform repetitions with moderate to high loads, stimulating muscle growth without significantly compromising training intensity.

In strength training you usually work on 5 or 8 series (basic and compound exercises at 100% of the maximum repetition), while hypertrophy does it at most about 3 or 5 series at 75% RM. If you are still involved with this series and repetitions thing, we recommend that you read this post “What are the series and repetitions in training? Likewise, to clarify what the maximum repetition is, you should read this other article.

According to the exercise

On the other hand, the rest between series and the exercise you are doing are closely related. It makes sense, because sit-ups, pull-ups, push-ups, etc. don’t have the same demand.

It is common among specialists to propose breaks according to the number of repetitions: if you are going to do less, it is because the demand is greater, and vice versa. This chart can help you.

  • few repetitions (between one and three): three to five minutes of rest.
  • Mean number of repetitions (between four and 12): two to three minutes of rest at the bottom of the fork (between four and seven repetitions) and one to two minutes at the top (between eight and 12 repetitions).
  • many repetitions (more than 12): one-minute breaks.


To know how to rest between series, time is the most relevant factor. However, as you have seen, there is a difference of opinion when it comes to defining the ideal timeso stay with the references provided, observe yourself and adjust according to the needs of your body.

Keep in mind that it is very difficult to find an exact time, taking into account the number of factors involved. That leads many specialists to make a general recommendation: get enough rest to make sure that, in the next set, the muscles will be able to continue working at the same intensity.

In what there is consensus is that YES, it is important to rest between series so as not to compromise performance, prevent fatigue and reduce the risk of injury. The community has ruled out that the little rest between series is the sufficient element for hypertrophyconsidering the post-training hormonal response irrelevant.


-Willardson, JM (2006). The application of training to failure in periodized multiple-set resistance exercise programs. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20(4), 628-631.

-Grgic, J., Schoenfeld, BJ, Davies, TB, Lazinica, B., Krieger, JW, & Pedisic, Z. (2018). Effect of resistance training frequency on gains in muscular strength: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 48(5), 1207-1220.

-Alonso, I. (2017). What is the optimal rest between sets to increase maximal strength and power? In

-Tabares, S (2017). Rest time between series and training effectiveness.

-Greenman, D.A. (2011). The effects of time‐restricted and traditional resistance training diets on body composition and strength in women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(9), 2389-2395.

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