How much do you need to rest between sets?

How long you need to relax between approaches is an important question, for the answer to which you need to build on not only your own feelings, but also on scientific information. Research data does not hurt, no matter how and why you train: gaining weight, exercising in the gym for weight loss, or just going out into the yard to do pull-ups on the horizontal bar for general physical development. After studying this material, you will know exactly how to pause between sets.

Everyone has their own opinion on how much time to relax between sets, and they are very different. Some claim that they only need a few seconds, while others are interrupted for several minutes. But most amateur athletes are mistaken, since they are not based on scientific data and do not take into account the type of loads. In professional sports, such an inaccurate approach is unacceptable.

One of the largest studies was conducted by MD Jacob Wilson. This is the author of significant bodybuilding work on which professionals rely. In this case, the question of the dependence of training effectiveness on how much time is allocated to the interval between sets was studied. By efficiency is meant an increase in muscle volume and power.


In order for the muscles to grow, they need an anabolic environment, the better the conditions – the higher the effectiveness of the exercises. One of the conditions is short pauses, not more than 30-60 seconds. Studies have shown that in this case, the hypertrophic response will be higher than with a prolonged 3 to 5 minutes.

During the experiment, participants made from 5 to 10 strength movements with breaks of 1 and 3 minutes. In most of the subjects, maximum progress was detected when performed ten times with a minute stop. Efficiency was due to increased production of growth hormone, which is considered the most important criterion for providing conditions for mass growth. It is not recommended to shorten the break for less than a minute, since the body will not have time to neutralize lactic acid lactate, which is produced during power loads and oxidizes the muscles.

resting in training

Strength increase

To work with scales, two energy supply systems are included:

creatine phosphate – provides about 10 seconds from all work;
glycolytic – provides 30-90 seconds, since the source of energy is glycogen stored in the muscles.

The creatine phosphate system is very powerful, but it takes an average of 3-5 minutes to replenish the resource. Strength training should take place in the maximum possible number of repetitions, but subject to the maintenance of the correct technique, and this also corresponds to 3-5 minutes of a break between sets. The concentration of lactic acid will become lower, creatine phosphate – higher, these are the best conditions for continuing your workout.

Studies have shown that with a three-minute break, the power indicator increases by 10%, which is significantly higher than with a thirty-second break, where the increase is only 2%. Obviously, 30-60 seconds is enough for training aimed at increasing volume, but this is not enough to increase strength.

What does it depend on?

The duration of the respite depends on many circumstances, the most significant of which will be:

number of repetitions and pace of work;
what is the purpose of the training – getting rid of body fat, increasing dry mass, increasing the power indicator;
how many muscles are involved for a specific action.

resting near the barbell

Intensity and Range

There is an important rule that is common for almost all varieties of training: if you can’t do it many times, then do a little, but at high speed. If the physical form allows you to repeat many times, then the speed should be reduced. From this rule and data on human physiology, the following relationship is derived:

with a high range and low speed, the intervals between sets should be minimal;
with a low range and high intensity, it will take longer to recover.

Under high it is assumed 10-15 times, under low – 5-7, the relationship works both with presses with a very large weight, and with push-ups without weight.

Guided by the rule, you can adjust your own program. For example, if you can do it six times, then you will do them quickly and recover for several minutes. But when the number of repetitions increases, the pace will become lower, and a break will be required less.

girl takes a break

Exercise type

How much you need to rest between sets depends not only on the range, but also on the type of movements performed. Here, the relationship is also traced:

If it is assumed that the movement will take a lot of energy, then the break should be longer;
If the action is not energy-intensive, then you will need less rest.

Obviously, multi-joint movements are more energy-intensive, for example, deadlift, presses, push-ups, squats with weight, pull-ups and others. It takes less effort to isolate, for example, triceps extension, biceps lifts, calf lifts and others. It is important to consider that according to this classification, the work of a large group of muscles will be classified as insulating, a break will be required less.

intense exercise

Training purpose

Next, you need to figure out how much to relax between sets of mass, to increase strength, burn fat or achieve another goal. Time can be complete and incomplete, each of them has advantages and disadvantages.

When using full time, it is easier to restore the normal functioning of the nervous system. Resting longer, you increase power productivity and working capacity, you can again do heavy elements in a wide range of repetitions, lift a lot of weight and do a large number of repetitions with it. When choosing this tactic, fatigue will be lower, metabolites will accumulate very slowly, which is consistent with the goals of increasing endurance, burning body fat, and increasing dry weight.

Part time is shorter, so you will be more likely to experience fatigue. This tactic is appropriate for those who need to obtain metabolic benefits for weight gain, as the production of growth hormone increases significantly.

The nervous system will recover more slowly, so the ability to perform heavy elements in a large number of repetitions will become much lower.

In exact numbers

If we compare the experimental data and the above three factors, then we get the following recommendations:

in order to increase endurance, improve circular training and obtain metabolic benefits, the interval should be 20-60 seconds. This range is used as follows: for energy-intensive actions – closer to the upper limit, for lighter – to the lower;
if you need to go beyond your power and increase the power indicator further, then the respite must be increased to 2-5 minutes. When energy-intensive movements are made at high speed – closer to the upper boundary, in the opposite situation – closer to the lower;
in order to build mass and form visual aesthetics of the body between sets, they stop for 1-3 minutes. At higher loads, respite lasts longer; at lower loads, less.

A certain time for a break is required not only between sets, but also between different exercises, the second interval will depend on the first. For example, if the pause was three minutes, then the respite before moving on to another element of the program would be approximately the same. The time between different movements is not such an important indicator, in this case we can proceed from our own feelings. As a rule, there is enough time for restoration spent on the transition to the necessary simulator or preparation of equipment.

When compiling the timing of your program, be sure to consider:

when applying any change in practice, notice and record the changes it brings;
listen to your body to determine the exact time from the specified range, the body knows exactly how much it needs to rest between sets;
in the future it is possible to adjust the time frame, the need for it comes as it adapts to the loads.


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